Formations lesson for March 21: Extravagant Love : Tuesday, March 9, 2004
March 9 2004 by Jimmy Allen

Formations lesson for March 21: Extravagant Love : Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Formations lesson for March 21: Extravagant Love

By Jimmy Allen
Focal passage: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

One of the difficulties of interpreting scripture is relating a first century document to the 21st century.

This is particularly true with Paul's writings. His letters addressed particular issues facing a particular church. Without knowing the background of that church, we risk misunderstanding the message.

Jesus' parables used scenes and elements that people in Palestine would have understood. Today, not too many people in North Carolina are shepherds. Jesus would have probably used a different example to make His point.

The parable in today's passage is different, though. Likely all of us can relate to the parable's components and, more importantly, its message.

Often called the parable of the lost son, this story makes a rich and bold point about God's extravagant love.

Polemic Crowd

Luke 15:1-3

Luke introduces three parables by describing the types of people who were listening - tax collectors and sinners as well as Pharisees and the scribes.

The combination of these groups created tension. The tax collectors and sinners were about to hear a story of how someone can return to God despite their sin. The Pharisees and scribes were about to hear a story that probably left them grumbling even more.

Being Alone

Luke 15:11-19

The younger son was lured away from his father. According to Deuteronomy 21:17, the older son was entitled to two-thirds of the property and the younger son, one-third. So he got the money and left for a fast life in a distant country - possibly Italy, North Africa or Babylon.

A drought and wasteful spending combined to help the younger son realize he was living a life of shallowness. He was forced to get a job tending swine, symbolically the lowest job any Jewish person could have. Being separated from his father's riches wasn't good after all.

Haven't we all experienced a time when we made a decision to be on our own and away from God? It is a troubling and lonely experience.

The story turns on one key phrase found in verse 17. "But when he came to himself ..." The younger son finally woke up. He returned to his father with a humble and repenting heart willing to live the consequences of his poor decision.

Welcome Home

Luke 15:20-24

The younger son deserved to be ignored by his father or maybe be hired as a servant. But his father did something completely different, something completely extravagant. His father showed his youngest son unconditional love.

Before the son could even arrive back home, his father saw him far off and ran to him, welcoming him warmly with hugs, a party and gifts that symbolized the son was back into the family.

The connection here is that God welcomes us even when we have strayed from Him. We may not deserve the warm welcome we receive, but we get it. Imagine how the tax collectors and sinners responded when they heard the story. Imagine how it changed their lives.

God was seen as welcoming those who were lost and doing so without judgment.

Do we see God the way He is portrayed in this parable?

Confusion at Home

Luke 15:25-32

The oldest son isn't mentioned in the story until his younger brother came home. The elder boy didn't like the way his father warmly received his brother. A time of rejoicing is darkened by the self-righteousness of the older brother.

He had done no wrong as far as we know. He had stayed on the land, helping his father. In essence, he had been loyal.

But when his father's actions didn't match what he thought was appropriate, the older son showed contempt.

Jesus taught about the importance of what is in our hearts. The heart of the older son was bitterness.

Are we willing to accept prodigal people who have turned back to God? Or do we fear competition and thus dislike seeing people with questionable backgrounds becoming part of the body of Christ?

True love is extravagant. It doesn't make sense. But it is glorious. Anyone who has experienced the grace of God knows that.
3/9/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen | with 0 comments




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