He will not break off a bent reed, nor put out a flickering lamp. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph.
Jesus came to fulfill what Isaiah had written about centuries before. Isaiah writes about a ‘bruised reed.’ and a ‘smoldering wick.’ Jesus came, not to destroy the reed or put out the wick, but to take brokenness and smoldering away. Jesus has healed and re-ignited us, has brought us into the Kingdom, into lives vastly differently.
As we journey through this Lenten season, we reflect and act on our call to be vastly different. We look at our inward selves and our outward actions and reform them through more ardent prayer, sacrifice, study, worship, and giving. We come to really connect with the fact that those in the Kingdom live like this year-round, not just during Lent.
Today, Jesus presents us with a perfect example of someone who is bruised and smoldering, the youngest son of a very generous father. How is he made vastly different?
There are two key elements in Jesus’ parable, the first being the self-imposed bruising of the son. This is the way sin works for us too.
The son, not content in the father’s house and service wants ‘what is his,’ and takes off with every intent of harming himself.
The son did not outwardly say: I am going to go hurt myself. Certainly, he thought he was getting his way with what was his – and that very self-centeredness was at the root of his many sins. The rejection of the father’s house, the partying and the prostitutes were the expression of his self-centered life. It was the way he pulled himself out of the kingdom and put himself in the world. He bruised himself and he did it hard, full speed.
The second key is how the son was changed, healed, and reconciled.
Many have stated that the moment of turn around by the son, repentance, a change in direction back to the kingdom and away from himself and the world was his getting up amid the swine – as Jesus says: he came to his senses. But not so fast – he was still self-centered, thinking about his father’s servants and food. Something greater had to change within him, his life had to be made vastly different by something more powerful than just return and food.
The great change in the son was the moment of forgiveness, of full welcome back. This really spoke to his selfish heart and taught him – there is another way to live. There is a vastly different way – that of the father who gives his all not for his own pleasure – but for the sake of me. That is the way the kingdom started, by God giving His all for us, and that is the way it works today where we give our all for the purpose of reconciliation as Jesus asked, one for another who are in the kingdom.
Lent is about return certainly, but more so about true understanding of our life in and encounter with the One whose great love and self-giving greatly changes us. Changed, we then are the vastly different of the Kingdom who self-give as the Father does to draw many to Jesus and into His Kingdom.