Luke 15:20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
There are 2 parts to learning about forgiveness – there is much we can learn, by being forgiven, and this is often our focus – for we sin much and daily need much forgiveness. And there is a second part – for there is much we can learn by forgiving others, as God in Christ has forgiven us. This is often overlooked, even though it is central to the forgiveness we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer, even though God plainly tells us that if we do not forgive, neither shall we be forgiven. Even though the scripture tells us that
Matthew 5:23-24 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Today’s text is special, because both parts are together in a special way. On the one hand, it is very comforting to know, that no matter what we’ve done, the grace of God still calls us to turn from our sin knowing that the promise of forgiveness waits for us at the mercy seat. On the other hand, there is the example of the father who forgives, which encourages us to forgive as we have been forgiven. And there is a third element, an explanation as to why some people never forgive – because they believe themselves righteous – and if they have ever been forgiven, they believe they have earned it.
First thing you see when you look at the text, might be simple, you don’t earn an inheritance, your don’t deserve an inheritance – it is something that is given, given in love. So when the younger son asks for his inheritance – he is in effect saying to his father drop dead – and one would expect that for such action, the only thing the son would receive is punishment. But in love, his father gives him the inheritance – but love doesn’t transform this son, he sells it off, runs away, and goes through the money in no time – then, on his own, alone and broke he comes to his sense and repents. That’s really what repentance is about – coming to your senses. Sure we talk about it as turning from sin and turning to God – but the reason why we turn, is because we know that God has a good plan for our lives – and that which tempted us, coming to our senses means we see how it was leading us to death.
So what is forgiveness, when we come to our senses, and see our sin, and desire to turn from it – forgiveness is this, that before we can come to God and confess our sins – God comes to us. If scripture calls us to leave our gift at the altar and go and be reconciled, its only because God left heaven to come and be reconciled to us – forgiving our sins, paying our debts – even though that meant that Jesus had to suffer and die in our place – so that we might be forgiven. That’s the love of God, and all love that is in the world, is a reflection of God’s love, as it has come to us in Jesus Christ.
Now God’s love is so great, that not only does he forgiven us, but there is rejoicing, because the lost has been found – the dead has come to life. That’s why we celebrate Easter, not just once a year, but every week, for every Sunday, we remember again, that though Jesus died for our sins, He rose to life again.
And what of the older, the righteous son?