Generous omnipotence

rembrandt-the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-the-hermitage-st-petersburg-prodig26-1In the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad is one of the finest collections of art masterpieces in the world. Most impressive of all are the Rembrandts that have been brought together in that one museum. Rembrandt’s last painting, found in his apartment at the time of his death in 1669, is there. Still unfinished, but totally compelling and powerful, this is his interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, entitled Return of the Prodigal. Rembrandt has shown the father with his hands upon the shoulders of his son who has come home. The face and hands of the father totally command the attention of all who experience this profound theological interpretation of Jesus’ parable. The hands are not the clutching hands of oppression, but the generous hands of salvation and freedom.

hands 2They are able to reach down to this son and to reach out to the severe, elder son as well. They are kingly hands—but rugged, suffering hands, too. This is a painting of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I thought when I saw it in the vast Leningrad museum that it is a dangerous painting to have in any country because it calls into question all of our values and the oppressive handholds we place upon people around us. The painting tells a dangerous story of the God of omnipotence who is Lord of all and who proves his omnipotence, not by terror but by his love.

–Earl F. Palmer
Laughter in Heaven

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What God is like

ProdigalSon

Luke 15:11-32

This story is about who God is and what God is actually like. It is about the way God thinks, how He thinks. It is about the way God acts towards us. It is about the Father’s heart and joy. It is a story of a God we can believe in–a parable of the dancing God.

Jesus picks the worst person that he can possibly find and he has the Father running after him. This most pitiful excuse of a son, Jesus tells us, is the object of the Father’s intense longing and passion and affection. He is the object of the Father’s care and unconditional no-strings-attached forgiveness.

ProdigalSon copy 2

Jesus paints a picture of God standing on the balcony of heaven, watching, searching the horizon for the least inkling of a shadow of His son’s return. And once He sees him, this son, Jesus has the Father running and embracing him and commanding a great party to be thrown on his behalf.

What a picture of God! I tell you there is no greater statement about God in the whole Bible than verse 20: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed and kissed and kissed him” (NASB). He was absolutely thrilled to see him.

ProdigalSon copy

The first question for all of us, and maybe the only question, is this: Have we met this Father? Have we met the God of this parable? Do we know Him?

Can you not feel Jesus’ heart here? Can you not see, written all over his face, the words, “You have just got to meet the real God”? Can you not feel Jesus struggling with the whole wrongheadedness of the prevailing conception of God around him? Can you not hear him saying to himself, “If they could just meet Him and know Him, it would change everything”?

–C. Baxter Kruger
The Parable of the Dancing God

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