2000 years ago, they wouldn’t even dare say the word ‘God.’ God was distant, remote, terrible.
But Jesus had his own words for God, and he used them freely. They were controversial, even scandalous.
His words for God:
‘Daddy.’ And ‘Your heavenly father.’
So when the Religious Gestapo condemned him for hanging out with ruffians and women of ill-repute, he told an even more scandalous story:
‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Dad, I wish you were dead. Why don’t we pretend you are dead, and give me my share of the family estate.’ So the father divided his property between them.
A few days later, the disrespectful son packed his bags and headed for a distant land. He squandered his inheritance on wine, women and song. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he got hungry.
So he got a job feeding pigs. (Jewish people considered pigs to be utterly repulsive.)
This young man would gladly have eaten the pods that the swine ate; but no one gave him anything.
But when he came to his senses, he said to himself, `How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I’m here starving! He went back to his father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
The son said, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, `Go get the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and have a huge party; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’
Jesus sums it all up like this: ‘I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who comes back than over ninety-nine people who are already good.’
The father in the Prodigal Son story was not concerned with his dignity. He was not concerned with what was ‘fair.’ When his son wanted to go his own way, he let him go. But he was watching out the window the whole time, hoping he would come back.
That’s Jesus’ picture of God – just like the father in this story. Loving. Forgiving. Approachable. And that was radical.
In fact his very first public speech was scandalous because he was talking to the hometown boyz. Luke tells the story in chapter 4, like this:
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is not a guy who’s afraid to rock the boat.
Tomorrow I’m going to attack Lie #3:
‘You are not smart enough or good enough to think for yourself. We will do your thinking for you.’