“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him….Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ (Luke 15:22-24, the Parable of the Prodigal Son)
It’s common to hear in Christian circles the saying that Jesus would have come to earth and died for just one sinner. It’s meant to encourage each of us to know that Jesus would have sacrificed himself ‘just for me,’ but I had always found it difficult to accept.
It’s not that I didn’t intellectually assent to the statement; in fact, I believe it to be true. It’s just that it never felt real. It would never stir my emotions. I had a hard time really sensing that God would love me so deeply.
Then I read the parable of the prodigal son in a new way. In fact, really just one part of it has changed the way I see my relationship with God.
I’ve been meditating on the robe.
Scholars take special note of the fact that the father of the house says to bring the best robe out to clothe his wayward son. What would have been the best robe but the father’s own robe? Imagine the servants going in to the father’s own closet and taking out his most valuable garment and placing it on the young man.
Think about that for a minute. After all, this parable of Jesus is meant to be a picture of how God relates to us.
It hit me for the first time, this image of God taking off his magnificent, radiant robe and placing it on me. Not just allowing me to wear it, but wanting me to, wanting nothing more than for me to wear it and happy to give it away to me, his love for me and his joy in our relationship overwhelming him.
Then I thought about what it must be like to wear, literally, the clothes of God, seeing myself in an indescribably brilliant and transfiguring garment. I was made into something more than I am.
There’s a difference between understanding something and experiencing it. Few things have made me weep with joy like this experience of God.
And the best part is, this is the gospel—the good news. We turn in our worn and draggled vestments and God gives us his brilliant clothes. We don’t earn them, that’s a silly thought, how could that even be possible? He just loves to give us the best robe.