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Both John the Baptist and Jesus announced the dawning of God’s kingdom. Jesus summarized their message and said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1.15).
Scholars describe the effect of Jesus’ message as being “already but not yet.” What they mean is that God’s kingdom is “already” here, but it is “not yet” fully realized.
Since the kingdom is not fully realized on earth, we pray as Jesus taught us, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6.10).
The response to Jesus’ kingdom involves repentance. The Greek word, “to repent,” literally means “to change your mind.” As we chance our minds about what is most important in life, it will result in a change of behavior.
The second portion our response to the arrival of God’s kingdom is to “believe in the good news.”
The Good News of the Kingdom
What is so good about the “good news”? Luke recorded a visit Jesus made to his hometown of Nazareth. On a Sabbath day, he read from the Book of Isaiah.
He spoke of the promised Messiah and of what would happen when God’s kingdom arrived on planet earth. He said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4.18-19, See Isaiah 61.1-2)
When Jesus finished speaking, he sat down in the customary manner of a teacher and said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4.21).
Jesus identified fully with this picture from Isaiah. What exactly was he claiming?
(1) He was God’s anointed. The Greek word, “Christ,” and the Hebrew equivalent, “Messiah,” both mean “anointed.” Jesus said that he was the long awaited person who would usher in God’s kingdom on earth.
(2) Good news to the poor. God’s kingdom is available to the poor. Jesus began his famous Sermon on the Mount with these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.3).
(3) Release and Recovery. With the coming of the kingdom of God, people were delivered from the power of evil. Also, multitudes received healing that was previously considered out of their reach.
(4) The year of the Lord’s favor or the year of Jubilee had come. Jubilee was year of rest for the land and for God’s people that took place every 50 years. The ordinance for Jubilee can be found in Leviticus 25.
It was believed that the year of Jubilee would coincide with the coming of the Messiah or Christ, who would initiate the kingdom of God. One aspect of Jubilee was the forgiveness of debts.
Fulfillment in Word and Deed
It is as if the words of Isaiah were a personal mission statement for Jesus. His actions and words demonstrated Isaiah’s prophesy over and over as Jesus conducted his ministry.
The parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Sons in Luke 15 explain Jesus’ actions as those that are fully endorsed by God. The way Jesus welcomed sinners, ate with them, and pronounced forgiveness was in keeping with the good news of God’s arriving kingdom.
It is easy to overlook the importance of the final parable in Luke 15, after the grand parable of the Prodigal Son. However, the climax of Jesus’ argument and the true “punch line” of his message involved the concluding story of the older son.
— Verses 25-26 – “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.”
While the younger brother had been squandering the family treasures in wanton living, the elder son had been laboring in the field.
— Verse 27– “He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.'”
A shortened form of the father’s reasoning for celebration was given to the faithful brother.
— Verse 28 – “Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.”
This is a key thought. The kingdom of God had come to the earth through Jesus. However, it didn’t come the way the religious leaders of Israel expected it to come. They were angry at Jesus and refused to enter the kingdom that came through him.
People today should be cautioned about expecting God to act in a particular manner. If he doesn’t fulfill our preconceived ideas of what proper action should be, we may find ourselves outside of his activity, like the elder brother in the parable.
— Verses 29-30 – “But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!'”
The Pharisees who heard this part of the story would most certainly agree with the elder brother. They could not imagine that God would forgive the debts of sinners and include them in table fellowship.
They had lived faithful lives, but the tax collectors whom Jesus welcomed were the very picture of unfaithful and wicked people.
— Verses 31-32 – “Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”
Like each of the parables in this chapter, Jesus appealed to his audience to understand the attitude of God toward sinners.
As our heavenly Father, he wishes for us to return home. When we come back to God, rejoicing is in order.
Application of the Parable
I believe God wants us to adopt certain attitudes and actions, as a result of studying these parables this week.
(1) Attitudes – God does not see “problem” people. He sees people whom he has created and who are his children. He celebrates their return home.
In a similar way, God wants us to see all people as his children. Some people are distant from God and their behavior causes us fear, anger, and disgust, just to name a few feelings.
However, to God they are a child whom he greatly desires to return home. This is the attitude God wants to impart to us.
(2) Actions – The parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin remind us to join God in seeking those who are distant from him.
The opening words of this chapter show us that Jesus sought the lost by welcoming them into their lives and by showing them acceptance. Acceptance and grace is far more effective than judgment and criticism.
I firmly believe that acceptance, listening, valuing, and the like are some of the greatest “tools” for helping people experience God’s love.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, “Stories With Intent.” His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.
Reading the parables and understanding the context for them causes me to reflect on my own life…which of course is what Jesus wants for each of us. An honest look at ourselves and how we are doing in our daily walk.
There are certainly times in my life when I have been spiritually “running amok” (as Mike would have said) like the prodigal. Out doing my own thinking and causing havoc in my own spirit. And there are times when I’ve been the father in this story. Open, gracious, loving, forgiving, generous, welcoming. Ah, but there are also moments when I am that elder son; envious, angry, pouting, proud, judgmental and critical.
But the beautiful part of the story is Jesus – Who loves me back to Him when I get in my own way – when I’m the prodigal or the elder son. If I’m in anything less than the Jesus-kind-of-life He wants for me, He will gently and lovingly restore my focus to Him.
(Unless I don’t pay attention and sometimes He is not-so-gentle….but He is always loving.)
He is reliable when I am not. He is strong when I am not. He is wise when I am not. Given my own insufficiencies, is it any wonder I desire to follow Him so closely?? On my own, I’m simply “Not” while He alone is “I AM.” Praise Him!
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As always, thanks for your comment Denise. I am profoundly grateful for the work of Jesus in our lives. I join you in giving him praise and thanks today.