Travel Trivia recently carried an article titled “7 Coldest States in the U.S.”
The seven coldest, it turns out, are Vermont, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Maine, North Dakota, and (shockingly) Alaska. I might not have guessed all seven states, but I’m not surprised by any of them.
Interestingly, I found the article less interesting once I realized that it contained no surprises. Most effective columns, like movies and television shows, include a twist, an element that we didn’t see coming. If a surprising state had made the list, the list would have been more memorable.
One of the reasons Jesus’ stories are so compelling is that they contain this element of surprise. The problem is, his stories have become so well-known that we can miss what his first hearers knew.
The surprise that changes everything
For instance, the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” would have been a shocking title to a story in Jesus’ day. Samaritans were considered half-breeds and infidels by Jews. A “Good Samaritan” would be like a “Good Drug Dealer” or “Good Terrorist” to us. But his story is so familiar that we think of Samaritans as “good” in a way no one would have in his original audience.
It’s the same with his Parable of the Prodigal Son. For a son to demand his inheritance before his father’s death was a shocking act of disrespect in Jesus’ day. For that father then to welcome his rebellious son home was just as shocking. We miss the surprise because the story is so familiar.
Here’s the greatest shock of all: the holy God of the universe loves you as much as he loves his Son. In John 17, Jesus prays to his Father that “the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (v. 23). “Even as” could be translated, “to the same degree as.”
How can the Father possibly love us as much as he loves the Son?
Because he is love (1 John 4:8). This is his very nature. He loves us because he cannot not love us.
As a result, there is nothing we can do to make him love us any more or any less than he already does. He loves us simply because he loves us.
Unfortunately, the theological fact that God loves us is so commonplace among Christians that we miss its earth-shaking significance.
So, take a moment to consider the fact that the Lord of the universe knows your name. He knows every sin you’ve committed in the past and every sin you’ll commit in the future. And yet he loves you as much as he loves his sinless Son.
This is a surprise that changes everything.
Why do you need this good news today?