Bry and I have taught a couple of times on the parable of the “Prodigal” from a more middle eastern perspective and it is AMAZING how it opens up the story. (I think I wrote some short blog posts about it a year or two ago) The extraordinary self-emptying, humbling, extravagant love of the father would have been the focus and this picture would have been as overwhelming to Jesus’ listeners as it is to us.
Bry and I have also taught on the parable of the Good Samaritan and Bry brought out (again) the extraordinary and self-emptying extravagant love of the Good Samaritan which also would have astonished Jesus’ listeners.
Now, in the first parable the Father figure represents God and therefore, Jesus. But the second parable is to let us know – just as God loves us like this – with a self-emptying, humbling, extraordinary extravagant love – so we are to love others. I do not love like this, honestly. Realistically it is beyond my capabilities. Even with my own children who I would give my life for and my husband who is amazing, I still get irritated when they interrupt my plans. I still want my way, my time, my wishes, needs, wants fulfilled. My focus in my love is still often me, not the other person.
No wonder the Bible says the world will know you belong to Jesus by your love (Jn 13:35). We’re not talking about a love that this world understands and knows. The common love and good will towards all that you see at Christmas time or in movies or even occasionally in real life when people help someone out. We are talking about a passionate willing-ness to put the other person first even at the expense of yourself and even when you will get absolutely nothing out of it. Pouring in to someone who will never be really grateful, ever be able to repay, or even come close to being able to pour back in to you. This is how God loves us and this is how we are called to love others – with a sacrificial love that so easily and often hurts the giver.
May we not only know this extravagant love from God but may His love compel us to love others in the exact same way. And may God’s word become true of us – that this world knows we belong to Jesus by this love.