Sunday, August 14, 2011

Inheritance Now

In Luke 15, Jesus tells two parables – the lost sheep and the lost coin – to reveal to us that God takes the initiative to go looking for us.  He then builds on those parables with a parable that reveals to us how God has done this.  A man – God – has two sons – the people of Israel, UPDATE: represented by the religious leaders; and Jesus.  UPDATE: These parables are spoken in the hearing of the 'older son,' who neither goes looking for the lost nor enters-into what the Father has for them themselves.  The younger son asks for his inheritance, goes on a long journey, squanders his father’s wealth on the undeserving, is abandoned by his friends, UPDATE: is humiliated by Gentiles, and returns to his father, who declares that this is his son who was dead and is now alive, and crowns him with honour.  This is the emptying and raising-up of Christ, celebrated in an early Christian hymn which found its way into Philippians 2:6-11.  The reason we don’t like to see this as being Jesus is because the younger son says, “I have sinned against you and against heaven...” and we know that Jesus was without sin.  But Jesus was not without sin: he returned to the Father, in his death, carrying the sins of the world.  He was not without sin, but without his own contribution to that sin.  If Jesus returned to the Father without sin, it is of no benefit to me...

Jesus, of course, is not only God’s saving love for us, but our example.  Jesus tells us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, which cannot be destroyed, corroded or stolen; and, moreover, to take with us into the world purses filled with that treasure, that will not be exhausted; adding that where our treasure is, our heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:33, 34).  How do we store up for ourselves treasure in heaven?  When we respond in obedience to what God asks of us, ‘God gets the glory, and we get the credit’ (thanks to Robert Ward, who has done so much to establish healing on the streets on the east coast of the UK, for that gem).  That is why it is written of Abraham that he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; James 2:23).  Peter tells us that, along with Christ, there is an inheritance kept for us in heaven, where it can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4).  But Jesus doesn’t only say, store it up; he also says: take it with you, to spend on others, in the service of the King (Luke 12).

Our inheritance cannot be depleted.  But it can be increased.  The way we increase our inheritance is to ask for it now, and to squander it on the excluded, the marginalised, the undeserving.  For that is what Jesus did with his inheritance, to our benefit.  Father, may we have our share of the inheritance now?

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