Friday, November 30, 2007

Lesson 12 Mary Magdalen

She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the name 'Magdalen' because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. St. Luke records that she was a notorious sinner, and had seven devils removed from her. She was present at Our Lords' Crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus' empty tomb. Fourteen years after Our Lord's death, St. Mary was put in a boat by the Jews without sails or oars - along with Sts. Lazarus and Martha, St. Maximin (who baptized her), St. Sidonius ("the man born blind"), her maid Sera, and the body of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. They were sent drifting out to sea and landed on the shores of Southern France, where St. Mary spent the rest of her life as a contemplative in a cave known as Sainte-Baume. She was given the Holy Eucharist daily by angels as her only food, and died when she was 72. St. Mary was transported miraculously, just before she died, to the chapel of St. Maximin, where she received the last sacraments.
More about this saint: St. Mary Magdalen (Feast day - July 22) Mary Magdalen was well known as a sinner when she first saw Our Lord. She was very beautiful and very proud, but after she met Jesus, she felt great sorrow for her evil life. When Jesus went to supper at the home of a rich man named Simon, Mary came to weep at His feet. Then with her long beautiful hair, she wiped His feet dry and anointed them with expensive perfume. Some people were surprised that Jesus let such a sinner touch Him, but Our Lord could see into Mary's heart, and He said: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved very much." Then to Mary He said kindly, "Your faith has made you safe; go in peace." From then on, with the other holy women, Mary humbly served Jesus and His Apostles. When Our Lord was crucified, she was there at the foot of His cross, unafraid for herself, and thinking only of His sufferings. No wonder Jesus said of her: "She has loved much." After Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early Easter Sunday morning. Not finding the Sacred Body, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the Body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the person spoke in a voice she knew so well: "Mary!" It was Jesus, risen from the dead! He had chosen to show Himself first to Mary Magdalen, the repentent sinner.
The Jesus Conspiracy

The Da Vinci Code begins with the murder of a French museum curator named Jacques Sauniere. A scholarly Harvard professor and a beautiful French cryptologist are commissioned to decipher a message left by the curator before his death. The message turns out to reveal the most profound conspiracy in the history of humankind: a cover-up of the true message of Jesus Christ by a secret arm of the Roman Catholic Church called Opus Dei.

Before his death, the curator had evidence that could disprove the deity of Christ. Although (according to the plot) the church tried for centuries to suppress the evidence, great thinkers and artists have planted clues everywhere: in paintings such as the Mona Lisa and Last Supper by da Vinci, in the architecture of cathedrals, even in Disney cartoons. The book’s main claims are these:
· The Roman emperor Constantine conspired to deify Jesus Christ.
· Constantine personally selected the books of the New Testament.
· The Gnostic gospels were banned by men to suppress women.
· Jesus and Mary Magdalene were secretly married and had a child.
· Thousands of secret documents disprove key points of Christianity.
Brown reveals his conspiracy through the book’s fictional expert, British royal historian Sir Leigh Teabing. Presented as a wise old scholar, Teabing reveals to cryptologist Sophie Neveu that at the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325 “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon,” including the divinity of Jesus.
“Until that moment in history,” he says, “Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.”

Neveu is shocked. “Not the Son of God?” she asks.

Teabing explains: “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”

“Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”

“A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing tells the stunned cryptologist.2
So, according to Teabing, Jesus was not regarded as God until the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325, when the real records of Jesus were allegedly banned and destroyed. Thus, according to the theory, the entire foundation of Christianity rests upon a lie.

The Da Vinci Code has sold its story well, drawing comments from readers such as “If it were not true it could not have been published!” Another said he would “never set foot in a church again.” A reviewer of the book praised it for its “impeccable research.”3 Pretty convincing for a fictional work.
Let’s accept for the moment that Teabing’s proposal might be true. Why, in that case, would the Council of Nicaea decide to promote Jesus to Godhood?

“It was all about power,” Teabing continues. “Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power.”4

In many ways, The Da Vinci Code is the ultimate conspiracy theory. If Brown’s assertions are correct, then we have been lied to—by the church, by history, and by the Bible. Perhaps even by those we trust most: our parents or teachers. And it was all for the sake of a power grab.

Although The Da Vinci Code is fictional, it does base much of its premise upon actual events (the Council of Nicaea), actual people (Constantine and Arius), and actual documents (the Gnostic gospels). If we are to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, our project must be to address Brown’s accusations and separate fact from fiction.

Constantine and Christianity

In the centuries prior to Constantine’s reign over the Roman Empire, Christians had been severely persecuted. But then, while entrenched in warfare, Constantine reported to have seen a bright image of a cross in the sky inscribed with the words “Conquer by this.” He marched into battle under the sign of the cross and took control of the empire.

Constantine’s apparent conversion to Christianity was a watershed in church history. Rome became a Christian empire. For the first time in nearly 300 years it was relatively safe, and even cool, to be a Christian.

No longer were Christians persecuted for their faith. Constantine then sought to unify his Eastern and Western Empires, which had been badly divided by schisms, sects, and cults, centering mostly around the issue of Jesus Christ’s identity.

These are some of the kernels of truth in The Da Vinci Code, and kernels of truth are a prerequisite for any successful conspiracy theory. But the book’s plot turns Constantine into a conspirator. So let’s address a key question raised by Brown’s theory: did Constantine invent the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ divinity?
Deifying Jesus
To answer Brown’s accusation, we must first determine what Christians in general believed before Constantine ever convened the council at Nicaea.
Christians had been worshiping Jesus as God since the first century. But in the fourth century, a church leader from the east, Arius, launched a campaign to defend God’s oneness. He taught that Jesus was a specially created being, higher than the angels, but not God. Athanasius and most church leaders, on the other hand, were convinced that Jesus was God in the flesh.
Constantine wanted to settle the dispute, hoping to bring peace to his empire, uniting the east and west divisions. Thus, in 325 A.D., he convened more than 300 bishops at Nicaea (now part of Turkey) from throughout the Christian world. The crucial question is, did the early church think Jesus was the Creator or merely a creation—Son of God or son of a carpenter? So, what did the apostles teach about Jesus? From their very first recorded statements, they regarded him as God. About 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul wrote the Philippians that Jesus was God in human form (Philippians 2:6-7, NLT). And John, a close eye-witness, confirms Jesus’ divinity in the following passage:
In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. Life itself was in him..So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us (John 1: 1-4, 14, NLT).
This passage from John 1, has been discovered in an ancient manuscript, and it is carbon-dated at 175-225 A.D. Thus Jesus was clearly spoken of as God over a hundred years before Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea. We now see that forensic manuscript evidence contradicts The Da Vinci Code's claim that Jesus' divinity was a fourth century invention. But what does history tell us about the Council of Nicaea? Brown asserts in his book, through Teabing, that the majority of bishops at Nicaea overruled Arius's belief that Jesus was a "mortal prophet" and adopted the doctrine of Jesus' divinity by a "relatively close vote." True or false?
In reality, the vote was a landslide: only two of the 318 bishops dissented. Whereas Arius believed that the Father alone was God, and that Jesus was His supreme creation, the council concluded that Jesus and the Father were of the same divine essence.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were deemed to be distinct, coexistent, coeternal Persons, but one God. This doctrine of one God in three Persons became known as the Nicene Creed, and is the central core of the Christian Faith. Now, it is true that Arius was persuasive and had considerable influence. The landslide vote came after considerable debate. But in the end the council overwhelmingly declared Arius to be a heretic, since his teaching contradicted what the apostles had taught about Jesus' divinity.
History also confirms that Jesus had publicly condoned the worship he received from his disciples. And, as we have seen, Paul and other apostles clearly taught that Jesus is God and is worthy of worship.
From the first days of the Christian church, Jesus was regarded as far more than a mere man, and most of his followers worshiped him as Lord-the Creator of the universe. So, how could Constantine have invented the doctrine of Jesus' divinity if the church had regarded Jesus as God for more than 200 years? The Da Vinci Code doesn't address this question.
Firing on the Canon

The Da Vinci Code also states that Constantine suppressed all documents about Jesus other than those found in our current New Testament canon (recognized by the church as authentic eyewitness reports of the apostles). It further asserts that the New Testament accounts were altered by Constantine and the bishops to reinvent Jesus. Another key element of The Da Vinci Code conspiracy is that the four New Testament Gospels were cherry-picked from a total of "more than 80 gospels," most of which were supposedly suppressed by Constantine.5

There are two central issues here, and we need to address both. The first is whether Constantine altered or biased the selection of the New Testament books. The second is whether he barred documents that should have been included in the Bible.

Regarding the first issue, letters and documents written by second century church leaders and heretics alike confirm the wide usage of the New Testament books. Nearly 200 years before Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the heretic Marcion listed 11 of the 27 New Testament books as being the authentic writings of the apostles.

And about the same time, another heretic, Valentinus, alludes to a wide variety of New Testament themes and passages. Since these two heretics were opponents of the early church leadership, they were not writing just what the bishops wanted. Yet, like the early church, they still referred to the same New Testament books we read today.

So, if the New Testament was already widely in use 200 years before Constantine and the Council of Nicaea, how could the emperor have invented or altered it? By that time the church was widespread and encompassed hundreds of thousands if not millions of believers, all of whom were familiar with the New Testament accounts.

In his book The Da Vinci Deception, an analysis of The Da Vinci Code, Dr. Erwin Lutzer remarks,
Constantine did not decide which books would be in the canon; indeed, the topic of the canon did not even come up at the Council of Nicaea. By that time the early church was reading a canon of books it had determined was the Word of God two hundred years earlier.6
Although the official canon was still years from being finalized, the New Testament of today was deemed authentic more than two centuries before Nicaea.
This brings us to our second issue; why were these mysterious Gnostic gospels destroyed and excluded from the New Testament? In the book, Teabing asserts that the Gnostic writings were eliminated from 50 authorized Bibles commissioned by Constantine at the council. He excitedly tells Neveu:
Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. … Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.7
Are these Gnostic writings the real history of Jesus Christ? Let's take a deeper look to see if we can separate truth from fiction.

Secret "Knowers"

The Gnostic gospels are attributed to a group known as (big surprise here) the Gnostics. Their name comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” These people thought they had secret, special knowledge hidden from ordinary people.

Of the 52 writings, only five are actually listed as gospels. As we shall see, these so-called gospels are markedly different from the New Testament Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

As Christianity spread, the Gnostics mixed some doctrines and elements of Christianity into their beliefs, morphing Gnosticism into a counterfeit Christianity. Perhaps they did it to keep recruitment numbers up and make Jesus a poster child for their cause. However, for their system of thought to fit with Christianity, Jesus needed to be reinvented, stripped of both his humanity and his absolute deity.

In The Oxford History of Christianity John McManners wrote of the Gnostics’ mixture of Christian and mythical beliefs. Early Crictics
Contrary to Brown’s assertions, it was not Constantine who branded the Gnostic beliefs as heretical; it was the apostles themselves. A mild strain of the philosophy was already growing in the first century just decades after the death of Jesus. The apostles, in their teaching and writings, went to great lengths to condemn these beliefs as being opposed to the truth of Jesus, to whom they were eyewitnesses.
Check out, for example, what the apostle John wrote near the end of the first century:
Who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22).
Following the apostles’ teaching, the early church leaders unanimously condemned the Gnostics as a cult. Church father Irenaeus, writing 140 years before the Council of Nicaea, confirmed that the Gnostics were condemned by the church as heretics. He also rejected their “gospels.” However, referring to the four New Testament Gospels, he said, “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are.” 9
Christian theologian Origen wrote this in the early third century, more than a hundred years before Nicaea: I know a certain gospel which is called “The Gospel according to Thomas” and a “Gospel according to Matthias,” and many others have we read—lest we should in any way be considered ignorant because of those who imagine they possess some knowledge if they are acquainted with these. Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely what the church has recognized, which is that only four gospels should be accepted.10
There we have it in the words of a highly regarded early church leader. The Gnostics were recognized as a non-Christian cult well before the Council of Nicaea. But there's more evidence calling into question claims made in The Da Vinci Code.
Who's Sexist?
Brown suggests that one of the motives for Constantine’s alleged banning of the Gnostic writings was a desire to suppress women in the church. Ironically, it is the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas that demeans women. It concludes (supposedly quoting Peter) with this eye-popping statement: “Let Mary go away from us, because women are not worthy of life.” Then Jesus allegedly tells Peter that he will make Mary into a male so that she may enter the kingdom of heaven. Read: women are inferior. With sentiments like that on display, it’s difficult to conceive of the Gnostic writings as being a battle cry for women’s liberation.
In stark contrast, the Jesus of the biblical Gospels always treated women with dignity and respect. Revolutionary verses like this one found within the New Testament have been foundational to attempts at raising women's status: "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians-you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28, NLT).
Mystery Authors

When it comes to the Gnostic gospels, just about every book carries the name of a New Testament character: the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Judas, and so on. (Sounds a little like roll call at a parochial school.) These are the books that conspiracy theories like The Da Vinci Code are based upon. But were they even written by their purported authors?

The Gnostic gospels are dated about 110 to 300 years after Christ, and no credible scholar believes any of them could have been written by their namesakes. In James M. Robinson’s comprehensive The Nag Hammadi Library, we learn that the Gnostic gospels were written by “largely unrelated and anonymous authors.”12 Dr. Darrell L. Bock, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote, “The bulk of this material is a few generations removed from the foundations of the Christian faith, a vital point to remember when assessing the contents.”13

New Testament scholar Norman Geisler commented on two Gnostic writings, the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of John. (These Gnostic writings are not to be confused with the New Testament books written by John and Peter.) “The Gnostic writings were not written by the apostles, but by men in the second century (and later) pretending to use apostolic authority to advance their own teachings. Today we call this fraud and forgery.”14

The Gnostic gospels are not historical accounts of Jesus’ life but instead are largely esoteric sayings, shrouded in mystery, leaving out historical details such as names, places, and events. This is in striking contrast to the New Testament Gospels, which contain innumerable historical facts about Jesus’ life, ministry, and words. Mrs. Jesus

The juiciest part of the Da Vinci conspiracy is the assertion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a secret marriage that produced a child, perpetuating his bloodline. Furthermore, Mary Magdalene's womb, carrying Jesus' offspring, is presented in the book as the legendary Holy Grail, a secret closely held by a Catholic organization called the Priory of Sion. Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo Da Vinci were all cited as members.
Romance. Scandal. Intrigue. Great stuff for a conspiracy theory. But is it true? Let's look at what scholars say.

A Newsweek magazine article, that summarized leading scholars' opinions, concluded that the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were secretly married has no historical basis.15 The proposal set forth in The Da Vinci Code is built primarily upon one solitary verse in the Gospel of Philip that indicates Jesus and Mary were companions. In the book, Teabing tries to build a case that the word for companion (koinonos) could mean spouse. But Teabing's theory is not accepted by scholars.

There is also a single verse in the Gospel of Philip that says Jesus kissed Mary. Greeting friends with a kiss was common in the first century, and had no sexual connotation. But even if The Da Vinci Code interpretation is correct, there is no other historical document to confirm its theory. And since the Gospel of Philip is a forged document written 150-220 years after Christ by an unknown author, its statement about Jesus isn't historically reliable.

Perhaps the Gnostics felt the New Testament was a bit shy on romance and decided to sauce it up a little. Whatever the reason, this isolated and obscure verse written two centuries after Christ isn't much to base a conspiracy theory upon. Interesting reading perhaps, but definitely not history.

As to the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion, Brown's fictional account again distorts history. The legendary Holy Grail was supposedly Jesus' cup at his last supper, and had nothing to do with Mary Magdalene. And Leonardo da Vinci never could have known about the Priory of Sion, since it wasn't founded until 1956, 437 years after his death. Again, interesting fiction, but phony history.

The "Secret" Documents

But what about Teabing's disclosure that "thousands of secret documents" prove that Christianity is a hoax? Could this be true?

If there were such documents, scholars opposed to Christianity would have a field day with them. Fraudulent writings that were rejected by the early church for heretical views are not secret, having been known about for centuries. No surprise there. They have never been considered part of the authentic writings of the apostles.

And if Brown (Teabing) is referring to the apocryphal, or infancy Gospels, that cat is also out of the bag. They are not secret, nor do they disprove Christianity. New Testament scholar Raymond Brown has said of the Gnostic gospels, "We learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus' ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his."18

Unlike the Gnostic gospels, whose authors are unknown and who were not eyewitnesses, the New Testament we have today has passed numerous tests for authenticity. (Click to read Jesus.doc) The contrast is devastating to those pushing conspiracy theories. New Testament historian F. F. Bruce wrote, "There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament."19
New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger revealed why the Gospel of Thomas was not accepted by the early church: "It is not right to say that the Gospel of Thomas was excluded by some fiat on the part of a council: the right way to put it is, the Gospel of Thomas excluded itself! It did not harmonize with other testimony about Jesus that early Christians accepted as trustworthy."17
History's Verdict
So, what are we to conclude regarding the various conspiracy theories about Jesus Christ? Karen King, professor of ecclesiastical history at Harvard, has written several books on the Gnostic gospels, including The Gospel of Mary of Magdala and What Is Gnosticism? King, though a strong advocate of Gnostic teaching, concluded, "These notions about the conspiracy theory...are all marginal ideas that have no historical basis."20
In spite of the lack of historical evidence, conspiracy theories will still sell millions of books and set box office records. Scholars in related fields, some Christians and some with no faith at all, have disputed the claims of The Da Vinci Code. However, the easily swayed will still wonder; Could there be something to it after all?
Award-winning television journalist Frank Sesno asked a panel of historical scholars about the fascination people have with conspiracy theories. Professor Stanley Kutler from the University of Wisconsin replied, "We all love mysteries-but we love conspiracies more."21
So, if you want to read a great conspiracy theory about Jesus, Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code, may be just the ticket for you. But if you want to read the true accounts of Jesus Christ, then Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will get you back to what the eyewitnesses saw, heard, and wrote. Who would you rather believe?
So What?
Some may ask the question: So what if The DaVinci Code is wrong, and the New Testament portrays the real Jesus Christ? What does that have to do with you and me today? Can Jesus really give our lives meaning and purpose?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From tha Annals of Internal Medicine

This is an article which appeared in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine which I thouhgt you'd like to read.

How Far Along Are You?

took a deep breath befote entering Mrs. Bell's room. I had not yet met this patient, and her nurse told me there were many concerned family members and church friends gathered at the bedside. I knew that Mrs. Bell's adult children were having difficulty coming to terms with the course of their mother's uterine cancer. She was dying, and her family and friends had come to pray and say goodbye. My role as a palliative care fellow was to try to make sure she was comfortable, and to help her loved ones through this time, to the extent they would allow.
I entered the room. All conversation stopped. I felt the eyes of perhaps 20 people on me. I grew increasingly uneasy. I was acutely aware of being the only white person in the room, and I felt all the more conspicuous with my pregnant belly.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Thomas," I said, "I'm from the pain and palliative care team. I'm here to make Mrs. Bell as comfortable as possible, and to answer any questions you might have." Continued silence. I shook hands with Mrs. Bell's 3 children. I went to the bedside, leaned over, and took Mrs. Bell's hand in mine. I smiled at her. "Hello. I heard you were having some pain in your belly. Is it still there?" She kept her eyes closed but held onto my hand and shook her head no. She seemed far away but looked peaceful and comfortable. "Do you know that you have lots of visitors here today? Your children are here, and some of your grandchildren, and your friends from church." She smiled briefly and nodded, keeping her eyes closed. "Is there anything I can do for you at this time, anything to help you be more comfortable?" She shook her head barely perceptibly one last time, and slipped back to sleep. I turned and faced the crowd, "Do you have any questions?"
Someone asked, "What is she getting to help her pain?" I answered, "She has a patch on her skin that gives her a small amount of pain medicine called fentanyl all the time, and we will give her some morphine by vein if she has any more discomfort." A murmur greeted this. "Why is she sleeping so much?" the son asked. "Her body is slowing down. Her kidneys aren't working well and the toxins they usually remove are building up in her blood and making her sleepy. The pain medicines may be making her a little sleepy as well." Again, a murmur arose, and heads nodded as if I had confirmed a hypothesis posed before I got there. Finally, the older daughter gathered the courage to ask the question they were all wondering.
"How much longer does she have?"
I paused. "It's hard to say. Doctors can be really bad at predicting this. I think she will probably pass away in the next few days, but I want to prepare you: I wouldn't be surprised to receive a phone call at any time letting me know she died." There was silence and then again the low murmuring as the crowd processed this. Some looked in

my eyes and nodded slowly, again as if I were confirming what they were already thinking. I asked, "Are there any more questions? Is there anything more I can do for you or for her?" Most continued talking or shook their heads. I turned for the door.
A middle-aged woman in a purple dress approached me. "How far along are you?" she asked.
I paused. "Seven months," I said.
She put her hand on my belly. "Do you know if you're having a boy or a girl?"
"A little boy," I said, unable to keep the delight out of my voice, but unsure it was appropriate under these circumstances. More women joined the conversation.
"Is this your first baby?" asked a younger woman.
"Do you have everything ready at home?"
I smiled and rolled my eyes, "Not even close!" Two more women put their hands on my belly, and they began to pray.
"Lord, please give this nice lady doctor a beautiful baby boy," the woman in the purple dress said in a low, clear voice. "Amen!" arose from the women around me. "Jesus, we ask in your name that her labor be short and the delivery easy!" Again came the chorus of "Amen!" The praying grew in volume and intensity, and calls of "Amen!" erupted at irregular intervals from around the room as more and more people joined in. "Lord, we thank you for the gift of life, for the child you are bringing into the world!" "Amen!"
"Make him strong and healthy, and let him grow up to glorify your name!"
"Amen!" "Amen!" "AMEN!"
I stood quietly in the middle of the circle, with 4 or 5 friendly hands on my belly. Nothing in my career to that point had prepared me for this moment, but I found myself relaxing and enjoying the feeling of connection and support. I felt a deep appreciation that this group saw nothing inconsistent about praying for me and my unborn son in the midst of praying for their dying mother, grandmother, and friend. When the praying quieted down, I shook hands and kissed cheeks all around, gratefully accepting good wishes for the baby. There was an unmistakable feeling that people who had met as strangers were now parting as friends. I left, and smiled as I heard the chatter and laughter follow me down the hall.
Jane deLima Thomas, MD

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lesson 11 Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Strategic Movements
The Lord’s travels were not haphazard. They were meticulously orchestrated so as to enhance the greatest advantage for the success of his coming kingdom. Frequently, “timing” was crucial, for everything must proceed on schedule toward that most important “hour” on the divine clock (cf. Jn. 7:30; 8:20; 13:1, etc.).
Timing was a factor in the case of the present context. His ministry had been enormously successful, as reflected in the number of conversions being effected by his disciples—eclipsing even the work of John the Baptizer. Because of this success, the Pharisees were beginning to focus a more hostile interest in him. So he decided to redirect his labor from Judea in the south, to Galilee in the north. In so doing, the apostle notes, “he must needs pass through Samaria.” Several observations are in order.

1. Note that John 4:1 begins with the words, “When therefore the Lord knew ….”
Here we learn something about the incarnate Lord. Though he was deity in nature, he did not continuously exercise the quality of omniscience. He could, consistent with his Father’s will, exercise supernatural knowledge (cf. Mt. 12:25); at other times, he accessed knowledge the ordinary way (cf. Jn. 11:34).
2. The success of Jesus aroused the enmity of the Jewish leaders. This jealousy would eventually reach such an apex that they would deliver their own Messiah to the Roman authorities for crucifixion. Even Pilate recognized that on account of “envy” the Jews had delivered up Jesus (Mt. 27:18).
3. Men with shriveled souls have but two ways of exalting themselves; they either boast of their accomplishments, or tear down those they perceive as rivals. Usually, they do both.
4. While it may seem natural to take the expression “must needs” as a geographical reference, since Samaria lies between Judea and Galilee, passing “through Samaria” was not the only route between the two provinces—in fact, it was not the most common one.
Because of Jewish hostilities toward the Samaritan people (which we will discuss later), the Hebrews frequently would travel to the east when they had leisure time (see Josephus, Ant., 20.6.1, regarding travel at feast times), cross over the Jordan, and thus skirt the Samaritan territory. Samaria was considered as not belonging to the Holy Land, a strip of “foreign country” separating Judea from Galilee (Edersheim, 1957, 12). Such a detour would take longer than the normal three days of travel.
The Lord, however, did not hesitate to traverse Samaritan territory (Lk. 9:51-56; 17:11-19; Jn. 4:1ff). Some scholars, therefore, view this "must needs" language as referring to a:

“compulsion other than mere convenience. As the Savior of all men, Jesus had to confront the smoldering suspicion and enmity between Jew and Samaritan by ministering to his enemies” (Tenney, 54).
Christ’s mission to earth was regulated on more than one occasion by a heavenly “must” (cf. Lk. 2:49; 4:43; 19:5; 24:7; Jn. 9:4; 10:16; 20:9).
At Jacob’s Well
As Jesus and his disciples traveled northward through Samaria, they came to a city called Sychar. The precise location of Sychar is a point of controversy. It was near Mt. Gerizim, a peak some 2,850 feet high, about 40 miles north of Jerusalem. Some identify the city with modern Askar, slightly more than half a mile north of Jacob’s well, while others locate the city at the ruins of ancient Shechem (now Tell Balatah), which is located at the eastern edge of the pass between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. John says it was “near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph” (4:5; cf. Gen. 48:22).
The apostle declares that “Jacob’s well was there” (4:6). The site of Jacob’s well has been called “the most authentic of all the Holy Places in Palestine” (A. Parrot, cited in Freedman, III.608). The well is about 300 yards SSE of Tell Balatah. When it was cleaned out it 1935, it was shown to be about 135 feet deep (cf. 4:11), with the water being some 75 to 80 feet from the surface in the summer (Wright, 216). It is seven and one-half feet in diameter.
John calls it both a “spring” [pege] (Jn. 4:6, ASV fn), and a “well” [phrear – a cistern] (4:11-12), suggesting that its water was supplied by both an underground spring and rain. “Abundant water comes from springs emerging all along the north and east flanks of Mount Gerizim” (Stern, IV.1346). The biblical text is strikingly accurate.
The Weary Savior
When the Lord arrived at Jacob’s well, he sat down, “being wearied with his journey” (4:6). The Greek word for “weary” is kopiao (from kopos, in secular Greek, a beating, or weariness caused by it). As we might express it, the Savior was “beat,” i.e., exhausted. John notes that it was “about the sixth hour.” If the apostle, writing from Ephesus in the late first century, was employing Roman civil time in his Gospel account, this would be about six in the evening (cf. Westcott, 282; Edersheim, 1947, I.408). He possibly had walked all day.
We must not rush by the phrase too quickly. It emphasizes the humanity of our Lord. I should underline the term “wearied,” and in my Bible margin write, “for me.” It was only because of his great love for sinful man that the eternal Word (Jn. 1:1) became incarnate (1:14) and endured the rigors of humankind. He was hungry (Mt. 4:2), thirsty (Jn. 19:28), tired (Jn. 4:6), tearful (Jn. 11:35), and even fearful (Heb. 5:7). Think about it—he who effortlessly created the entire universe, now is weary—for you and me!
A Samaritan Woman Approaches
John records these words: “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water . . .” (4:7). Two things are significant.
First, she was a Samaritan, and, as the apostle comments, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (9).
Second, her gender presented an obstacle. Normally, Jewish men did not speak to women in public (4:27). Let us explore these two matters.

1. The most common view as to the origin of the Samaritans is that they were a mongrel breed who developed as a result of intermarriages between earlier Hebrews of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Assyrian settlers in Israel following the captivity of the northern kingdom in 722-21 B.C. Other pagans eventually infiltrated the land and mingled with them (cf. Ezr. 4:2,9,10).
The term is found in the Old Testament only in 2 Kings 17:29, being applied to the remnant in the land. This group had their own brand of religion—a mixture of “Jehovah” worship and heathenism. Josiah, the good king of Judah, had sought to remedy this wickedness in his day (cf. 2 Chron. 34:6-7).
There was much animosity between Jews and Samaritans. When the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem (following the Babylonian captivity, 606-536 B.C.), the Samaritans offered their services. They were summarily rebuffed (Ezr. 4:1-3), and the Samaritans responded in kind (Ezr. 4:4ff). Josephus characterizes the Samaritans as idolaters and hypocrites (Ant., 9.14.3). Edersheim quotes a Jewish saying: “May I never set eyes on a Samaritan” (1947, I.401).
Several centuries before the birth of Christ, the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim to rival the one in Jerusalem. Here, they offered sacrifices according to the Mosaic code. Anderson notes that during the reign of Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.),

“the Samaritan temple was renamed either Zeus Hellenios (willingly by the Samaritans according to Josephus) or, more likely, Zeus Xenios (unwillingly in accord with 2 Macc. 6:2)” (Bromiley, 4.304).
This temple was destroyed by John Hyracanus in about 128 B.C., having been in existence about 200 years. Only a few stone remnants of it exist today.
During the first century, the religion of the Samaritans was similar to that of the Jews, except that they were more liberal—more kindred spirits of the Sadducees, for example, than the Pharisees. They accepted the Pentateuch, observed certain Jewish feasts, and longed for the coming Messiah (Jn. 4:25).
Religiously, though, they were considered as foreigners. When Jesus instituted the limited commission (Mt. 10:1ff), the Samaritans were excluded. That by no means indicates, however, that the Savior was unconcerned with these precious souls—as this very account proves.
2. The Jewish attitude towards women was less than ideal. While the Old Testament afforded great dignity to womanhood (cf. Prov. 31:10ff), the Hebrews, over the years, had imbibed some of the attitudes of paganism. Many a Jewish man started the day with a prayer to God, expressing thanks that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman!
A Hebrew man did not talk with women “in the street”—not even with his mother, sister, daughter or wife! (cf. Lightfoot, 3.286-287). According to the most liberal view of Deuteronomy 24:1, a Hebrew husband could divorce his wife if she was found “familiarly talking with men” (Edersheim, 1957, 157).
William Barclay even tells of a segment of the Pharisees known as the “bleeding and bruised” Pharisees; when they saw a woman approaching, they would close their eyes, hence, were running into things constantly! (142-143). And yet the Master addressed this woman: “Give me to drink.”
The Son of God, therefore, in one fell swoop, broke through two barriers—the one steeped in racial bigotry, the other a hurtful disposition that distanced the man from one of the sweetest treasures of God’s creations.
The Influence of Jesus
One of the statements in this narrative which seems almost incidental is where John comments that the Lord’s disciples, who were traveling with him, had “gone into the city to buy food” (4:8). Upon closer examination, it is very significant.
Normally, Jews did not eat food that was produced or handled by Samaritans. The rabbis taught:

“Let no Israelite eat one mouthful of any thing that is a Samaritan’s; for if he eat but a little mouthful, he is as if he ate swine’s flesh” (Lightfoot, 3.275).
And yet, the disciples are buying food in Sychar. Perhaps they were already beginning to be influenced by Jesus’ kindly disposition towards all those fashioned in the image of God. One cannot but be reminded of a later circumstance when, observing the boldness of Peter and John, certain Jewish leaders “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Living Water
When Christ asked of this unnamed woman a drink of water, he challenged the best from her. It is commonly the case that when we offer to assist someone who harbors a grudge against us, they will ruffle up and resist. Yet, if they are petitioned for assistance, they surprisingly respond. Jesus appealed to this lady’s kinder instincts, thus eroding the cultural wall between them.
The woman, with perhaps a little edge to her voice, responded, “How is it that you, a Jew [which she could discern by his clothing and manner of speech], asks a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?” (4:9). She is taken aback, but intrigued. Who is this stranger who is willing to address me?
The Lord seizes the opportunity, lifts the conversation to a higher plateau, and arrests her attention further by introducing several matters that were bound to stimulate her interest.
Christ said:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water” (4:10).
Note that:

a. Jesus spoke of a “gift.” The Greek term is dorea, used only here in the Gospel accounts, which actually signifies a “free gift” (Vine, 341). A “free gift” stimulates anyone’s interest!
b. Employing symbolism appropriate to the occasion, he mentions a “living” water, i.e., a water that bestows life. This could mean something quite significant to a person whose day-to-day existence was characterized by deadness.
c. He associates these blessings with a “who,” i.e., he suggested that she was talking at this very moment to someone special, a depository of “life.”
There was a great deal of subtle information packed into a seemingly ordinary statement. It was, in fact, the gospel in miniature.

a. The offer of salvation to a rebellious world is the expression of God’s grace; it is a free gift which cannot be merited or earned (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:23).
b. It is available only through that Person who was conversing with the Samaritan woman, the Messiah (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).
c. The result is the promise of “life,” i.e., union with God, for those who are dead in sin (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:1).
The Lord’s statement produced a startling effect. The woman immediately changes her tone and addresses the friendly stranger with a term of respect.
“Sir,” she says with some bewilderment, “you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where will you get that living water? You’re not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us this well, which provided water for him, his family, and his livestock?”
She is still thinking of literal water of some sort, and her question implies a negative answer (as the Greek construction indicates). The Savior gently nudges her forward. He wants to emphasize that he is not speaking of the kind of water contained in Jacob’s well.
And so he says, in effect, “one can keep on drinking [a present tense form, suggesting sustained action] of this water, and he will be thirsty again; but anyone who takes but a swallow [an aorist tense form – an act] of the water about which I’m speaking, won’t ever thirst again.” The Lord went on to point out that the spiritual “water” of which he spoke would become a bountiful “fountain,” issuing in eternal life, i.e., salvation.
Still not grasping the elevated meaning of the Master’s message, but being tantalized, the woman courteously urged Jesus to: “give me this water” (15).
Sin Gently Exposed
The Samaritan lady obviously had both the need for salvation, and at least a threshold interest in things divine. Christ determines, therefore, that it is now time to bring the discussion closer to home.
In so doing he must accomplish two goals. First, he must penetrate her conscience with a sense of sin. Second, it is imperative that he establish his own authority as a spokesman from God.
“Go, call your husband, and return,” instructed the Lord.
Abruptly (dropping that polite, “Sir”), she shot back: “I don’t have a husband!”
If I may paraphrase, Christ replied: “You’ve told the truth, lady. But the fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now are with actually is not your husband. You revealed more truth than you intended” (cf. 4:18).
There are two ways of looking at this—neither of which puts this woman in a favorable light. Consider the Greek verb echo, rendered “have” (vs. 17), a form of which is employed four times in verses 17 and 18. It may be used in the sense of “married to” (cf. Mt. 22:28; Mk. 6:18; 1 Cor. 5:1), or it can signify to “have” or “be with.”
And so, the Lord may have been saying to the woman: “You’ve been married to five husbands, and the man to whom you are now ‘married’ is not a ‘husband’ in the true sense.”
Or, he may have been suggesting this: “You’ve been married five times, and the man with whom you now are living cannot be called a ‘husband.’” Leon Morris, in his scholarly commentary on John’s Gospel, has discussed this matter in some detail (264-265). The point is—she was in a sinful relationship and she needed the salvation that only he could offer.
It was a startling revelation to the woman. This stranger had exposed details of her life he could not possibly have known naturally. Later she will tell her villagers: “Come see a man who told me all things I ever did!” (29). That, of course, is hyperbole. But the information revealed by Jesus was so dramatic that it seemed like he had drawn the curtain back on every foul deed she had ever done!
The woman was intelligent. She was a logician! Christ had evidenced supernatural knowledge. Thus, the woman (returning to her respectful form of address) said: “Sir, I perceive [Grk. theoreo – to give careful observation to detail] that you are a prophet” (19).
Here is an important point. Since the Samaritans believed there was no “prophet” after Moses, except the one of whom the great Hebrew leader had spoken—“a prophet like unto me” (Dt. 18:15ff)—whom they identified with the “Messiah,” this lady was toying gradually with the notion that this man could possibly be the Messiah. Still, she was uncomfortable; and so she shifted the direction of the conversation from her personal problems to that of worship—a topic, however, which undoubtedly was of genuine interest to her.
True Worship
Possibly pointing to nearby Mt. Gerizim, she said: “Our fathers worshipped [past tense] in this mountain, but you [plural – Jews] say that Jerusalem is the necessary place of worship.” She was referring to the Samaritan temple that had existed on Gerizim, but had been destroyed a century and a half earlier (hence her use of the past tense is precise).
There was a long-standing controversy between the Samaritans and the Jews as to where worship was to be rendered. The Samaritans contended for Gerizim, the Hebrews for Jerusalem. The Jews were right, of course (cf. 2 Chron. 6:6; 7:12; Psa. 78:68), but that was rather immaterial at this point. Jesus observed that the time was coming when worship would not be a matter of some external place (cf. Acts 17:24); rather, it would be spiritual in nature. This is a clear indication that the end of the Mosaic system itself was nearing.
In drawing the contrast between Samaritan worship and Hebrew worship, Christ emphasized that true worship is more than emotion; it is grounded in knowledge.
“You [Samaritans] worship that which you do not know . . .” (22). Morris notes that the “that which” (a neuter form) probably denotes an ignorance of the whole system of correct worship (270). Since the knowledge of proper worship comes through sacred revelation (the Scriptures), and since the Samaritans rejected all Old Testament scripture save the Pentateuch, it is not surprising that they “knew not” about proper worship.
Away goes the contention that the format of worship is immaterial, so long as one is sincere. Then, almost as a side thought, the Lord comments: “For salvation [literally, ‘the salvation’] is come from the Jews.” God had been working a plan via the Hebrew nation.
Christ then declared that the hour was coming—indeed now is, i.e., the time is very imminent; cf. 5:25,—when there would be “true” worshippers. These are worshippers who belong to God as his redeemed children, and who worship consistent with divine revelation. The Lord describes this class of people as those who worship “the Father in spirit and in truth.” For “such,” i.e., worshippers of this quality, the Father “seeks” [constantly – present tense].
It must be noted in this connection that God does not “seek” human worship for any selfish motive. He is not served by men’s hands “as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:25). Being infinite in all his attributes, Jehovah is not enhanced in any way by human servitude. Clearly, he desires our service because of what it will do for us. Accepting our worship is an act of his kindness! (See “Archives”, October 14, 1998—“Why Humanity Should Serve God”.)
From this context one learns that genuine worship is composed of three elements. Each of these must be briefly considered.

1. The proper object of worship is deity, and only deity (Mt. 4:10). While this context deals specifically with the Father, other texts reveal that both the Son and the Holy Spirit, as possessing the nature of God, are objects of worship.
Deity, as a holy entity, is worthy of praise (Psa. 18:3). It is sinful to worship nature (Rom. 1:22ff) or objects crafted by human skill (Acts 17:29). Lust for money, power, etc., can even be a form of idolatry (cf. Col. 3:5).
2. True worship must be in “spirit.” Genuine worship involves the plunging of one’s spirit into the act (cf. Rom. 1:9; 1 Cor. 14:15) in a humble and sincere way (cf. Josh. 24:14). This disposition eschews the superficial, the ostentatious (cf. Mt. 6:1ff), the self-centered (Lk. 18:9ff), and the hypocritical (Mt. 5:23-24; 15:7-9).
3. Acceptable worship conforms to “truth,” i.e., to the “content of Christianity as the absolute truth” (Arndt, 35). It is not “truth” as one feels it to be, i.e., subjectively determined, but “truth” as it actually is, measured by divine revelation (Jn. 17:17). Thiselton says that “true worship” is “that which accords with reality, which men grasp on the basis of revelation” (Brown, 3.891; cf. Phil. 3:3).
These comprehensive statements of Jesus to this Samaritan woman regarding the nature and scope of worship are wonderfully revealing. They contain a marvelous challenge for us to this very day.
The Messiah Cometh
We have already mentioned the fact that this inquisitive lady has concluded that Jesus is a prophet and that this term, in the Samaritan mind, was associated with the coming Messiah. The woman now introduces that topic directly.

“I know that Messiah is coming (he that is called Christ): when he comes, he will declare all things to us” (25).
The parenthetical comment almost certainly is added by John to identify, for Gentile readers, the meaning of the term, “Messiah.” The woman has not concluded, precisely at this point, that Jesus is that Messiah, but she has “inched” closer to that irresistible proposition.
Note that this woman believed in:

a. the promise of the Messiah;
b. the Messiah who had not come, but was yet to arrive;
c. the Messiah who would be a person (not a mere ideal “concept,” as alleged by modern Jews); and,
d. the Messiah who would be a teacher, not a military conqueror.
In some respects she seems to have had a clearer vision of the Messiah than even the Savior’s disciples!
How is it that those who believed only in the inspiration of the Pentateuch could know of the coming Messiah? Because, quite obviously, there is sufficient evidence therein to point in that direction.
The first messianic glimpse was in Genesis 3:15, where it was indicated that the woman’s “seed” would ultimately crush Satan. Later, Abraham was told that through his offspring all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). Jacob had foretold the coming of “Shiloh” [rest-giver] from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10).
In Exodus the Messiah had been foreshadowed in the passover “lamb” (Jn. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7), and in Leviticus various offerings prepared the studious mind for the Messiah’s redeeming sacrifice (Lev. 1-5).
In Numbers the death of him who was to be “lifted up,” thus to provide healing, was prefigured (Num. 21), and Balaam spoke of the “star” that would arise out of Jacob, the sceptre out of Israel, to destroy the enemies of Jehovah (Num. 24:17-19). And, as earlier noted, Moses told of “the prophet” like unto him, to whom all would owe obedience (Dt. 18:15-19).
Here is an interesting question to ponder. If the Samaritans could discern the coming of the Messiah, and subsequently identify Christ as the fulfillment of that abbreviated collection of prophecies—upon the basis of only five Old Testament documents—what does that say about the Jews, who mostly have been unable to accept Jesus as the Christ on the basis of more than 300 prophecies in thirty-nine different books? (See 2 Corinthians 3:14ff.)
Following the woman’s acknowledgement of the promised Messiah, Jesus simply said to her: “I, the very one speaking to you, am he.”
Professor Laney’s comment is interesting:

“The Greek text literally reads, ‘I am, the one speaking to you.’ The words ‘I am’ (ego eimi) are used in the Septuagint (Ex. 3:14) in connection with the revelation of God’s personal name, Yahweh” (97).
This same expression, ego eimi, frequently was employed by Jesus, as recorded in John’s Gospel, to stress his identification with the Father (cf. 6:20,35,41,48,51; 8:12,18,24,28,58; 9:9; 13:19; 18:5,6,8). It is a subtle affirmation of deity.
Word of the Messiah Spreads
As the disciples returned from their mission to obtain food in the city, they were amazed to discover Jesus “speaking” (the imperfect tense suggests an extended conversation) to this woman, yet not a one of them was presumptuous enough to ask the Lord: “What do you want from her?” or, “Why are you talking with this woman?” The very presence of the Lord was awesome.
Presently the woman left her water pot and went into the city. Mention of the water pot is a curious detail (that lends authenticity to the narrative). Was she so elated that she forgot her initial mission to the well? Or did she intend to quickly return, and the jar could be reclaimed then?
Her testimony to the citizens of the community was compelling indeed. She claimed to have met a man “who told me all things that ever I did.” This was a strong suggestion of Jesus’ supernatural nature. Then, with a brilliant stoke of diplomacy, she asked (if we may paraphrase the original language): “This couldn’t be the Christ, could it?”
In the Greek, the particle meti implies an expected negative response. When one remembers that a woman’s testimony was not counted for much in that culture, this lady’s shrewdness is revealed by the way in which she handled this matter. She taunted them with a question which elicited a negative answer, leaving them perfectly at ease to draw their own conclusion and contradict her!
Her careful choice of words produced the exact response for which she hoped. The people of Sychar departed from the city and made their way (so the force of the imperfect verb – “were coming”) to find him. In the meantime, the disciples attempted to persuade Jesus to eat of the food they had brought. The Lord knew, though, that their education at this time was more important than satisfying his physical hunger. So he raised the discussion to a higher level by means of an enigmatic saying.
“I have food to eat of which you are not aware,” he said.
They murmured among themselves, “Did someone else bring him food?”
The Lord then explained his symbolism. “I have a nourishment that transcends the physical. It is to accomplish the plan for which God sent me.”
Note that Christ affirms that his presence on earth is the result of Heaven’s sending activity.
The Promise of Harvest
We may surmise from verse 35 that it is December or January on the occasion of this journey (since the harvest occurs in April/May). As the Lord and his disciples looked upon the greening fields nearby, revealing such promise of a healthy crop to be harvested later, the Master seized upon the occasion to further instruct his men.
“You are saying,” he began, “that in four months, harvest time will be here; aren’t you?” “Look,” he continued (perhaps beckoning towards a multitude approaching down the road), “lift up your eyes to the ‘human crop,’ who, even now, are ripe for harvest.”
It is a reality that some souls are riper than others (cf. Acts 16:6-10).
The Lord stresses that both those who sow and those who reap are laborers together, and that their combined activity will result in the production of fruit, i.e., souls who will inherit eternal life. There are a couple of points here that need emphasizing.
First, Jesus wants the disciples to know that other preparation has been in progress with reference to the Samaritans that will issue ultimately in these people coming into a knowledge of the truth. The writings of Moses (in the Pentateuch) doubtless had influenced them. The preparatory work of John the Baptist may have affected them to some extent, at least indirectly.
Second, Christ is suggesting to the disciples that their labor, eventually, will involve evangelizing among these people. This is a prophetic truth that they could hardly appreciate at this moment, but they would grasp it later.
From this we learn this important principle. It is almost never the case that one person is solely responsible for leading another to the Savior. Usually, there are various people who have contributed to the process along the way. Some plant, others water, but God gives the increase (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6). Surely this should help us to put the matter into proper focus when we are tempted to assume most of the credit for someone’s conversion to the Lord.
The Fruit at Sychar
We will subsequently learn that Jesus spent two days in Sychar teaching the honest people of that community (40). There are several things which challenge our attention in this concluding paragraph of the narrative we have been considering. Let us look at them one by one.

1. John says that “many of the Samaritans believed on him.” This reveals that Jesus truly had prophesied correctly; this was an area “white” unto harvest.
Further, it indicates that, in spite of their jaded religious background—very unlikely candidates for belief—these folks were prime subjects for the gospel. We humans are unable to judge the quality of the human heart based upon externals.
2. The Samaritans believed initially on the basis of the woman’s testimony. Her confession regarding the exposure of her past probably was so explicit and beyond the realm of fabrication, that she became a compelling advocate for the “prophetic credibility” of Christ. This is very telling when we remember that a woman’s word counted for almost nothing. Women “could not act as legal witnesses” (Bromiley, 4.1093). But this woman’s testimony was so powerful that it transcended that cultural barrier.
Moreover, the fact that John records this element of the story gives the narrative an aura of veracity; such a detail would never have been concocted by a fraudulent writer attempting to provide plausibility to the ministry of Jesus.
3. John records that the Samaritans “besought” the Lord to abide with them. The word “besought” is an imperfect tense form; they “kept on asking” him to remain with them. The suggestion may be that Jesus resisted at first, perhaps feeling the urgency of his journey, but then, maybe, relented to their pleadings. If that is the case, it reveals how the Master can be touched with our sincere urging. They enjoyed two precious days with the Creator of the universe just because they asked.
As James would later write: ”. . . you have not, because you ask not” (4:2b). The disposition of these Samaritans was in such glaring contrast to others of their kind who, on another occasion, “did not receive him” (Lk. 9:53).
4. In addition to the initial “many” who believed, John says that as a result of Jesus’ sojourn with them, “many more believed.” This time, though, it was “because of his word.” They were grateful for the woman’s role in introducing them to Jesus, but, as a result of their personal investigation, they became all the more convinced.
One may initially believe the facts of the gospel based upon his confidence in the veracity of a loved one or friend. The time must come, however, that he investigates the facts on his own, and comes to a deeper faith.
5. They had not come to a conviction that Jesus was merely a wise philosopher or a benevolent socialist; rather, the evidence to which they were exposed during those two important days grounded them in the truth that this was the Savior of the world.
No, they were not “universalists,” believing that all would be saved—regardless of their obedience; rather, they came to the understanding that all people were subject to the universal blessings of the gospel. They knew that Christ was more than just a Savior to the Jews. He was their Savior too!
Note also that they did not restrict his saving mission to a small “elect” group, preordained before the world’s foundation; rather, he was potentially the Savior of the “world” (contra Calvinism).

A study of this thrilling account would be incomplete if we did not notice the success of the gospel among the Samaritans following the establishment of the Christian system.
After the death of Stephen, the Jerusalem church was scattered abroad. In this connection, Philip the evangelist went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ (Acts 8:5). The multitude “gave heed with one accord” to his message, which was, incidentally, buttressed with supernatural signs.
In this connection one recalls the conversion of Simon the sorcerer (8:9ff). When the report of Philip’s success came to the attention of the apostles up in Jerusalem, they sent Peter and John to Samaria, and the new converts were supplied with spiritual gifts to supplement their ministry (8:14ff). Subsequently, the gospel was proclaimed in “many villages” of the Samaritans (8:25).
Clearly, much of this success is traceable to the visit of Jesus to that region, as recorded in John 4:5ff.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lesson 10 Prodigal Son/Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a famous New Testament parable appearing only in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37). The majority view indicates this parable is told by Jesus in order to illustrate that compassion should be for all people, and that fulfilling the spirit of the Law is just as important as fulfilling the letter of the Law. Jesus puts the definition of neighbor into an enlarged context, beyond what people usually thought of as a neighbor.

The incident begins when a religious scholar of the Law tests Jesus by asking him what is necessary to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks the lawyer what the Mosaic Law says about it. When the lawyer quotes the scripture, saying "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deuteronomy 6:5), and the parallel law of "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18), Jesus says that he has answered correctly — "Do this and you will live," he tells him. See also this section of Ministry of Jesus. This can be understood as meaning that those who follow the law, Jewish or not, will be able to inherit eternal life.[2]
But the lawyer then asks Jesus to tell him who his neighbor is. Jesus responds with a parable about a Jew who was attacked and robbed and left to die by the side of the road. (this was the 17-mile Jericho Road between Jericho and Jerusalem, used by travelers and tradesmen). Later, a priest saw the stricken figure and avoided him, presumably in order to maintain ritual purity. Similarly, a Levite saw the man and ignored him as well. Then a Samaritan passed by, and, despite the mutual antipathy between Samaritans and the Jewish population, he immediately rendered assistance by giving him first aid and taking him to an inn to recover while promising to cover the expenses. He pays the innkeeper two denarii, silver coins equal to an entire day's wages for an average laborer.
At the conclusion of the story, Jesus asks the lawyer, of the three passers-by, who was the stricken man's neighbour? The lawyer, apparently unwilling to say, "The Samaritan," responds, "The one who helped him." Jesus responds with "Go and do the same." So a "neighbor" is anyone who needs your love and help. Jesus has turned the attention away from the question "To whom do I owe an obligation?" and to the question, "To whom do I feel compassion?" Jesus is pointing out the nature, or subject, of love, not the object of it.
This parable is one of the most famous from the New Testament and its influence is such that to be called a Samaritan in Western culture today is to be described as a generous person who is ready to provide aid to people in distress without hesitation. In many English-speaking countries, a Good Samaritan law exists to protect from liability those who choose to aid people who are seriously ill or injured. Luke might have used this story as a prelude to Acts There the Samaritans are shown giving a positive response to the Christian message.
[edit] Historical context and modern recasting
It is important to note that Samaritans were despised by the story's target audience, the Jews. The Samaritans were also largely taught by their interpretation of history to hate Jews.[1] Thus the parable, as told originally, had a significant theme of non-discrimination and interracial harmony. But as the story reached those who were unaware of the status of Samaritans, this aspect of the parable became less and less discernible: fewer and fewer people ever heard of them in any context other than this one. To address this problem with the unfamiliar analogy, the story is often recast in a more recognizable modern setting where the people are ones in equivalent social groups known to not interact comfortably. For instance instead of a Jew being helped by a Samaritan one could place a Palestinian in that role, or even a member of Hezbollah aided by an orthodox Jew. One could also have a racist helped by a member of another race, a sexist man helped by a woman, or a devoutly religious person helped by an atheist, or any reverse or combination thereof. The message's essential point is that humanity's bonds in brotherhood transcend social and cognitive segmentations which we adopt in our lives.
Thus cast appropriately, the parable regains its socially explosive message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can exhibit moral behaviour that is superior to individuals of the groups they approve; it also means that not sharing the same faith is no excuse to behave poorly, as there is a universal moral law. Many Christians have used it as an example of Christianity against racial prejudice. [3][4][5]
The Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that the parable was changed:[citation needed]
One of these parables deserves special mention here, as it has obviously been changed, for dogmatic reasons, so as to have an anti-Jewish application. There is little doubt that J. Halevy is right ("R. E. J." iv. 249-255) in suggesting that in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke x. 17-37) the original contrast was between the priest, the Levite, and the ordinary Israelite—representing the three great classes into which Jews then and now were and are divided. The point of the parable is against the sacerdotal class, whose members indeed brought about the death of Jesus. Later, "Israelite" or "Jew" was changed into "Samaritan," which introduces an element of inconsistency, since no Samaritan would have been found on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem (ib. 30).
However, it can alternatively be argued that Jesus was simply making a moral point by introducing the third character as a Samaritan rather than an Israelite.
[edit] Theological analysis
While this parable is known for its social implications in our modern world, it also presents a very important contextual spiritual message. During his ministry Jesus was often accused of associating with the publicans and sinners by the Scribes and Pharisees (Luke 5:30). In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus reaffirms his reasons for doing so, which are also reported in Luke 5:31-32. The stricken figure in the parable represents all those who are spiritually sick, such as the gentiles and the sinners. That it was a priest and then a Levite who first passed by is significant beyond the irony of the situation: people who were expected to help, didn't, while someone whom the victim (and Jesus' audience) despised, did. The priest may have had an 'excuse' not to help since touching a dying or badly wounded person for someone so 'holy', while not forbidden, would be, in our modern vernacular, distasteful due to all the necessary cleansing rituals prescribed by Mosaic Law. The priest therefore decided that being ritually clean and "priestly" was more important than saving someone else's life. Jesus' unspoken challenge to all believers seems to be: would we help only if it's convenient, or are we willing to go out of our way to show compassion to a stranger?
[edit] Minority View
According to the minority view, understanding this parable requires recognizing the importance of the Lawyer's perspective. He began to test Jesus in Luke 10:25. His particular goal of questioning was to determine what he might do himself to obtain eternal life. Jesus answers with the tall, unreachable standard of loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind as well as loving your neighbor as yourself. He says do this and you will live, that is, you will have eternal life. Now the key comes in Luke 10:29 where it is revealed that the lawyer wanted to justify himself. In other words, he wanted to be able to claim he had accomplished what was required by the standard Jesus cited. He wanted to feel like he was good enough to qualify for eternal life. In order to do this, this man wanted a definition of neighbor that was not too challenging for him to say that he loved that person. Now, in presenting the Parable, Jesus provides an answer that is intended to set the standard high. The one you should consider your neighbor is the person you believe is the most undesirable. You have to love that person as yourself if you want to qualify yourself for eternal life. The point of Jesus' statements was to drive this lawyer to despair of his own efforts to qualify for eternal life. This conclusion is applied to all people. None can be that good or meet God's standard. Instead, the good news points us to another source for our righteousness and goodness that qualifies us for eternal life once we give up on finding it in ourselves. See also: Divine grace.
[edit] Allegory of the Fall and the Redemption
According to John Welch:[6]
"This parable’s content is clearly practical and dramatic in its obvious meaning, but a time-honored Christian tradition also saw the parable as an impressive allegory of the Fall and Redemption of mankind. This early Christian understanding of the good Samaritan is depicted in a famous eleventh-century cathedral in Chartres, France. One of its beautiful stained-glass windows portrays the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden at the top of the window, and, in parallel, the parable of the good Samaritan at the bottom. This illustrates “a symbolic interpretation of Christ’s parable that was popular in the Middle Ages.”[7] ... The roots of this allegorical interpretation reach deep into early Christianity. In the second century A.D., Irenaeus in France and Clement of Alexandria both saw the good Samaritan as symbolizing Christ Himself saving the fallen victim, wounded with sin. A few years later, Clement’s pupil Origen stated that this interpretation came down to him from earlier Christians, who had described the allegory as follows:
The man who was going down is Adam. Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers. The priest is the Law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience, the beast is the Lord’s body, the [inn], which accepts all who wish to enter, is the Church. … The manager of the [inn] is the head of the Church, to whom its care has been entrusted. And the fact that the Samaritan promises he will return represents the Savior’s second coming.[8]
"This allegorical reading was taught not only by ancient followers of Jesus, but it was virtually universal throughout early Christianity, being advocated by Irenaeus, Clement, and Origen, and in the fourth and fifth centuries by Chrysostom in Constantinople, Ambrose in Milan, and Augustine in North Africa. This interpretation is found most completely in two other medieval stained-glass windows, in the French cathedrals at Bourges and Sens."

The Good SamaritanLuke 10:25-37THEME: What must I do to inherit eternal life?
25. And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Lawyer: One who is an expert in the Law of Moses. Often this individual was called upon to settle legal issues. "He stood up." This is a social courtesy and a greeting of respect. Yet, in his heart he sought to test Jesus. This is a contradiction between his actions and his words.
26. And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" Jesus asks the lawyer about what he knows best: the law. He knows that keeping the law is the appropriate answer. He brings the issue out into the open. This is probably best since the Jewish leadership were probably concerned about Jesus' teachings on the Law.
27. And he answered and said, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." It is interesting that this man of the law would quote something regarding love and not some ritual or set of rules. The standard set here is one which no one could keep. Perhaps he was testing Jesus by quoting what Jesus had taught before: love.
28. And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; Do this and you will live." Jesus, the man, instructs the man of the law, "You have answered correctly."
29. But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" The Lawyer does not show humility by saying something like, "How can I do this, since I am an imperfect and sinful man?" Instead, he seeks to justify himself. This is often the case with experts in moral law; they think they have their own lives covered pretty well because they look at their actions, not their hearts. The expected reply would be something like, "Your relative and your friend." Then the lawyer would be able to say that he has done this and thereby enjoy honor among the people there listening; However, Jesus said...
30. Jesus replied and said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. Jesus expounds on the law of love. True love is put into action. It is not merely at concept or a feeling. There is a road that goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is 17 miles long and drops about 3,000 feet in those 17 miles. It has long been a hazardous trip due to thieves and robbers. Jesus intentionally leaves the man undescribed. The audience, being Jewish, would naturally assume that he was a Jew. Being in this half dead state he would be unconscious. Since he is stripped, he then is unidentifiable. Historically, a person can be identified in one of two ways: his dress and his speech, i.e. dialect. The man is any person: void of ethnic background, void of stature, void of position
31. "And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. The priest was most certainly riding because he was in the upper classes of society. The poor walk. Since, he moves to the other side, probably the priest did not actually see it happen. How can he be sure the wounded man is a neighbor since he cannot be identified? If the person lying there is a non Jew the priest could be risking defilement, especially if the person were actually dead. If he defiles himself he can not collect, distribute, and eat tithes. His family and servants will suffer the consequences with him. Priests were supposed to be ritually clean, exemplars of the law. There would be immediate shame and embarrassment suffered by them at the expense of the people and their peers for such defilement. Having just completed his mandatory two weeks of service, he would then need to return and stand at the Eastern Gate along with the rest of the unclean. Furthermore, in addition to the humiliation involved, the process of restoring ritual purity was time consuming and costly. It required finding, buying, and reducing a red heifer to ashes, and the ritual took a full week. The priest is in a predicament. Moreover, he cannot approach closer than four cubits to a dead man without being defiled, and he will have to overstep that boundary just to ascertain the condition of the wounded man.
32. "And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. "Levites were descendants of Levi but not of Aaron, and they assisted the priests (Aaron’s descendants) in the temple."1 The road spoken of here is a long one. It is very likely, according to those who have walked it, that a person traveling it, could see ahead of him a long way. The Levite, who is of a lower social class, may have been walking. He most probably saw the priest ahead of him and could have thought to himself, "If the priest may pass then so should I." Perhaps they might fear for their own safety. What if someone saw them with the naked and wounded person and reported to the officials that the priest and/or Levite committed a crime against the injured person?
33. "But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, The Samaritans were a mixed race between the Jews of captivity and the Samaritan people of the land they were captive in. The relationship between the Jews and Samaritans was one of hostility because of some bad things that happened in the past. According to the Mishna, "He that eats the bread of the Samaritans is like to one that eats the flesh of swine" (Mishna Shebiith 8:10). The Mishna is the oral traditions that developed about the law, containing interpretations and applications to specific questions which the law deals with only in principle. Specifically, it is the collection of these traditions. The Samaritan is not a gentile. He is bound by the same law as the Jews. The Samaritan would not be naturally from that area, so the half dead man would certainly not qualify as his neighbor. "The Samaritan woman therefore *said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" (John 4:9). "The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me,'" (John 8:48-49)
34. "and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The Samaritan risks defilement. He approaches this unidentifiable man and helps him. Oil and wine were poured out on the high altar before God. Note how the usage is mentioned after the Priest and Levite have failed to do their duty. Blood revenge: "Mosaic legislation established cities of refuge for people under the threat of death from blood vengeance retaliation. This legislation provided an escape valve for a custom it could not eradicate." Often when the guilty cannot be reached, vengeance may be administered to a member of his family. Often the vengeance would reach even to the most distant relations of the offending party. "Irrational minds seeking a focus for their retaliation do not make rational judgments, especially when the person involved is from a hated minority community."
35. "And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.' The Samaritan forfeits anonymity when he stays overnight and then says he would return. This is an acceptance of the potential threat of blood vengeance. The wounded man has no money. When it is time for him to leave, if he cannot pay the debt he can be arrested, Matthew 18:23-35. The Samaritan knows this and volunteers money (two danarri is two days wages) and whatever else is needed to see to the needs of this unidentified man. Additionally, the Samaritan had no way of insuring the return of his money. Therefore, it is safe to assume he did not expect it to be returned.
The Robbers Priest and Levite The Samaritan Rob him Harm him by inaction Pays for him Leave him dying Leave him unhelped Leaves him cared for Abandon him Neglected him Promises to return The robbers hurt the man by violence, the Priest and Levite, by neglect. All three are guilty. "To the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin," (James 4:17). Jesus was like the Samaritan. He was willing to touch the unclean. He was willing to go to the lost, the outcast, and the needy. And, like the Samaritan, Jesus was an outcast in the eyes of the Lawyers, Priests, Scribes, Pharisees, and Saducees.
63. "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" Jesus refuses to define who a neighbor is. Instead He asks a question proving something greater than the exact answer anticipated. Being a neighbor to someone is not limited to family relations or proximity. It is showing the love of God to all who are in need, who ever they may be, where ever they may be.
73. And he said, "the one who showed mercy toward him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." The Samaritans were so hated by the Jews that perhaps this lawyer did not want to comment a "Samaritan" and instead said, "the one who showed mercy toward him." The discussion began with a question: what must I do inherit eternal life. The conclusion is answered with what must be done. If we are to do this, we will quickly find that we are incapable of completing so perfect a love. Since the law requires perfect obedience, the doing of this lesson would be something most difficult for the lawyer.
Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son, also known as the Lost Son, is one of the best known parables of Jesus.
The story is found in Luke 15:11–32 of the New Testament of The Bible and is usually read on the third Sunday of Lent. It is the third and final member of a trilogy, following the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. The younger demands his share of his inheritance while his father is still living, and goes off to a distant country where he "waste[s] his substance with riotous living", and eventually has to take work as a swine herder. There he comes to his senses, and determines to return home and throw himself on his father's mercy. But when he returns home, his father greets him with open arms, and hardly gives him a chance to express his repentance; he kills a "fatted calf" to celebrate his return. The older brother becomes jealous at the favored treatment of his faithless brother and upset at the lack of reward for his own faithfulness. But the father responds:
The Eastern Orthodox Church traditionally reads this story on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son,[citation needed] which in their liturgical year is the Sunday before Meatfare Sunday and about two weeks before the beginning of Great Lent. One common kontakion hymn of the occasion reads,
I have recklessly forgotten Your glory, O Father;
And among sinners I have scattered the riches which You gave to me.
And now I cry to You as the Prodigal:
I have sinned before You, O merciful Father;
Receive me as a penitent and make me as one of Your hired servants.
Pope John Paul II explored the issues raised by this parable in his second encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Latin for "Rich in Mercy") issued in 1980.
[edit] Arts

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Ivor Williams (1908-1982)
Arthur Sullivan set this story as an oratorio; the manuscript is currently held in the British Library, London. Performances are sadly seldom heard nowadays. This work was first performed at the Worcester Music Festival on Wednesday 1869-09-08.
The Prodigal Son is a 1982 Hong Kong action comedy film starring Yuen Biao and Lam Ching Ying which is very loosely based on the parable.
"Prodigal Son" is the name of a Kid Rock song on his album, The Polyfuze Method.
The Prodigal was an MGM film released in 1955 starring Lana Turner as the high priestess of Astarte, and Edmund Purdom as the Prodigal Son.
The Rolling Stones have a song called "Prodigal Son" on their album Beggars Banquet.
Barbecue for Ben is "A Musical for Young Voices Based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son" and "A Modern-Day Setting of the Parable of the Prodigal Son" in which a student named Ben tells the parable with modern day twists. It is by Donald F. Marsh.
"The Prodigal Son" is the Season 2 opener of the TV series Miami Vice, although it has virtually nothing to do with the parable itself.
"Prodigal Blues", a song by Billy Idol, compares the singer's struggles with drug addiction to the parable.
One of the tracks on the Bad Religion album New Maps of Hell is titled "Prodigal Son".
"Prodigal Son" is the name of a song by the British band Iron Maiden on their 1981 release Killers.
"Prodigal Son's Prayer" is the final track on country music singer Dierks Bentley's 2006 album Long Trip Alone.
Steel Pulse, a reggae band, released a song titled "Prodigal Son" on their 1978 album Handsworth Revolution.
The prodigal son is mentioned in James Blunt's song "Billy", from his album Back to Bedlam.
The Prodigal Son is an opera by Benjamin Britten with a libretto by William Plomer.
"The Prodigal Son" is a ballet in three scenes by Sergei Prokofiev.
"Tears of the Prodigal Son" is a famous poem by Croatian poet Ivan Gundulic.
Dustin Kensrue wrote a song entitled "Please Come Home" that is a contemporary version of the Prodigal Son.
Independent recording artist David Acton performs an instrumental interpretation of this parable, entitled "The Prodigal", on his 2006 CD Prodigal.
In Part One: Millennium Approaches of Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, the character Roy Cohn calls Joe Harper a prodigal son and says that "the world will wipe its dirty hands all over you".
Bono, the vocalist of the Irish band U2, wrote the song "The First Time" based on this parable.
In the Good Charlotte song "The River" the prodigal son is mentioned: "Like the prodigal son, I was out on my own, now I'm trying to find my way back home"
The band Two Gallants have a song titled "The Prodigal Son" on their album What the Toll Tells.
A book entitled Prodigal Son was co-written by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson. It is the first in the series Dean Koontz's Frankenstein.
"Prodigal Daughter" is a Jonatha Brooke song on her 2007 Careful What You Wish For album.
The title track "The Signal" by Australian hip hop artist Urthboy addresses the parable in relation to ambition and internal rush hour.
The Veggie Tales video "The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's" by Big Idea is based on the parable of the prodigal son played out as the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
n the Revised Version, if you will kindly look at the margin, you will find that the text there reads, "And kissed him much." This is a very good translation of the Greek, which might bear the meaning, "Kissed him earnestly," or "Kissed him eagerly," or "Kissed him often." I prefer to have it in very plain language, and therefore adopt the marginal reading of the Revised Version, "Kissed him much," as the text of my sermon, the subject of which will be, the overflowing love of God toward the returning sinner.
The first word "and" links us on to all that had gone before. The parable is a very familiar one, yet it is so full of sacred meaning that it always has some fresh lesson for us. Let us, then, consider the preliminaries to this kissing. On the son's side there was something, and on the father's side much more. Before the prodigal son received these kisses of love, he had said in the far country, "I will arise and go to my father." He had, however, done more than that, else his father's kiss would never have been upon his cheek. The resolve had become a deed: "He arose, and came to his father." A bushelful of resolutions is of small value; a single grain of practice is worth the whole. The determination to return home is good; but it is when the wandering boy begins the business of really carrying out the good resolve, that he draws near the blessing. If any of you here present have long been saying, "I will repent; I will turn to God"; leave off resolving, and come to practicing; and may God in His mercy lead you both to repent and to believe in Christ!
Before the kisses of love were given, this young man was on his way to his father; but he would not have reached him unless his father had come the major part of the way. When you give God and inch, He will give you an ell. If you come a little way to Him, when you are "yet a great way off" He will run to meet you. I do not know that the prodigal saw his father, but his father saw him. The eyes of mercy are quicker than the eyes of repentance. Even the eyes of our faith is dim compared with the eye of God's love. He sees a sinner long before a sinner sees Him.
I do not suppose that the prodigal travelled very fast. I should imagine that he came very slowly—
"With heavy heart and downcast eye,
With many a sob and many a sigh."

He was resolve to come, yet he was half afraid. But we read that his father ran. Slow are the steps of repentance, but swift are the feet of forgiveness. God can run where we scarcely limp, and if we are limping towards Him, He will run towards us. These kisses were given in a hurry; the story is narrated in a way that almost makes us realize that such was the case: there is a sense of haste in the very wording of it. His father "ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him"—kissed him eagerly. He did not delay a moment; for though he was out of breath, he was not out of love. "He fell on his neck, and kissed him much." There stood his son ready to confess his sin; therefore did his father kiss him all the more. The more willing thou art to own thy sin, the more willing is God to forgive thee. When thou dost make a clean breast of it, God will soon make a clear record of it. He will wipe out the sin that thou dost willingly acknowledge and humbly confess before Him. He that was willing to use his lips for confession, found that his father was willing to use his lips for kissing him.
See the contrast. There is the son, scarcely daring to think of embracing his father, yet his father has scarcely seen him before he has fallen on his neck. The condescension of God towards penitent sinners is very great. He seems to stoop from His throne of glory to fall upon the neck of a repentant sinner. God on the neck of a sinner! What a wonderful picture! Can you conceive it? I do not think you can; but if you cannot imagine it, I hope that you will realize it. When God's arm is about our neck, and His lips are on our cheek, kissing us much, then we understand more than preachers or books can ever tell us of His condescending love.
The father "saw" his son. There is a great deal in that word, "saw." He saw who it was; saw where he had come from; saw the swineherd's dress; saw the filth upon his hands and feet; saw his rags; saw his penitent look; saw what he had been; saw what he was; and saw what he would soon be. "His father saw him." God has a way of seeing men and women that you and I cannot understand. He sees right through us at a glance, as if we were made of glass; He sees all our past, present and future.
"When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him." It was not with icy eyes that the father looked on his returning son. Love leaped into them, and as he beheld him, he "had compassion on him"; that is, he felt for him. There was no anger in his heart toward his son; he had nothing but pity for his poor boy, who had got into such a pitiable condition. It was true that it was all his own fault, but that did not come before his father's mind. It was the state that he was in, his poverty, his degradation, that pale face of his so wan with hunger, that touched his father to the quick. And God has compassion on the woes and miseries of men. They may have brought their troubles on themselves, and they have indeed done so; but nevertheless God has compassion upon them. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not."
We read that the father "ran." The compassion of God is followed by swift movements. He is slow to anger, but He is quick to bless. He does not take any time to consider how He shall show His love to penitent prodigals; that was all done long ago in the eternal covenant. He has no need to prepare for their return to Him; that was done on Calvary. God comes flying in the greatness of His compassion to help every poor penitent soul.
"On cherub and on cherubim,
Full royalty He rode;
And on the wings of mighty winds
Came flying all abroad."

And when He comes, He comes to kiss. Master Trapp says that, if we had read that the father had kicked his prodigal son, we should not have been very much astonished. Well, I should have been very greatly astonished, seeing that the father in the parable was to represent God. But still, his son deserved all the rough treatment that some heartless men might have given; and had the story been that of a selfish human father only, it might have been written that "as he was coming near, his father ran at him, and kicked him." There are such fathers in the world, who seem as if they cannot forgive. If he had kicked him, it would have been no more than he had deserved. But no, what is written in the Book stands true for all time, and for every sinner,—"He fell on his neck, and kissed him"; kissed him eagerly, kissed him much.
What does this much kissing mean? It signifies that, when sinners come to God, He gives them a loving reception, and a hearty welcome. If any one of you, while I am speaking, shall come to God, expecting mercy because of the great sacrifice of Christ, this shall be true of you as it has been true of many of us: "He kissed him much."
I. First, this much kissing means MUCH LOVE. It means much love truly felt; for God never gives an expression of love without feeling it in His infinite heart. God will never give a Judas-kiss, and betray those whom He embraces. There is no hypocrisy with God; He never kisses those for whom He has no love. Oh, how God loves sinner! You who repent, and come to Him, will discover how greatly He loves you. There is no measuring the love He bears towards you. He has loved you before the foundation of the world, and He will love you when time shall be no more. Oh, the immeasurable love of God to sinners who come and cast themselves upon His mercy!
This much kissing also means much love manifested. God's people do not always know the greatness of His love to them. Sometimes, however, it is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Some of us know at times what it is to be almost too happy to live! The love of God has been so overpoweringly experienced by us on some occasions, that we have almost had to ask for a stay of the delight because we could not endure any more. If the glory had not been veiled a little, we should have died of excess of rapture, or happiness. Beloved, God has wondrous ways of opening His people's hearts to the manifestation of His grace. He can pour in, not now and then a drop of His love, but great and mighty streams. Madame Guyon used to speak of the torrents of love that come sweeping through the spirit, bearing all before them. The poor prodigal in the parable had so much love manifested to him, that he might have sung of the torrents of his father's affection. That is the way God receives those whom He saves, giving them not a meagre measure of grace, but manifesting an overflowing love.
This much kissing means, further, much love perceived. When his father kissed him much, the poor prodigal knew, if never before, that his father loved him. He had no doubt about it; he had a clear perception of it. It is very frequently the case that the first moment a sinner believes in Jesus, he gets this "much" love. God reveals it to him, and he perceives it and enjoys it at the very beginning. Think not that God always keeps the best wine to the last; He gives us some of the richest dainties of His table the first moment we sit there. I recollect the joy that I had when first I believed in Jesus; and, even now, in looking back upon it, the memory of it is as fresh as if it were but yesterday. Oh, I could not have believed that a mortal could be so happy after having been so long burdened, and so terribly cast down! I did but look to Jesus on the cross, and the crushing load was immediately gone; and the heart which could only sigh and cry by reason of its burden, began to leap and dance and sing for joy. I had found in Christ all that I wanted, and rested in the love of God at once. So may it be with you also, if you will but return to God through Christ. It shall be said of you as of this prodigal, "The father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him in much love."
II. Secondly, this much kissing meant MUCH FORGIVENESS. The prodigal had many sins to confess; but before he came to the details of them, his father had forgiven him. I love confession of sin after forgiveness. Some suppose that after we are forgiven we are never to confess; but, oh, beloved, it is then that we confess most truly, because we know the guilt of sin most really! Then do we plaintively sing—
"My sins, my sins, my Saviour,
How sad on Thee they fall!
Seen through Thy gentle patience,
I tenfold feel them all,
I know they are forgiven,
But still their pain to me
Is all the grief and anguish
They laid, my Lord, on Thee."

To think that Christ should have washed me from my sins in His own blood, makes me feel my sin the more keenly, and confess it the more humbly before God. The picture of this prodigal is marvelously true to the experience of those who return to God. His father kissed him with the kiss of forgiveness; and yet, after that, the young man went on to say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." Do not hesitate, then, to acknowledge your sin to God, even though you know that in Christ it is all put away.
From this point of view, those kisses meant, first, "Your sin is all gone, and will never be mentioned any more. Come to my heart, my son! Thou hast grieved me sore, and angered me; but, as a thick cloud, I have blotted out thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins."
As the father looked upon him, and kissed him much, there probably came another kiss, which seemed to say, "There is no soreness left: I have not only forgiven, but I have forgotten too. It is all gone, clean gone. I will never accuse you of it any more. I will never love you any the less. I will never treat you as though you were still an unworthy and untrustworthy person." Probably at that there came another kiss; for do not forget that his father forgave him "and kissed him much," to show that the sin was all forgiven.
There stood the prodigal, overwhelmed by his father's goodness, yet remembering his past life. As he looked on himself, and thought, "I have these old rags on still, and I have just come from feeding the swine," I can imagine that his father would give him another kiss, as much as to say, "My boy, I do not recollect the past; I am so glad to see you that I do not see any filth on you, or any rags on you either. I am so delighted to have you with me once more that, as I would pick up a diamond out of the mire, and be glad to get the diamond again, so do I pick you up, you are so precious to me." This is the gracious and glorious way in which God treats those who return to Him. As for their sin, He has put it away so that He will not remember it. He forgives like a God. Well may we adore and magnify His matchless mercy as we sing—
"In wonder lost, with trembling joy
We take the pardon of our God;
Pardon for crimes of deepest dye;
A pardon bought with Jesus' blood;
Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?"

"Well," says one, "can such a wonderful change ever take place with me?" By the grace of God it may be experienced by every man who is willing to return to God. I pray God that it may happen now, and that you may get such assurance of it from the Word of God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, and from a sight of the precious blood of Christ shed for your redemption, that you may be able to say, "I understand it now; I see how He kisses all my sin away; and when it rises, He kisses it away again; and when I think of it with shame, He gives me another kiss; and when I blush all over at the remembrance of my evil deeds, he kisses me again and again, to assure me that I am fully and freely forgiven." Thus the many kisses from the prodigal's father combined to make his wayward son feel that his sin was indeed all gone. They revealed much love and much forgiveness.
III. These repeated kisses meant, next, FULL RESTORATION. The prodigal was going to say to his father, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." In the far country he had resolved to make that request, but his father with a kiss, stopped him. By that kiss, his sonship was owned; by it the father said to the wretched wanderer, "You are my son." He gave him such a kiss as he would only give to his own son. I wonder how many here have ever given such a kiss to anyone. There sits one who knows something of such kisses as the prodigal received. That father's girl went astray, and, after years of sin, she came back worn out, to die at home. He received her, found her penitent, and gladly welcomed her to his house. Ah, my dear friend, you know something about such kisses as these! And you, good woman, whose boy ran away, you can understand something about these kisses, too. He left you, and you did not hear of him for years, and he went on in a very vicious course of life. When you did hear of him, it well-nigh broke your heart, and when he came back, you hardly knew him. Do you recollect how you took him in? You felt that you wished that he was the little boy you used to press to your bosom; but now he was grown up to be a big man and a great sinner, yet you gave him such a kiss, and repeated your welcome so often, that he will never forget it, nor will you forget it either. You can understand that this overwhelming greeting was like the father saying, "My boy, you are my son. Despite all that you have done, you belong to me; however far you have gone in vice and folly, I own you. You are bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." In this parable Christ would have you know, poor sinner, that God will own you, if you come to Him confessing your sin through Jesus Christ. He will gladly receive you; for all things are ready against the day you return.
"Spread for thee the festal board,
See with richest dainties stored,
To thy Father's bosom pressed,
Yet again a child confessed;
Never from his house to roam,
Come and welcome, sinner, come."

The father received his son with many kisses and so proved that his prayer was answered. Indeed, his father heard his prayer before he offered it. He was going to say, "Father, I have sinned," and to ask for forgiveness; but he got the mercy, and a kiss to seal it, before the prayer was presented. This also shall be true of thee, O sinner, who art returning to thy God, through Jesus Christ! You shall be permitted to pray, and God will answer you. Hear it, poor, despairing sinner, whose prayer has seemed to be shut out from heaven! Come to your Father's bosom now, and He will hear your prayers; and, before many days are over, you shall have the clearest proofs that you are fully restored to the divine favour by answers to your intercessions that shall make you marvel at the Lord's loving-kindness to you.
Further than this, you shall have all your privileges restored, even as this wandering young man was put among the children when he returned. As you see him now in the father's house, where he was received with the many kisses, he wears a son's robe, the family ring is on his finger, and the shoes of the home are on his feet. He eats no longer swine's food, but children's bread. Even thus shall it be with you if you return to God. Though you look so foul and so vile, and really are even more defiled than you look; and though you smell so strongly of the hogs among which you have been living that some people's nostrils would turn up at you, your Father will not notice these marks of your occupation in the far country with all its horrible defilement. See how this father treats his boy. He kisses him, and kisses him again, because he knows his own child, and, recognizing him as his child, and feeling his fatherly heart yearning over him, he gives him kiss after kiss. He kisses him much, to make him know that he has full restoration.
In this repeated kissing we see, then, these three things: much love, much forgiveness, and full restoration.
IV. But these many kisses meant even more than this. They revealed his father's EXCEEDING JOY. The father's heart is overflowing with gladness, and he cannot restrain his delight. I think he must have shown his joy by a repeated look. I will tell you the way I think the father behaved towards his son who had been dead, but was alive again, who had been lost, but was found. Let me try to describe the scene. The father has kissed the son, and he bids him sit down; then he comes in front of him, and looks at him, and feels so happy that he says, "I must give you another kiss," then he walks away a minute; but he is back again before long, saying to himself, "Oh, I must give him another kiss!" He gives him another, for he is so happy. His heart beats fast; he feels very joyful; the old man would like the music to strike up; he wants to be at the dancing; but meanwhile he satisfies himself by a repeated look at his long-lost child. Oh, I believe that God looks at the sinner, and looks at him again, and keeps on looking at him, all the while delighting in the very sight of him, when he is truly repentant, and comes back to his Father's house.
The repeated kiss meant, also, a repeated blessing, for every time he put his arms round him, and kissed him, he kept saying, "Bless you; oh, bless you, my boy!" He felt that his son had brought a blessing to him by coming back, and he invoked fresh blessings upon his head. Oh sinner! If you did but know how God would welcome you, and how He would look at you, and how He would bless you, surely you would at once repent, and come to His arms and heart, and find yourself happy in His love.
The many kisses meant, also, repeated delight. It is a very wonderful thing that it should be in the power of a sinner to make God glad. He is the happy God, the source and spring of all happiness; what can we add to His blessedness? And yet, speaking after the manner of men, God's highest joy lies in clasping His wilful Ephraims to His breast, when He has heard them bemoaning themselves and has seen them arising and returning to their home. God grant that He may see that sight even now, and have delight because of sinners returning to Himself! Yea, we believe it shall be even so, because of His presence with us, and because of the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. Surely that is the teaching of the prophet's words: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing." Think of the eternal God singing, and remember that it is because a wandering sinner has returned to Him that He sings. He joys in the return of the prodigal, and all heaven shares in His joy.
V. I have not got through my subject yet. As we take a fifth look, we find that these many kisses mean OVERFLOWING COMFORT. This poor young man, in his hungry, faint, and wretched state, having come a very long way, had not much heart in him. His hunger had taken all energy out of him, and he was so conscious of his guilt that he had hardly the courage to face his father; so his father gives him a kiss, as much as to say, "Come, boy, do not be cast down; I love you."
"Oh, the past, the past, my father!" he might moan, as he thought of his wasted years; but he had no sooner said that than he received another kiss, as if his father said, "Never mind the past; I have forgotten all about that." This is the Lord's way with His saved ones. Their past lies hidden under the blood of atonement. The Lord saith by His servant Jeremiah, "The iniquity if Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve."
But then, perhaps, the young man looked down on his foul garments, and said, "The present, my father, the present, what a dreadful state I am in!" And with another kiss would come the answer, "Never mind the present, my boy. I am content to have thee as thou art. I love thee." This, too, is God's word to those who are "accepted in the Beloved." In spite of all their vileness, they are pure and spotless in Christ, and God says of each one of them, "Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee. Therefore, though in thyself thou art unworthy, through My dear Son thou art welcome to My home."
"Oh, but," the boy might have said, "the future, my father, the future! What would you think if I should ever go astray again?" Then would come another holy kiss, and his father would say, "I will see to the future, my boy; I will make home so bright for you that you will never want to go away again." But God does more than that for us when we return to Him. He not only surrounds us with tokens of His love, but He says concerning us, "They shall be My people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Furthermore, He says to each returning one, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them."
Whatever there was to trouble the son, the father gave him a kiss to set it all right; and, in like manner, our God has a love-token for every time of doubt and dismay which may come to His reconciled sons. Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, "Even though I confess my sin, and seek God's mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble, for through my sin, I have brought myself down to poverty." "There is a kiss for you," says the Lord: "Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure." "But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin," says another. "There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thine diseases." "But I am dreadfully down at the heel," says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, "I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly." All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, His Son.
The father of the prodigal kissed his son much, and thus made him feel happy there and then. Poor souls, when they come to Christ, are in a dreadful plight, and some of them hardly know where they are I have known them talk a lot of nonsense in their despair, and say hard and wicked things of God in their dreadful doubt. The Lord gives no answer to all that, except a kiss, and then another kiss. Nothings puts the penitent so much at rest as the Lord's repeated assurance of His unchanging love. Such a one the Lord has often received, "and kissed him much," that He might fetch him up even from the horrible pit, and set his feet upon a rock, and establish his goings. The Lord grant that many whom I am addressing may understand what I am talking about!
VI. And now for our sixth head, though you will think I am getting to be like the old Puritans with these many heads. But I cannot help it, for these many kisses had many meanings: love, forgiveness, restoration, joy, and comfort were in them, and also STRONG ASSURANCE.
The father kissed his son much to make him quite certain that it was all real. The prodigal, in receiving these many kisses, might say to himself, "All this love must be true, for a little while ago I heard the hogs grunt, and now I hear nothing but the kisses from my dear father's lips." So his father gave him another kiss, for there was no way of convincing him that the first was real like repeating it; and if there lingered any doubt about the second, the father gave him yet a third. If, when the dream of old was doubled, the interpretation was sure, these repeated kisses left no room for doubt. The father renewed the tokens of his love that his son might be fully assured of his reality.
He did it that in the future it might never be questioned. Some of us were brought so low before we were converted, that God gave us an excess of joy when He saved us, that we might never forget it. Sometimes the devil says to me, "You are no child of God." I have long ago given up answering him, for I found that it is a waste of time to argue with such a crafty old liar as he is; he knows too much for me. But if I must answer him, I say, "Why, I remember when I was saved by the Lord! I can never forget even the very spot of ground where first I saw my Saviour; there and then my joy rolled in like some great Atlantic billow, and burst in a mighty foam of bliss, covering all things. I cannot forget it." That is an argument which even the devil cannot answer, for he cannot make me believe that such a thing never happened. The Father kissed me much, and I remember it full well. The Lord gives to some of us a clear deliverance such a bright, sunshiny day at our conversion, that henceforth we cannot question our state before Him, but must believe that we are eternally saved.
The father put the assurance of this poor returning prodigal beyond all doubt. If the first kisses were given privately, when only the father and son were present, it is quite certain that, afterwards, he kissed him before men, where others could see him. He kissed him much in the presence of the household, that they also might not be calling in question that he was his father's child. It was a pity that the elder brother was not there also. You see he was away in the field. He was much more interested in the crops than in the reception of his brother. I have known such a one in modern days. He was a man who did not come out to week-evening services. He was such a man of business that he did not come out on a Thursday night, and the prodigal came home at such a time, and so the elder brother did not see the father receive him. If he lived now, he would probably not come to the church-meetings; he would be to busy. So he would not get to know about the reception of penitent sinners. But the father, when he received that son of his, intended all to know, once for all, that he was indeed his child. Oh, that you might get these many kisses even now! If they are given to you, you will have, for the rest of your life, strong assurance derived from the happiness of your first days.
VII. I have done when I have said that I think that here we have a specimen of the INTIMATE COMMUNION which the Lord often gives to sinners when first they come to Him. "His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him much."
You see, this was before the family fellowship. Before the servants had prepared the meal, before there had been any music or dancing in the family, his father kissed him. He would had cared little for all their songs, and have valued but slightly his reception by the servants, if, first of all, he had not been welcomed to his father's heart. So it is with us; we need first to have fellowship with God before we think much of union with His people. Before I go to join a church, I want my Father's kiss. Before the pastor gives me the right hand of fellowship, I want my heavenly Father's right hand to welcome me. Before I become recognized by God's people here below, I want a private recognition from the great Father above; and that He gives to all who come to Him as the prodigal came to his father. May He give to some of you now!
This kissing, also, was before the table communion. You know the prodigal was afterwards to sit at his father's table, and to eat of the fatted calf; but before that, his father kissed him. He would scarcely have been able to sit easily at the feast without the previous kisses of love. The table communion, to which we are invited, is very sweet. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, in symbol, in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is, indeed, a blessed thing; but I want to have communion with God by way of the love-kiss before I come there. "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth." This is something private, ravishing, and sweet. God give it to many of you! May you get the many kisses of your Father's mouth before you come into the church, or to the communion table!
These many kisses likewise came before the public rejoicing. The friends and neighbors were invited to share in the feast. But think how shamefaced the son would have been in their presence, if, first of all, he had not found a place in his father's love or had not been quite sure of it. He would almost have been inclined to run away again. But the father had kissed him much, and so he could meet the curious gaze of his old friends with a smiling face, until any unkind remarks they might have thought of making died away, killed by his evident joy in his father. It is a hard thing for a man to confess Christ if he has not had an overwhelming sense of communion with Him. But when we are lifted to the skies in the rapture God gives to us, it becomes easy, not only to face the world, but to win the sympathy of even those who might have opposed themselves. This is why young converts are frequently used to lead others into the light; the Lord's many kisses of forgiveness have so recently been given to them, that their words catch the fragrance of divine love as they pass the lips just touched by the Lord. Alas, that any should ever lose their first love, and forget the many kisses they have received from their heavenly Father!
Lastly, all this was given before the meeting with the elder brother. If the prodigal son had known what the elder brother thought and said, I should not have wondered at all if he had run off, and never come back at all. He might have come near home, and then, hearing what his brother said, have stolen away again. Yes, but before that could happen, his father had given him the many kisses. Poor sinner! You have come in here, and perhaps you have found the Saviour. It may be that you will go and speak to some Christian man, and he will be afraid to say much to you. I do not wonder that he should doubt you, for you are not, in yourself, as yet a particularly nice sort of person to talk to. But, if you get your Father's many kisses, you will not mind your elder being a little hard upon you. Occasionally I hear of one, who wishes to join church, saying "I came to see the elders, and one of them was rather rough with me. I shall never come again." What a stupid man you must be! Is it not their duty to be a little rough with some of you, lest you should deceive yourselves, and be mistaken about your true state? We desire lovingly to bring you to Christ, and if we are afraid that you really have not yet come back to God, with penitence and faith, should we not tell you so, like honest men? But suppose that you have really come, and your brother is mistaken; go and get a kiss from your Father, and never mind your brother. He may remind you how you have squandered your living, painting the picture even blacker than it ought to be; but your Father's kisses will make you forget your brother's frowns. If you think that in a household of faith you will find everybody amiable, and everyone willing to help you, you will be greatly mistaken. Young Christians are often frightened when they come across some who, from frequent disappointment of their hopes, or from a natural spirit of caution or perhaps from a lack of spiritual life, receive but coldly those upon whom the Father has lavished much love. If that is your case, never mind these cross-grained elder brethren; get another kiss from your Father. Perhaps the reason it is written, "He kissed him much," was because the elder brother when he came near him, would treat him so coldly, and so angrily refuse to join in the feast.
Lord, give to many poor trembling souls the will to come to Thee! Bring many sinners to Thy blessed feet, and while they are yet a great way off, run and meet them; fall on their neck, give them many kisses of love, and fill them to the full with heavenly delight, for Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.