Lesson 4 - Jesus Teaches Forgiveness

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Parable. The English word parable refers to a short narrative with two levels of meaning. The Greek and Hebrew words for "parable," however are much broader. Jesus' parables are both works of art and the weapons he used when in conflict with his opponents. They were the teaching method he chose most frequently to explain the Kingdom of God and the expectations God has for people.

Jesus Tells a Story

Jesus often told short stories called parables to teach spiritual truth. Here is one of them:

Then Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. After a few days, the younger son gathered together all he had and left on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his wealth with a wild lifestyle. Then after he had spent everything, a severe famine took place in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and worked for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He was longing to eat the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him. Then his son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves,‘Hurry! Bring the best robe, and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let us eat and celebrate, because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again – he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field. As he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the slaves and asked what was happening. The slave replied,‘Your brother has returned, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he got his son back safe and sound.’ But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, but he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years I have worked like a slave for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me even a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends! But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32)

Lessons from the story

There were two ways to leave an inheritance: by a will, or by gifts to the heirs while the owner was still living. The younger son was anxious to get away from home to enjoy life in his own way. He wanted to choose his own friends. He didn't want his father or brother telling him what to do. So the father gave him his part of the inheritance and he left home.

As long as his money lasted he had "friends." When his money was gone so were his "friends." Finally, half starved and envying the pigs that he was taking care of, he realized what a fool he had been. He went home sorry for his sins, confessing them, and asking for forgiveness. He hoped that his father would give him a job.

What a surprise when his father welcomed him home and gave him back his place in the family! He didn't deserve this treatment but his father still loved him in spite of his sin.

In this parable the father represents our Heavenly Father—God. The sons stand for two kinds of people who are lost. The younger boy is the sinner who is sorry for his wrongdoing and comes back to God for forgiveness.

The older son, proud of how good he was and ashamed of his younger brother, had worked for his father. But his disrespectful words show that he didn't really love him. In his heart he was as far from home as the brother in the far country. He represents those who are proud of their goodness and don't realize that they too are sinners who need God's forgiveness. Pride, criticism, and an unforgiving spirit are no less sins than those of the brother in the far country.

We have all disobeyed our Heavenly Father and done wrong. We don't deserve a place in His wonderful home in heaven. But He invites us to turn our back on sin and come to Him for forgiveness.

For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

We Must Forgive

Jesus taught that if we want God to forgive us, we must forgive those who wrong us. Resentment is a sin and a root for other sins. It produces bitterness, criticism, hatred, fighting, and even murder. As long as we hold onto our sins we can't be forgiven of them. We must let go and let God take them away. Jesus said:

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Jesus Forgives Sinners

Jesus came to the world for two reasons:

* To teach us about God and His love.
* To take the blame for our sins and die in our place so that we can be forgiven.

Since Jesus was going to die for all sinners, He had the right to forgive anyone who came to Him wanting forgiveness for sin. Jesus forgave many sinners and changed their lives completely. One of these was a sinful woman who had probably heard him preach and wanted to show her appreciation. She went into the house of Simon who had invited Jesus and His disciples to dinner. At the feet of Jesus she cried in repentance for her sins. Simon was shocked that Jesus would let such a woman touch His feet. Jesus told him:

“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered,“I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:41-50)

How glad the woman was when Jesus forgave her! The Pharisee and his friends could have this same joy and forgiveness, but they didn't want to admit that they were sinners. They were proud of themselves and of their good works.

The Pharisees asked, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" Who IS it, indeed that forgives sins? The Son of God--the Lord Jesus Christ. He still forgives all those who come to Him. We go to His feet in prayer confessing that we are sinners, that we are sorry for our sins and want to get rid of them. In our hearts we hear Him say, "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Jesus' forgiveness brings us joy, peace, and a new life.

Or we can be like the Pharisees and pretend that we are not sinners. As long as we do this we can not possibly receive forgiveness for our sins. We must confess them to Jesus and ask for His forgiveness. You must have your sins forgiven before you can have eternal life

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