Youtube: The Good News of Jesus
“But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
In this parable of the lost son, we find a good example of Luke creating a context that gives it a different meaning than Jesus likely intended. When treated as a stand-alone story, as Luke had it originally, Jesus was depicting the unconditional love of God. Luke prefaces this story, along with the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, with scribes and Pharisees murmuring over the fact that sinners and tax collectors are drawing near to Jesus. In this context, Jesus becomes the soul-saving, all-forgiving father, the seeker of the lost sheep, and the woman looking for the lost coin.
The parable as Jesus intended addresses the issue of sin and salvation, but in a very different manner than Christian orthodoxy. To quote from a website on the requirements of salvation, we read this: “Someone has to pay the price and punishment for our sins, and if someone does not help us, we will have to pay the terrible price for our sins against God.” In contrast, the wayward son, being the reckless sinner, is welcomed with the open arms and unconditional love of the father, no price paid.
The son does indeed suffer, but not because he is being punished by the father. His suffering is the consequence of foolish choices. The moment came when he had an awakening. In his return home, there were no toll gates, no conditions that had to be met, no interrogation.
The church has used sin for leverage. It has adopted Paul’s notion that all have sinned and are in need of salvation. It has created the remedy that we are required to accept if we are to be saved. Jesus blows this logic, which is why Luke had to cast it differently.
Can we not see why the “tax collectors and sinners” were drawn to the good news of Jesus? The scribes and Pharisees had undoubtedly condemned them to hell. Jesus informed them that the unconditional love of God embraced even the worst sinner with open arms.