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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Families, Prodigals and Turkeys [13]

The striking descriptions in the parable are cultural details that help us understand the story in the context of first-century farm village life. It is important to look at these stories in context to really grasp what’s being communicated.

The prodigal represents a typical sinner who comes to repentance. The father's patience, love, generosity, and delight over the son's return are clearly conveyed and are perfect symbols of what divine grace looks like. The prodigal's heart has changed, and it is a representation of what true repentance should look like. The elder brother's cold indifference, the true focal point of the story, is a dramatic account of the same evil hypocrisy and double standards Jesus was confronting in the hearts of the hostile scribes and Pharisees.

These two groups bitterly resented the sinners and tax collectors who hung around with Jesus (v. 1), and they tried to cover their indignation with religious pretense. They acted as if they had “the walk” and “the talk” of righteous men, but they did not have the heart. Their attitudes betrayed their disbelief in Christ and their true self-centeredness. Jesus' parable exposes their hypocrisy.

Jesus is pointing out the stark difference between God's own delight in the redemption of sinners and the Pharisees' inflexible hostility toward those same sinners. Keeping that point fixed in our minds, we can now reasonably pick out several other lessons about grace, forgiveness, repentance, and the heart of God toward sinners.


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