Jesus tells His disciples the parable about The Prodigal Son…
From a spiritual perspective, getting lost is unavoidable.
Human nature is fundamentally flawed by sin. If people live their lives apart from God and follow their intuitions, they stay lost.
That is because getting lost—physically or spiritually—is easy.
Sinners followed Jesus eagerly. Self-righteous religious leaders constantly chided Jesus for associating with such sinners.
Finally, Jesus told this story about the Prodigal Son, to show what it means to be lost and how a loving Father waits for His lost (estranged) son to come home and be reconciled back into the family.
Rich Man, Poor Woman, but Just Alike
The Rich Man…
The European tailored suit fit in perfectly in this large, white stone house nestled among the trees on a hill overlooking Lake Zurich.
The man conversed comfortably in three languages. An executive with an international company headquartered in Switzerland, he calmly discussed that day’s unexpected fall in the market.
Obviously, it had cost him at least six figures, if not seven.
Still, he remained unconcerned. He had more where that came from and knew how to make even more.
When I tried to turn the conversation from finances to eternal riches, he turned cold.
He had heard as much about God as he wanted.
God played no hand in his world.
Intelligence and quick action were all that mattered.
The Poor Woman…
From her ragged mat spread in front of her mud two-room house, she looked helplessly up at this strange white man.
Could we tell her about Jesus? Sure, but first would we pray for her husband?
He had crossed the Kenya border into Uganda and set up housekeeping there with his other two wives.
This left her almost destitute, but that was not her prayer request. She wanted her husband to come back and spend more time with her.
One could continue the stories on and on.
One thing unites these people who live in totally different worlds.
They are lost. They do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
The destitute African woman was at least willing to listen to the story.
Jesus told three parables illustrating what it means to be lost, heaven’s joy when the lost are found, and how the loving Father looks to save people.
The final parable also implicated the Pharisees as those who did not share the Father’s joy over the salvation of the lost because it was not done their way.
Are you like the sinners seeking salvation and finding a Father’s love, or are you standing aside watching and wondering how in the world the Father could do that for such unworthy, unclean, sinful people?
Reading Luke 15 raises one question for you: “Am I lost?”
All people are lost until they repent of their sins and find salvation.
When even one sinner comes to the Lord, the Bible tells us that “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents,” as his homecoming sets off a joyful celebration in heaven beyond all earthly experience or imagination.
God is not willing that any perish, but rather He loves ALL of His lost children and yearns that they should come home!
In this parable the younger son of the father demanded his share of the estate and got it.
There is no indication of why he wanted it or why the father so quickly gave it to him.
Later we will see the older brother’s attitude and surmise sibling rivalry here, as in the Old Testament stories of Jacob and Esau and of Joseph and his brothers.
The younger brother’s portion was only a third of the estate if the entire estate were divided. By law, the older brother got a double portion (Deut. 21:17).
The younger son wanted to be on his own, and so he distanced himself as far as possible from the family.
He also took up a new lifestyle. Untrained and inexperienced in money matters, he quickly had many expenses and no income.
The result came quickly: no assets. Then a famine hit the land. No one had food or work.
He was fortunate. He found a job, but what a job for a Jew!
He fed pigs in a pigpen.
Destitute of other resources, he longed to eat what he fed the pigs.
How repulsive for a law-abiding Jew to be tending the pigs; himself starving and yet he was not even allowed to eat their food.
So he fattened the pigs and starved himself.
Finally, his mind went to work again.
Humans have the capacity to change. We do not have to remain in the pigpen.
We do not have to continue to live as sinners.
We can become responsible for our lives. We can quit our riotous living. We can come home.
The younger brother came to his senses:
The day laborers on his dad’s farm had enough to eat. “And I am about to die from hunger,” he said.
“I will go back to Daddy and tell him I have sinned against him and against heaven.”
Note how this ties the story back to the beginning of the chapter and the theme of sinners.
No longer are we using animals or objects to talk about the lost. Now we have gotten down to basic facts.
People are lost. People need to realize their lost condition and admit it.
The younger son’s first step is saying, “I am a sinner.”
What is a sinner?
An unworthy person. One who deserves nothing. Yet a sinner wants something.
So the sinner searches for someone who loves the unworthy, who is willing to help the undeserving.
The sinful younger brother had forfeited his position as son. He had no more claims on his father, so he applied for a new job—day laborer.
At this point the focus shifts from son to father.
The son is on the move. The father is standing still, waiting to see his son.
Here is the poignant portrait of a busy man who has lost one of his chief helpers, taking himself away from his work to wait for a son who may never appear.
It is certainly not given that a sinner will repent.
The father did not stay still long. There he was—the son had returned.
What joy! What love! What tender compassion filled the father’s heart.
The old legs started churning. Arms stretched out. Lips reached for a kiss. The family feud was over and forgotten. My son was home.
Even the joyful welcome did not deter the son from his determined course.
He repeated the plea he had rehearsed, but somehow the last line never came out; the job application as a day laborer was never made.
The father never heard his lost son. He had business to attend to. Party time!
The son must be properly dressed for the party. Servants dashed off as they were commissioned to get the best robe, a ring, sandals—things all lost long before the pigpen.
Other servants ran to the kitchen to prepare the menu the father ordered. Nothing but the best for his son.
How could the father act like this? Did he not know what the son had done? Of course, but the son had been given up for dead.
This was resurrection time. He was lost.
We found the precious treasure for which we have hunted. The lost sheep is back.
Certainly a lost and found son is worth much more than a coin or a sheep.
Celebrate! What a picture of the Father in heaven.
How He does celebrate when the lost are found, when sinners repent.
What compassion and love He shows.
Why does Jesus associate with sinners?
Because heaven loves them and waits patiently for them to return and repent so the celebration can begin.
Let us remember that ALL of Heaven’s citizens are repentant sinners.
Jesus had given His disciples three different parables, illustrating the same point.
The sheep was lost because it foolishly wandered away (15:4), the coin was lost through no fault of its own (15:8), and the son left out of selfishness (15:12).
The point is this, God’s great love reaches out and finds sinners no matter why or how they got lost.
SELAH (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Sunday, February 26, 2023
THE FATHER WHO RUNS TO YOU
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
— Luke 15:20
Through tears, a prisoner mentee asked, “How can Jesus love me when I keep letting Him down and keep committing the same sins again and again?”
There are many comforting words for my friend and for so many of us who ask the same question.
“Your sins evoke his deepest heart for you, his compassion and pity. He is on your side.
He sides with you against your sin. He hates your sin, but he loves you” (Dane Ortlund, 2020).
Jesus is the good shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep until he finds it (see Luke 15:3-4).
He is the woman who seeks diligently until she finds her lost coin (v. 8). And He is the welcoming, forgiving father who runs to, embraces, and kisses his wayward son (v. 20).
When we struggle, we can turn to Jesus for help. When our faith is wobbly, when doubts fill our hearts, when we stumble again into the same sins,
if we will just turn toward Jesus, He will be our help.
Try as we may, we cannot pick ourselves up. Yet though we have no power of our own to turn to Him, He will come to us, seek us out, and rescue us.
Come join the Adventure!