Our lead pastor, David Brakke, launched a new series today at Maltby Christian Assembly based on Timothy Keller’s bestseller titled “The Prodigal God.” He reminded us of the context behind the parables in Luke 15. Jesus was talking directly to religious leaders. The elite believed that their identity as God’s people was based on what they did do and what they did not do. And they expected everyone else to do the same. Anything less than that was unacceptable. The Pharisees demanded holiness – but holiness looked more like them than the God they claimed to follow.
Jesus came to correct such thinking – such living. He reminded his audience that it was not about our search – but God’s search for us. Little did they know, God never gave up his search. He even went as far as to come in the flesh – in fact, he was staring them directly in the face. The sheep was lost due to foolishness. The coin gone because of thoughtlessness. The boy away all because of rebelliousness. But none of that was enough to detract Jesus Christ from his mission – he was bound and determined that the Story end in celebration.
Jesus warns, ‘What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today. And he answered, I will not, but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, I go, sir, but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him'” (Matthew 21:28-32).
And finally, as it relates to the stories that Jesus told, Pastor David poses the question, “Which character do you most relate with?” The lost? The leadership? Why?
Are we the types of individuals who just can’t believe that Jesus would want to share company with such irreligious people? Or are we a bit more subtle in our self-righteousness? We say that Jesus loves such people – but we don’t have to ourselves. Or we aim to love them once they pledge to a life of holiness – or at least to a life that looks like the one that we live.
It is time that we do exactly what God did for us. We go to them. We share life with them. We extend the grace that they don’t deserve – because we did not deserve it either. And nothing can detract us from that mission.