Thursday, 21 July 2016

He Ran And Embraced Him

What I love about these five words is the complete blow they are to my own default, faulty, and in reality godless, theology. 

The image Jesus paints in this description of the Father in Luke 15 is one of an active, abundantly generous, enthusiastic, welcoming, gracious and kind God. As Jesus tells the story of the Rejected One running to embrace and kick-start a party for the Rejector, the god I have believed in- who is passive and stingy and still far off, must be banished. Jesus knows the Father like no one knows the Father, and he says of Him; "He ran and embraced him." Distant? Passive? Aloof?

By no means! The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is running towards us, himself bridging the distance between us, himself inviting us to celebrate with him our  homecoming and the glory of his generosity. 

All three of the Luke 15 "lost and found" narratives end with a party. There is GREAT REJOICING in heaven when a sinner repents. In the same way that the father in the parable sets off to greet the disgraced son with warmth and joy, with robe and ring in hand, even while the wretched rebel is still far off- there is great rejoicing in heaven when even one sinner repents. 

I was struck as I reflected on this the other day by two things: firstly, the challenge to be like the Father; generous, cost-absorbing, warm, welcoming. 

But secondly, I was struck by the joy there must have been in heaven at the ultimate homecoming; the coming home of the Son. I thought of Jesus, post-death, post-resurrection, ascending to the right hand of the Father. I thought about how the angels must have whooped and sung and bowed down and wondered, how they must have tried and failed to sound the depths of love divine. How the heavens must have rung! The Son has conquered! The price is paid! And he leads captives in his train (Psalm 68:18)! This means that we share in His ascension; his homecoming is ours. 

Hebrews 12 talks about how Jesus endured the sufferings of the cross for "the joy set before him"; it brought him joy to redeem us; it brought him joy that the Father was glorified in his radical, heartfelt generosity to sinners. 

John Stott once wrote, "God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us." This truth makes sense of heaven's party. Jesus has not wrestled His Father in to loving sinners. He has not convinced a stubborn, hard-hearted tyrant to let sinners in. On the contrary- Jesus is the Father's joy because he's completed the Father's will. The Father wanted to crush his beloved Son, and cause him to suffer (Isaiah 53:10), so that He might bring sinners home; so that God might be just and the one who justifies the ungodly; so that despite of our wretched sin and rebellion, we might be set at his banqueting table. 

It fills my heart with such joy to think of Jesus, the ultimate First Fruit entering the Most Holy Place on our behalf- Heaven's Champion causing the heavens to erupt in joyful celebration,  his victory over sin and death and selfishness and evil and rebellion and godlessness an infinite fountain of joy amongst all the angels of heaven, forever. 

But the glory of his homecoming that is so far beyond our imagining is that He does not come alone. By the infinite grace of the Father, those who are His share His welcome, share His robe, share His ring; the delight of the Father in this Son's homecoming is the delight of the Father that we too, though we were by nature objects of wrath, are not lost, but found, made sons, made heirs- and destined to be raised up by Christ, and in Christ, at the last day. (John 6:39)

"With his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place, once and for all time, and secured our redemption forever." 
Hebrews 9:12

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