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  • W.S. BARNETT

Grace Will Lead Us Home

“So, he set off and went to his father. But, while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion…” Luke 15:20

God’s grace leads us to a place of forgiveness and freedom through faith. Jesus often talked about grace, though he rarely used the word. Instead, he communicated grace through stories we know as parables, especially the parable of the Prodigal Son.


I had the honor of doing a tour of the Netherlands in 2019, and to my surprise, it was during the 350th Anniversary celebration of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669). I visited numerous museums and exhibits like the Marithuis in the Hague, the Rembrandt House, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and many others. The original works of my most admired paintings like “The Night Watch” were there, all but one: “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” The 103” x 80” oil painting is on display at its permanent home – The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. I hope to make that trip someday.


As with most of his masterpieces, Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” illustrates and exemplifies biblical stories and life lessons in the most impacting way, stirring the soul and touching the heart. God speaks through his art, even today. Perhaps no other work of art based on one of the most profound parables of Jesus captures the imagination, leaving us convicted, humbled, and hopeful. The parable impacted Rembrandt deeply, inspiring him to communicate that conviction through various drawings, paintings, and etchings on the parable over decades. Completed within two years before his death in 1669, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” was among his final masterpieces. God’s amazing, outrageous grace shines through every monochromatic paint stroke. Acclaimed as the greatest painter of biblical themes, Rembrandt was also a master storyteller. His faith in God inspired countless works of art that, centuries later, are impacting lives. Rembrandt is hidden, sometimes subtly inserted in his paintings and engraved works. He is not only reflecting his identity but feigning it as well. The Return of the Prodigal Son’s star figure is none other than the master himself, portraying the disheveled, destitute son, fallen at the feet of a caring, loving father.


A son who squanders his inheritance bitterly and hopelessly seeks restoration and forgiveness, yearning for the safety of home again. His father is heartbroken as he reluctantly relinquishes the treasure. He, too, yearns for a restored relationship with his wayward son. He is looking for that place of grace.


Hitting bottom is a place where the grace of God floods into our lives. When we come to the end of ourselves, we are hopeless and helpless. Faith enters into the realm of grace and accesses God at another level. When the prodigal came to himself, he saw things differently. It takes faith to rise above circumstances. We have to make the first step and act in faith. The prodigal uttered a prayer of desperation and then acted in faith, getting up and running back home. Phillips, Craig, and Dean’s “A Place Called Grace,” captures the story’s essence: “I’m so alone. But if there’s room in Your house for one more, I’m ready to come back home.”


Do you ever feel isolated, “out there,” with no way of survival, and suddenly remember how things used to be?


While in Holland, we visited the Ten Boom home where Dutch watchmaker Corrie ten Boom lived. Corrie fearlessly helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her closet. Her famous quote gives hope to prodigals: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” You may have run away and strayed far away into places unimaginable. In your shame, you may even have resolved to suffer and continue to live a life of detriment, giving up on hope. Look to Jesus; remember now in your darkness, the Light and love of Christ who pierces the dark and loves you more than any other.


“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” Corrie Ten Boom

As the parable continues, the father could see his son in the distance, and he runs to him, embracing him, loving him. That is the most overwhelming part of this story; the amazing, limitless display of love and grace of the father who charges after the wayward son and lavishes unending love and amazing grace. The love of the father covered the sins of the son. After the reunion and restoration, a celebration of life takes place.


Imagine what it must have been like in that room when the son entered the house, and all the music began with a spread of the tastiest food, wine, and a new robe to cover his cold, broken body; Love restored him to freedom and brought him home. The son had nothing left to barter or pay for his restoration. God, in His abundant mercy and grace, restored him without any charge. Jesus came to suffer and die for all of the prodigals of the world. His arms embrace us with forgiveness and restoration. His grace will lead us home.


Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found

Was blind but now I see


Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come.

’tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.


Copyright 2021 Dr. William S. Barnett All rights reserved

The Return of the Prodigal Son: Wikipedia

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