Christ is Coming After Us!
I told myself at the beginning of 2021, I was going to write again. And I’ve tried to sit down and write this blog for weeks now and have a hard time putting words to all the processing and things the Lord is doing with this teaching. I feel like it’s still all fresh processing, but I also wanted to get it out on the page. I’ve been learning a lot lately about the fact that God is FOR me, and that He is coming FOR my heart all of the time.
I’ve been attending a Bible study this year (or Biblical feast, as the teacher Kristi McClelland calls it) centered around the parable of the Running Father, or as it is better known in the Western world, the parable of the prodigal son. Jesus shares this and two previous parables about lost things as recorded for us in Luke 15. He shares about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son - all to press against the Pharisaical yoke (or teaching) that was being put on the people that they were supposed to do ALL the work in coming to God. The Pharisees were telling the tax collectors and sinners of the day that they had to follow all the rules perfectly so that they could be in right-standing with and have a relationship with God.
Well, Jesus shows up on the scene and gives the Pharisees, the tax collectors, and the sinners present there (and us by way of Luke’s record) a bombshell to say that NO, it is in fact, God who is doing the work of coming to find us, rescuing us, and bringing us home. Every day.
I know, I know. I just gave away the punchline, but it’s just such an exciting gospel message that I couldn’t wait until later in the blog! I’ve learned through studying this trilogy of parables in Luke 15 that Jesus is referring to the Hebrew word “shub” when He describes repentance. This word, “shub” which is the transliterated word “t’shuva” literally means to allow yourself to be found and brought home.
Man - full stop. Period.
“To allow yourself to be found and brought home” - If that is not good gospel news, I don’t know what is! The thing is when you look at all three of these parables together as a set Jesus is painting a specific pattern about something that is lost, something that is found, and a party that is thrown in someone’s honor.
In the first parable about the lost sheep in verses 4-7, one sheep gets lost - away from the rest of the flock (a.k.a. gets isolated from the community) - and the shepherd goes to find the sheep, puts it on his back, and brings that sheep home. The thing that really blessed me about a contextual understanding of this story was to learn that sheep when they get lost, they cry out. They don’t try to go searching for the shepherd (they don't know how), no, instead they just stay where they are and cry, until the shepherd comes to find them. Man - what a relief! We are not required by Jesus to do ALL the work at all. As our Good Shepherd, He will come and find us, and bring us home. And then He will rejoice that we have come home! Praise God!
Then, in the second parable, in verses 8-10, Jesus tells the story of a woman who lost a coin. This coin is an inanimate object - it cannot bring itself home and be found. No, it is the woman who searches ALL over the house for it, comes after that coin, and brings it back to where it belongs - with her. And Jesus says, this is the same for those of us who repent, or who allow ourselves to be found and brought home by God.
Last, briefly summarizing the third parable, is this understanding that the younger prodigal son in this cultural context had NO ability to come home by himself. Once he squandered the father’s inheritance, he thought up a plan to just simply come back and be a servant. He knew he was out of resources in the far country. But He also knew that if he even crossed over the town line, he could be killed. Culturally, he had been cut-off and shamed by the community.
So, what does the father do? HE RUNS! Scandalous!! Seriously, in this cultural context he would have been shaming himself for 1) running, 2) showing his legs, and 3) going after to protect, provide for, and bless this son of his who had shamed him in the utmost. As Kristi, our feast leader, said “Love outruns judgment every single time in the true gospel.” He came and protected his son, found him, and then a party was thrown in the fathers’ honor. The God-figure, the father, was honored and praised in spite of this scandalous act of repenting, or returning the son who did nothing to deserve it. He came after him, brought him home, and called him son again.
You see, Jesus is making a huge statement to the Pharisees basically saying “No, it’s not about you or the people doing the work to come home to God. The gospel of the kingdom of God is about God coming to find you, rescue you, and bring you home to Himself! It is not man-centered repentance, it is God-centered repentance!”
Whoa - I feel like there is so much more to sit in and learn about these ideas. But for now, I just want to revel in the fact that we have a good God! We have a God who comes AFTER us and our hearts. One who draws near to us, as we draw near to Him (James 4:8)! He puts us on His back and carries us home - no matter the cost.
“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.”
- Isaiah 53:4-6, NLT
I found this llama below at the GraceWorks thrift store the other day (thanks to a co-workers keen eye) and he just brought me so much JOY, so I named him Shub. He sits on my desk to be a reminder that Jesus is always in the process of coming after my heart, calling me home, and rescuing me. Enjoy his cuteness!