Lou: Here’s a question related to the previous chapter (see section “The Teachings and Example of Jesus” in Chapter Twelve). “Why did Jesus heal the paralytic on the Sabbath?”
Graham: Many of His Sabbath healings were elective, weren’t they? After all, the paralytic had been by the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years. This was no emergency. As a rule I think Jesus tried to keep a low profile. If He became very public, His actions would be so controversial that He wouldn’t last very long. But when it came to the Sabbath, He risked His life repeatedly to clear the Sabbath of misunderstanding. An arbitrary approach to the Sabbath puts the Father in the worst possible light. So Jesus ran the risk of healing and helping to redeem the Sabbath of arbitrariness, because the Sabbath speaks so eloquently of God. And He ran into trouble every time.
Lou: Here’s another very important question: “In the parable of the prodigal son, the father just forgives. No one has to die. There is no sacrifice or animal that has to be killed, and the Father doesn’t have to die. Why couldn’t God forgive all of us in the same way?”
Graham: Well, in a way He does. I think the story was told in that way to indicate that absolutely nothing had to be done to persuade the father to love his son and to forgive him. I believe the father had forgiven the son long before the son headed for home. But that’s not the whole story in the Great Controversy. God is forgiveness personified, but questions have been raised. God has been accused, and these questions must be answered. Satan’s charges must be met. All the misunderstandings regarding the consequences of sin or the seriousness of sin must be handled. And that’s why more has to happen than this story tells. But the story is clear that nothing needs to be done to win the Father to our side, to “assuage His wrath” before He’ll forgive. The story of the prodigal son is really more about the father than the son. We call it the story of the prodigal son. But it’s actually the story of a father who was so delighted that his son came home, he didn’t even let his son finish his speech of repentance.
Lou: Several people wanted you to retell the rat poison story to again underline the difference between the legal approach and the “larger view” you have been talking about in this book.
Graham: Just to give the essence of it, the difference is this. In the legal way of approaching the plan of salvation, the father says to the son, “If I catch you taking that poison, I’ll kill you!” Then the father hears the son falling down in the garage. He runs in there and finds the son drank the poison and is dying. And the father reminds him, “The punishment for drinking the poison is that I’ll kill you.” And the boy says, “Please forgive me.” And the father says, “Well yes, son, I love you, so I’ll forgive you.” The trouble is, being poisoned, he dies anyway. The legal model has difficulty conceiving of sin as a poison in itself, that sin is intrinsically bad.
In the other model, the father says to his son, “Don’t touch the poison, I don’t want you to die.” He runs out to the garage. The boy is dying. Forgiveness would not keep the boy from dying. The boy needs an antidote. If only he’d trust his father enough, the father could heal him. That’s the key difference in these two models. Is the death from sin an imposed penalty because we have offended the One in charge? Or is the death that comes from sin the result of poisoning ourselves? We don’t need forgiveness as much as we need a healing antidote. And if we trust God, He can heal the damage done. That’s the difference between the two: Sin is not primarily a legal infraction, it is a poison.
Lou: That seems like an absolutely pivotal understanding. It makes a real difference in terms of how God views sin and why God hates sin. It isn’t just His personal opinion.
Graham: No! He doesn’t want us to die! And certainly He wouldn’t kill His dying Son, would He? Would He say, “Hey, don’t die too quickly, because I have to kill you as a penalty.” Doctors don’t kill their dying patients, and God does not kill His dying children.