Last year I heard John MacArthur on his radio show, Grace to You, talk about his philosophy of preaching. He believes that the deeper he goes in exposition, the higher it can lift up the hearers in worship of God. MacArthur has dug until he hit paydirt in his latest book, A Tale of Two Sons: The Inside Story of a Father, His Sons, and a Shocking Murder. This book is an exposition of the most famous of Jesus’ parables: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). In his exposition, MacArthur goes into the background cultural implications of the words of the parable to show that at every point in the action, the story is geared to offend the sensibilities of the original Jewish hearers. Being a culture steeped in their focus on honor and shame, this parable stirs up the Jews, interrupts them in their honorable comfort zones and forces them to grapple with a concept of God that is willing to suffer the shame of filthy, worthless sinners who come to repentance. In fact, he takes great joy in doing so!
To make the long story short, MacArthur points out that the Father represents Jesus in the parable, the Prodigal Son represents the tax collectors and sinners who’d just gathered to hear Jesus speak (Luke 15:1), and the older brother represents the Pharisees (v. 2). In the two parables preceding that of the Prodigal Son, Jesus highlights the joy God takes in recovering lost sinners. MacArthur points out that Pharisees, by contrast, take no joy in the repentance of shameful sinners, but rather, take joy in the recovery of lost sheep and coins ($$$!). These themes show up in spades in Jesus’ “Inside Story of a Father, [and] His Sons.”
The worship begins when, after hearing how the son’s shameful demad for his inheritance, his subsequent prodigal living and his rock bottom experience communing with shameful swine and his eventual determination to return to his Father, MacArthur compares the compassionate, watchful father who runs through the village in the most shameful way possible [by (1) lifting his robe so he can (2) run (!)] to protect his repentant son from the violent mistreatment he would have certainly received from the honorable local citizenry, to Jesus, who, being the most Honorable of them all, suffered the shame which my shameful behavior has incurred, so he could rejoice over my repentance and return to his loving embrace! You gotta read this book, or at least look up the series on the radio show, repent of your sins and worship Christ who has given and suffered so much for you.
Now that this book is available, naturally, MacArthur has to promote the book. That’s what brought him last Friday to Crossroads Christian Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. I took the opportunity of accompanying my wife to the event to hear him preach all of the above, and then some, for just over an hour (as is his usual habit). Following, are a few pictures from the event: