Missing Grace?-Part 2
The second interaction is also found in Luke and involves Jesus and Pharisees. In Luke 15 Jesus is surrounded by tax collectors and sinners, who are drawing in to hear the compassionate Rabbi speak. But the religious leaders, full of pride and hardened hearts, “miss out on grace,” saying, “this man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2b). Jesus responds with a series of short stories challenging their hypocrisy and elevating the humility of the sinner finding grace.
The focus of the parable of the Prodigal Son begins with the younger brother telling his dad he wants his inheritance. When he receives the inheritance (before his father’s death), he wastes it with irresponsible and reckless living. The Prodigal becomes self-aware of his sinful condition, repents of his actions,and desires to return to his father as a servant. The true repentance is evident in the actions of the Prodigal. The identification as a sinner and humility of the return to home as a servant resonates with the tax collectors and sinners coming to Jesus. The father’s response to the Prodigal is the perfect image of God welcoming the sinner. He welcomes the Prodigal back with open arms, clothes him with the best robe, kills the fattened calf for a party, and puts his (own) ring on his hand.
The actions of the father are contrary to the flesh, truly a divine act of grace and forgiveness. As Paul writes to Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11). “Divine grace results in a manifestation of the very graciousness of God in and through the heart of the believer. It is in no sense an imitation of God’s graciousness; it is a reproduction by the indwelling Spirit of that graciousness in the life and service of the believer” (Chafer, 214).
The second phase of the parable shifts to the response of the older brother. His reaction to the music and dancing is bitterness and anger. The brother had “missed out on grace”. He responds to his father by defending his own behavior and actions over the years, claiming to be unrecognized and unappreciated for his loyalty. The older brother’s motive is to question his father’s forgiveness by reminding his father how much of a sinner his younger brother was. MacArthur writes “what we see here is an angry, resentful, envious, impenitent, and greedy young man. This was not merely a bad response...this was the elder brother’s true character coming out” (180). Jesus concludes the parable with the words of the father echoing the words of the Father, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32). The note upon which the story ends is decidedly sour with no recorded response from this elder son to the father's entreaty” (Austin,308-309).
The grace of God given to sinners like the unnamed woman with the alabaster and the Prodigal Son serve as permanent reminders of true grace. Jesus is giving hope to the hopeless and bringing forgiveness to the destitute and giving a warning to the self-righteous and prideful to not “miss out on grace.”