It is very good news that Jesus, who is one with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, does not call his followers servants, but friends. A book about being a Friend of God is by Rachel Yarworth.
From my 2020 A to Z:
Jesus claimed to be one with the Father. He could have been too high and mighty to have friends, but he told his disciples, ‘I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’ John 15:15 (NIVUK)
This year my A to Z challenge is about Christmas, a major festival in the Christian Church. Another major festival is Easter, which I wrote about for the A to Z Challenge in 2020.
Matthew’s gospel doesn’t mention Mary and the Angel Gabriel or the visit of the shepherds. Unlike Luke’s gospel it tells of a visit from Magi (wise men) from the east. They had seen a star and followed it to the land of Judea. Traditionally the Magi have been considered as three wise men or kings, because they arrived with three different gifts for the Christ child. The number of the important visitors is not stated in the Bible. Isaiah 60:3 predicted that nations would come to the light of Zion (Jerusalem) and kings to the brightness of its dawn. In Psalm 72 Solomon predicted that kings of Tarshish, distant shores and of Sheba and Seba would present ‘him’ with gifts. Psalm 72:10 These scriptures are considered to apply to Jesus.
Frankincense was one of the gifts the Magi brought. The others were Gold and Myrrh, which come later in the alphabet. The gifts were expensive and served particular purposes.
Frankincense was made from the resin of a particular species of tree. It was burned with a steady flame and was used in sacrifices in the temple. It was imported from Arabia with Sheba being the main source. (Information from Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary)
Frankincense is a symbol of priesthood. Jesus has been described as ‘our high priest’. Hebrews 3:1
This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway. Forgiveness is an important theme throughout the Bible. In many prayers God is asked to forgive people either individually or en masse.
People are also asked for forgiveness, for example after the death of their father, the sons of Jacob ask Joseph for forgiveness. Genesis 50:15-21
Jesus Christ taught about forgiveness in parables and in his answers to questions. In the prayer he taught his disciples forgiveness is important – both being forgiven and forgiving other people. Matthew 6:12 and Luke 11:4 How many times should I forgive? Luke 17:3-4, Matthew 18:21-22
In one story Jesus told there is a marked contrast with the passage from Deuteronomy (mentioned in my Letter D post) about a son, who would not be disciplined by his parents. In Deuteronomy the son would be stoned to death. The story for today’s post has a different outcome.
The wayward son and the forgiving father
There was a family with two sons. They worked the land and made a good living, but the younger son was not content. He wanted to see the world. By all the customs of the time, he would have been expected to work within his family and be content. Only after the death of his father would he expect to inherit any property or money.
He was impatient and asked his father to give him his share in advance. His father agreed, dividing his estate between the two sons before the younger son set off on his travels. With money to spend, he lived a debauched life. When he ran out of money he had no friends. There was a famine in the land. He went to work for a farmer – presumably a gentile as he kept pigs, which were not allowed to be eaten according to the Law of Moses. He was hungry. In fact he was so hungry that he thought about eating the same food as the pigs.
His thoughts turned to his earlier life and his comfortable home. He realised that his father’s paid servants were better off than he was. He went back home to ask his father’s forgiveness and for a job.
His father saw him in the distance and did something, which was not considered dignified at the time. He ran to meet his son and welcomed him home. He restored him as a member of the family and ordered that a feast be prepared to celebrate his return.
The older brother was jealous. He complained that he had worked constantly and his father had never given him anything to have a party with his friends. The father pointed out that everything he had belonged to the older son, but he was celebrating the return of one, who had been lost to him.