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THE PRODIGAL SON © Kaye Redman

THE PRODIGAL SON © Kaye Redman

"Because men and women have rejected their maker they lack resources within themselves either to be truly good or to know ultimate truth. Both must be received as gifts from God." Author Unknown

The above quote has been scribbled on a piece of paper and floating around between my journals for the last ten years and when combined with Jesus new definition of repentance it is a powerful picture of the gospel.

Most people (including me at one point) have seen the parable found in Luke 15 as a repentance story. A story where a younger son changes to make himself acceptable. If you are unfamiliar with it, most readings focus on his squandering of his half of the family's inheritance, the subsequent starvation in a faraway land and the resolution of the son "coming to his senses" and returning as a repentant sinner to his fathers forgiving arms.

But in his article 'The Pursuing Father' Kenneth Bailey points out that when "he comes to his senses, he really comes to himself," and then as the parable meanders on he continues to rely on himself and we watch as he decides on a plan to pay back the money as a worker.

Part of this plan involves a carefully calculated speech which begins with,

"I have sinned against heaven and before you..." (Luke 15:21 ESV)  

Bailey laments that this is usually seen to indicate heartfelt repentance and cautions against it. He reminds us that Jesus' audience is composed of Pharisees and queries how they might have heard the sons speech. Pharisees knew the Torah well and possibly heard the sons words as an echo of the Pharaoh before Moses.

“I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you." (Exodus 10:16 ESV) 

In the Exodus narrative Pharaoh uses his (fake) confession to manipulate Moses to his will. If we can see with the Pharisees eyes then the sons journey home is only because of hunger pains and the fear of starvation. In no way is he considering the father's broken heart.

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke15:22-24 ESV)

The father dismisses the underhanded speech, he's not concerned with whether his son is repentant or not and he continues his joyous work (reconciliation = a tangible demonstration of (unexpected) love) which opens the younger sons eyes to his own condition.

True goodness and ultimate truth have been given to men and women. And Jesus asks us to recieve them with his new definition of repentance which is "accepting being found."