“Christ, the true Child of the Father”
March 20th 2022・CAN
Rev. Shihoko Warren
This is the well-known story of the prodigal son. You may have heard this story so many times. Many artists have created art pieces, being inspired by this parable. Rembrandt（1606-1669）, a well-known Dutch artist, had also created two paintings of this parable throughout his life: the first one is when he was in his late 20’s, the last one when in his early 60’s just before he passed away. (PPT: This painting that you are now seeing on ppt was the one he created before he died.) The parable of the prodigal son has captured so many people’s hearts. How about you? Does this parable inspire you or evoke you?
Jesus told this parable in the midst of His gathering with the tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were also there, criticizing Jesus because He welcomed sinners and ate with them. (Luke 15:1-2) Why do you think Jesus used this parable to deliver His message?
When I was a young believer, I easily identified myself with this younger son. Because I was a rebellious child in my teens, like this young brother. My parents went through many challenges and pain, because of my delinquent and rebellious attitudes. This younger brother in the parable, is simply self-centred, childish, and disobedient, just like my youth and the young time of many others in this world.
As I got older, when decades passed after my conversion, I began to identify myself with the older brother in the parable. The older brother has darkness and distortion hidden in the deepest area of his soul, even though he seems to be a faithful worker in his father’s house. In the deepest area, this older brother doesn’t trust his father and cannot accept the father’s gracious love. He holds bitterness, envy, and resentment for his father and young brother. This older brother is spiritually rebellious. After all, not only the younger brother, but also the older brother are ‘lost sons’.
In our journey of Christian life, we have a season to identify ourselves with the younger brother, and also a season to realize the older brother’s spiritual darkness within us. Unfortunately, we tend to stop our spiritual quest, just by identifying ourselves with one or the other of the two brothers. We just relate ourselves to either the younger brother or the older brother, and that is it. However, the Holy Spirit invites us to go deeper and see this parable more clearly.
As you imagine putting yourself right into this parable, Can you see with your spiritual eyes, that actually there is a 3rd child, hidden in this story? Can you see the true Son of the Father, in the glorious light, always trusting and being united with the Father?
Whenever I see Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, I am amazed that Rembrandt captured the characters so well: younger brother, older brother, and compassionate Father. I always feel, if I could have had a gift to paint like him, I would want to paint the 3rd Child, the true Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, our Lord who is in the Father so intimately and faithfully.
This story is not for us to identify ourselves to the 2 brothers. The Holy Spirit invites all of us to encounter the Father’s unconditional love and Jesus Christ, the true Son of the Father. Moreover, the Holy Spirit invites us to the path where we may transform ourselves into Christ-likeness, the true Child of the loving Father.
For both the younger brother and the older brother, in the end, their focus is always on themselves. What they care for the most is, themselves, their own security and their self-satisfaction. They never try to understand the Father’s heart, his deep pain because of love, patience, hope, and joy that the Father holds for his children. The Father’s love is unconditional and unfailing! His love is the same for his children, no matter what!
The true Son of the Father, Jesus Christ deeply understands the Father’s heart. Father’s pain becomes Jesus’ pain. Father’s hope, patience, and love become Jesus’ own, just as Jesus says in the Gospel of John 17: “Father, You are in me and I am in You. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine (v.10, 21)
We clearly see the true intimacy and love between Jesus and the Father!
Even at age 12 when Jesus and his family went up to the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus already realized that He belonged to the Father’s house, saying to his parents: “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Throughout Jesus’ life, He completely trusted in the Father, gave thanks to the Father, talked with the Father so honestly and intimately, calling “Abba, Father”, which means ‘my dearest Dad’.
Remember, even in the time of Jesus’ Passion, how intimately and faithfully Jesus talked to His Father!
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed “in anguish, more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) : “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
On the Cross, Jesus interceded with the Father for us who are just like the prodigal sons and daughters: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Through the true Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, all the sins of prodigal sons and daughters are forgiven!
We, the lost sons and daughters become God’s eternal beloved children!
Jesus Christ is truly in the Father, and Father is in Him. Furthermore, Jesus invites us to be in this Trinity! Jesus says to us in the Gospel of John, the night before He would be crucified, he said to His disciples:
“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. You are brought to complete unity! ” (John 14:20, 17: 23) What Grace we are given through Jesus Christ, our Lord! We are given complete unity with God!
We are now in the season of Lent. We know, Lent is the important time of the year to reflect on ourselves and repent. However, sometimes, to be honest, I feel hesitant to promote the season of Lent to people. It is because there is the potential misunderstanding or superficial interpretation that we just merely focus on ourselves: how sinful we are, how bad we are, and in the end, we just dwell there in ourselves.
The true invitation of Lent, however, is for us to go so much deeper, to encounter God’s incredible love and Jesus Christ as the True Son of the Father. It also leads us to the path to transform into Christ-likeness. Lent is the essential opportunity for us to experience what it really means that “the Father is in Christ, Christ is in the Father, Christ is in us, and we are completely in God! ”
I will conclude my homily by reading Henri Nouwen’s article.
“ Our lives are destined to become like the life of Jesus. The whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry is to bring us to the house of his Father. Not only did Jesus come to free us from the bonds of sin and death; he also came to lead us into the intimacy of his divine life.
We tend to emphasize the distance between Jesus and ourselves. We see Jesus as the all-knowing and all-powerful Son of God who is unreachable for us; we, sinful and broken human beings. But in thinking this way, we forget that Jesus came to give us his own life. He came to lift us up into loving community with the Father.
Everything that belongs to Jesus is given for us to receive. All that Jesus does, we may also do.”
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Amen!