Easter time gives us the opportunity to remember God’s greatest act of forgiveness – forgiveness for our sins through the sacrificial death of Christ. Even though we did not deserve God’s grace, by allowing His son Jesus to die on the cross – taking on our sin and punishment – not only are we forgiven for our wrongs but we can now enter into sweet fellowship with the Father.
This reminds me of another example of forgiveness found in the Bible. In the book of Luke Jesus tells the story of a son whose selfish desires led him to demand his inheritance. This he readily took and it wasn’t long before he squandered everything (Luke 15:13-14). Eventually he came to his senses and realised if he was going to survive he would have to swallow his pride and return to his father’s home.
He was so despondent that he knew he didn’t deserve anything good from his father, so much so that he reasoned with himself that he would be willing to return not as a son but as a hired servant (17-19). Yet in the verses that follows we find a real demonstration of love and forgiveness. Rather than his father being angry and disappointed in his youngest son, overwhelmed with joy and compassion for him, he commissions his servants to ‘bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet’ (22). But what exactly do these items represent and what do they symbolise for us as believers today?
Firstly, the robe represents the robe of righteousness provided through the shed blood of our Saviour, and a symbol of our new life in Christ. When the father placed the robe on his son he was showing acceptance, healing and renewed purpose for his son. When we accept Christ, our unrighteousness is remembered no more but rather we are clothed in His righteousness. When God looks on us, He no longer sees our sin, but the righteousness of Christ. It is this robe that symbolises our acceptance into the body and family of Christ.
Secondly, the father put a ring on his son’s finger thus symbolising authority, wealth and honour. In scripture we can find examples of the ring representing power and authority (Genesis 41: 41-42; Esther 8:2) and that is exactly what the father was showing his son here. In placing the ring on his son’s finger he was indicating to him that he had special favour, and that the sealing of his position was secure. In placing the ring on his son’s finger he was showing the elevated position the son was being lifted up to, and our position has been elevated because we are now seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). In Christ we are now in a position of authority: authority over the enemy and authority to live a victorious life.
Finally, the father put sandals on his son’s feet – symbolising his loving welcome home. In ancient Palestine it was customary for servants in the home to be barefooted. By placing shoes on his son’s feet his father was making a bold statement: you are not a servant or a passing visitor – you are still my son! In Christ we are adorned with sandals of son-ship and with it we receive all the benefits and rights, for we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Like the prodigal son we were undeserving of anything good. Yet when we consider the grace and mercy of God and His lovingkindness, we can acknowledge that He has made a way of redemption for us. To those of us who acknowledge this truth He has placed a robe on our back, a ring on our finger and sandals on our feet granting us freedom, exaltation and dignity of position. What a great act of forgiveness demonstrated by our heavenly Father!
If this is a truth you have never acknowledged before, take a few minutes now to say the prayer below:
Thank you for your great act of forgiveness in sending your son Jesus Christ to die for my sin. I did not deserve your grace but I am so grateful that you loved me enough to send your son to die in my place so that I could be brought back into fellowship with you. Today, I receive your gift of salvation through the death of your son for my sin.
Thank you Father.
[Image credit: forgiven]