Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Gospel in Miniature

A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur

Charles Dickens called the parable of the Prodigal Son "the greatest short story ever written." But it's more than great literature. This parable pulls at our heartstrings because we see ourselves in it.
It's found in Luke 15, the Lost and Found chapter, where Jesus tells three parables to illustrate the theme of heavenly joy over earthly repentance. He begins with the lost sheeep, one in a hundred, or one percent, then the lost coin, one in ten, or ten percent, and finally the lost son, one of two, or fifty percent, but infintely more valuable than a lost sheep or coin.
The details in the story make it come alive. MacArthur is a great communicator and he takes this already amazing story and adds insights, facts and applications that I had never considered before, even though I've heard this passage preached from so many times.
The poignancy demonstrated in the Father's response when his son returns is unforgettable. There are themes of grace, repentance, forgiveness. It's the gospel in miniature. In only 22 verses, there are rich details and powerful drama.
The Father represents Christ. The Prodigal is the wanton sinner who has no love or respect for his Father. He is also a picture of true repentance. The elder brother is as much of a rebel, but he has been hiding behind a mask of hypocrisy. He has no more love or respect for his Father than the Prodigal does. He represnts the Pharisees who had just accused Jesus of eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus told the parable in order to answer their charge and reveal the true heart of God.
The parable does not end. It leaves you hanging. Jesus stops before you find out if the elder brother responds to his Father's entreaty. He did this on purpose, in effect leaving the next move to the Pharisees. What would the elder son do with the Father?
MacArthur answers by shocking the reader with the real life answer. The elder brother kills the Father, as the Pharisees killed Christ.
This was an excellent Bible study. It was very moving and I highly recommend it.

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