October 01, 2012

Surprised by Grace

Luke 15:11-24

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
—Luke 15:20


The prodigal son is a selfish egotist with a “give me, give me” attitude. He demands his inheritance even before his father’s death. You could say he wishes his father were dead.

Not only does this son shame his father; he also exposes his family to community criticism. He severs his relationship with his brother by forcing a division of the property. Then, far from home, he chooses a wild lifestyle. He squanders his inheritance and goes bankrupt. He feeds pigs and eats their food—so, as a Jew, he becomes “unclean.” Thus he could no longer participate in Jewish life without extensive repentance.

Surprisingly, though, the father holds no grudges and demands no repayment. Instead of criticizing his son’s failures and examining his motives, the father runs to greet his returning son. In a culture where no self-respecting head of a household would disgrace himself by this undignified action, this father welcomes his son generously. He halts his son’s speech of repentance and instead places a ring on his finger, symbolizing authority within the family. He wraps his son in a ceremonial robe, offering instant cleanliness. And he kills the fattened calf to celebrate.

Remarkable grace, unending compassion, incredible love. Our Father in heaven shows this also for you and for me!

Almighty God, my heart is filled with praise for your over-whelming grace. Thank you for welcoming me into your family. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author — Dean Deppe

Dean Deppe has been a pastor in inner-city, suburban, and rural ­churches. Currently he teaches New Testament theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. His courses include one on the parables of Jesus. He and his wife have four grown children.

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