The Prodigal Bible – Brad Jersak
I was reading Isaiah 40-45 this morning with new eyes thanks to your ministry. It is so wonderful to read the Old Testament with the new knowledge that our God, my God, is always loving like the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The Spirit is shining a new light on the text and a new light is penetrating my heart.
I must say that you’ve inspired an aha! moment for me in terms of framing the whole of Scripture within the context of the gospel itself.
If all Scripture is meant to be read in the context of the gospel and if the gospel is summarized beautifully in the parable of the prodigal, why not try the following experiment:
Imagine the whole Bible is simply the incredibly LONG version of the parable of the prodigal son(s). And conversely, imagine that the parable is Jesus’ ingeniously brief summary of the whole Bible, distilled to its short story format. We can do this because both offer us the same gospel narrative … one in a nutshell and the other in an expansive library. So here’s what we can do: turn the parable into an imaginary walk-in closet organizer for every section, every book, even every chapter of the Bible.
That means any passage where you see rebellion, disobedience, and wandering–any story where we see the trials of Israel’s wandering, exile, slavery, or destruction–can be slotted into the younger son’s descent into the pigpen. And all of those Jewish tales of judgment, condemnation, legalism, or “bad laws” (Ezekiel 20:25-26) might be assigned somewhere within the older brother’s part of the tale. The former exposes humanity’s addiction to rebellion, the latter to humanity’s demand from retribution. These are two sides of the same coin: alienation, where both boys “slaved away in the fields.”
But don’t stop there. Continue to every biblical passage where we see repentance, grace, flourishing, and celebration. All of these find their spot in the gospel of the son’s return, the father’s welcome, and the homecoming banquet in the kingdom of God. You might ask (as I did) where Jesus’ incarnation, passion, and resurrection fit into the story. As with the Scriptures, so in the parable: look for him everywhere! Christ is that moment of clarity when the son asks himself, “What am I doing out here?” Christ is the impulse to return and is the road home. Christ is the Father’s embrace. Christ is the open door into the Father’s house. Christ is the ring, the robe, and the banqueting table. And surely, if Christ can be the Lamb of Passover, he can also be the delicious fattened Calf offered at the great feast of God. Christ is even there in the Father’s plea to the elder son: “I beseech you: come inside, son! Join the party!”
If we were compelled to structure ALL of our Scripture reading into that brief narrative, we would see how the whole Bible leads us to Christ. We could see how every brick in the Bible finds its important space in the gospel road. Even the ugly bits. Further, we might see why Jesus says he did not come to abolish the Law or Prophets but to fulfill them, so that “every jot and tittle” reveals an important waypoint in our own experience as sons and daughters on our own way home. This is why I referred to a walk-in closet. The approach becomes personal when we actually enter the story ourselves, remind ourselves of where we have been, where we are, and where we’re heading. The story draws us in and welcomes us to receive everything that the Father has for us. It becomes our personal invitation to experience the gospel.