18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." 21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)
3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
13"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So he got up and went to his father.
"But 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.
21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.b]">[b]'
22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " Luke 15:3-32 (NIV)
I do understand that this a large hunk of Scripture to read on a blog, but I want you to get the whole picture.
The first passage is taken from Deuteronomy and is amid a long list of "do's and don'ts" that Moses was relating to the Israelites as they were very near the Promised Land. If a son was rebellious it meant that he did not obey the commandment to "Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." (5th commandment) This son would be punished by stoning and everyone around him would see it. It'd be a pretty good deterrent for breaking that commandment, wouldn't it?
The second passage, taken from Luke, refers to what the NIV says is three different parables.
This week we listened to a string of sermons that Jay Kessler gave at our church for Encounter Week. One was particularly interesting, as it was on these "three parables," the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Dr. Kessler said that the three parables were really one. Lo and behold, the Bible says that Jesus told "this parable." He also said that the reason the lost sheep is searched for and found and that the coin is searched for and found, is because they are not people. The prodigal son's father does not go out or send a servant after the wayward son. He waits until the the son has his fill of sin and debauchery and eagerly meets him as he's just about home, coming up the driveway as we would say.
The Bible says that man is made in the image of God, made just a "little lower than the angels" rather than just a little higher than the animals. Dr. Kessler used this parable to bring home the point that God loves man so much that He gives him (and her) a choice to choose Him or to choose death and that He does not force Himself upon man. A sovereign God giving His creation free will is one of the greatest mysteries and displays of love that I can imagine.
What I find interesting, though, is that God demands that the rebellious son be put to death in the Old Testament, but Jesus says in the New Testament that God eagerly waits for the rebellious son to return to Him. He doesn't scold him when he arrives. The Father simply says, "This son of mine was dead, now he's alive. He was lost, now he is found." He throws the transgressions as far as the east is from the west.
Talk about forgiveness and grace. Isn't it wonderful?