13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
This week’s sermon referenced the painting above, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” by Rembrandt. It is a masterful portrayal of the dramatic climax of Jesus’ parable, as told in Luke 15:11-32. There are many interpretive layers to this painting, but one of the most obvious is how Rembrandt used the three main characters’ posture to convey their emotions. The tender love of the father is seen in his tender embrace the younger son. The deep contrition of the now impoverished younger son is seen in his kneeling and in his head laid on his father. And the self-righteousness of the older son is seen in his towering stiffness.
Consider for a moment how those emotions might have influenced lives of these two sons the next day. Both sons probably woke up still in shock that their father threw a party to celebrate the occasion. As he resumed his daily responsibilities, the older son likely did so with an all-too-familiar attitude of bitterness. But the younger son probably experienced a new attitude. As he reacquainted himself with life in his father’s house, the younger son was likely filled gratitude. Not long ago, he felt such strong entitlement that he asked for an advance on his inheritance. Now, he felt such profound gratitude for his father’s forgiveness and welcome that he was glad to take on whatever duties his father entrusted to him.
Peter too was a prodigal, and knew what it was to be welcomed home after time in the “far country” of sin (John 18:17; 25-27). So for him, the topic of holiness can never be divorced from the remembrance of our guilt and God’s grace (1 Peter 1:14-18). The remembrance of our rescue from "the passions of our former ignorance" and our "futile ways" rekindles our gratitude. And that gratitude propels us to pursue holiness with gladness.