When I was at Princeton, we’d often read well-known passages in speech class. And each time we’d read them, the professor would stop us and point to certain words or phrases, or phrasing that needed particular attention.
For instance, in Luke 19 Jesus gives two of His disciples specific instructions for securing the young colt on which He will sit to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He says it this way, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it to me.” Now the instructions on reading these sentences couldn’t have been more clear. “When you come to the words, ‘colt tied’, make sure you place a pause between “colt” and “tied”, for there is no such thing as a “colttied.”
There were scores of such hints, but none greater than in the second half of Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:25-32. Here, in discussing this older son, the professor asked us to pick out the most meaningful word in the text. Some replied, “Reckless living.” Others said, “Quick, bring the best robe, etc.” Quickly the professor repeated his question, “What’s the most meaningful WORD in this text? And when no one stepped in with a suggestion he read verse 32 aloud. “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your BROTHER was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” What the older son can’t see in this sinful blindness, the father not only sees, but he points out with emphasis. The reason for the music and dancing is that your BROTHER is home, restored, and free.
This week marks the final Sunday in our series on forgiveness – The Heart of the Matter. Over these thirteen weeks we have repeatedly seen that forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have repeatedly heard from many of you, how profoundly relevant this teaching has been to you, especially at this time in your life. So let’s review some of the clear takeaways.
- Sin has a cost that must be paid. Forgiveness means that the offended party pays it.
- While sin binds the heart, the mind, and the soul, forgiveness frees it.
- The reason Jesus extends forgiveness to the woman caught in the act of adultery, Zacchaeus, Peter, etc., is because He takes all their sin on Himself and sees them through His finished work on the cross.
- Real “to the bone” forgiveness only flows from a heart that knows the extent of its own forgiveness.
- Unforgiveness at its core is the product of unbelief.
- The greatest gift Christ has given His church is the power to forgive (Matthew 16:13-19).
- Forgiveness frees not only the offender, but the offended. (Remember Brennan Manning’s story of Max?)
- The god of religion says, “Stop your sinning and I will not condemn you.” The God of the Gospel says, “I don’t contemn you, now go live free to sin no more.”
- There’s always the sin under the sin and until we get to identifying and dealing with that sin, we’ll never be free.
- Only forgiveness causes us to drop the masks and come out of hiding.
- Jesus sees us as Zacchaeus – pure and righteous through His finished work.
- Only free people can free people.
- Only Jesus can find us, forgive us, and free us and He does it all the time through His Word and His people.
- Paul instructs us to confess our sin one to another because he knows that’s the only path to freedom.
- Forgiveness is always a matter of recovering one’s true identity.
- Forgiveness is the best gift Christians can give to others because it always points to Jesus and His great work.
This week we look at the final part of His three-part parable in response to the scribes and Pharisees’ complaint that He welcomes sinners and eats with them.
Some have called the story “The Prodigal and the Presbyterian” because the Greek word for elder is presbuteros. This week we focus on the presbuteros, the elder brother, for he is as lost as his younger sibling.
The father deals with the second son the same way he deals with the first one. He pays the cost of the sin, he points him to his true identity, and he gives them the choice of living free or not. It’s a great conclusion to our series.
In preparation for Sunday’s message on Luke 15:25-32 you may wish to consider the following:
- What does empathy mean?
- How does the father show it to the older son?
- What does it mean for the father to leave the party and come out to the older son?
- What does it mean that the father “pleads” or “entreats” him in verse 28?
- How different is the father’s treatment of his son than the son’s treatment of the servant boy in verse 26?
- How is the elder son’s address of his father in verse 29 an insult?
- What do you make of the son’s tirade in verse 29-30?
- What is the significance of the father’s description of his son in verse 31(a)?
- What is the Johari window? How is it relevant?
- How is one’s identity wrapped up in one’s forgiveness?
See you for Confirmation Sunday!