This morning’s devotion comes from Jonathan Adams, pastor of Village Church Vinings in Atlanta, in a piece that was originally titled, “The Gospel is the Final Blow.”
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
The other day I was reading the story of the Prodigal Son with a fresh eye and expectant ear, when out of the blue a new question struck me.
The question arose in my heart “Was the younger brother repentant or starving?” The statement found in v.17 sounds more pragmatic than repentant. Could it be that even at the end of our rope and at the bottom of our deprived hearts, no sorrow lies beneath the boulder of our sin? Could it be that the boulder is too big for us to budge much less pull out? Could it be that our pragmatic hearts know no better than to come to the father as needy beggars looking for a better job? That’s the idea I get from the younger Son.
v. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! In other words, “this job sucks and my father treats his servants better than this. I’m going to go get a job there.” Don’t get me wrong, we try to clean up. We always do our best to trim the tree and cut the bad fruit off. However, the root of sin is lodged under the boulder of depravity. That is, at least how it appears in this story and in my own story. The heart of the younger brother did not feel broken. It was pragmatic, and the brother said: “This sucks! I’m going home where the food is better and the work is easier”.
Had the Law really done its crushing power on the prodigal or was the final blow going to come when the Gospel was given? Well, the one-way love of Jesus came at him when he least deserved it! Jesus is the one who covers our debt and makes us whole. He is the one who raises dead men to life and meets us where we are; we do not have to journey all the way to Him. As the hymn says, “All the fitness He requires, is to feel your need of Him.”
In v. 20 we see the father meeting the son. “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
The final blow is not the crushing weight of the Law but the overflow of Gospel love, lavished on the sinner. I’ve heard my friend Tullian Tchividjian say that “Yes, our sins are big, but our Savior is bigger.” While the law is crushing us in our sinful state the gospel remains true and will always have the last word for sinners like you and me. Tim Keller says, “We are more sinful than we could ever imagine, and more loved than we could ever dream.” Let us not be so foolish in thinking like the Prodigal did, that just because our crap is behind closed doors, we get to escape the Law. The only difference between us and the prodigal is that we have not been caught yet! Praise God that “He who knew no sin became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and that “… Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for a friend” (John 15:13). That is exactly what Jesus did for us. He laid down His life for sinners like you and me.
The prodigal’s instinct to find a better job was out of pragmatism, NOT brokenness. That is why the father does not just sit on the bench while his children are being crushed under the work of the Law. He rises up when we are a long way off and He runs to us and He falls on our neck with a hug and a kiss. “Come home sinner, come home,” He beckons to us. This, the Gospel, is the final blow to the boulder that crushes the life out of us.