March 5th, 2023: The Prodigal Son- Luke 15:11-32
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
The parable today is not unfamiliar. Jesus is speaking. As they draw near to listen, the religious leaders of the day fuss under their breath. The Pharisees are discrediting the authority of Jesus based upon who He is associating with as he teaches. Jesus has been known to search out sinners and eat with them. The Pharisees think that Jesus is deliberately choosing to associate with the undesirables, ignorant of the fact that their self-righteous behavior makes them the most undesirable of all. May we never forget that God is not a respecter of persons. It is His will that none should perish. God remove from us this Pharisean way of thought so we can reach out to the poor, the lost, the needy, and the sinners of the world and bring them, in love, to the knowledge of Christ.
Jesus used parables, stories familiar and relatable, to go alongside a message. It is an effective method of teaching. They are one type of exordium, rhetorical devices that are used to capture the attention of an audience. In this same chapter of Luke, Jesus tells the story of the Shepherd searching for his lost sheep. Even though the shepherd had 99 others, the one sheep that is lost is extremely important. He is the Good Shepherd, giving His life for all the sheep. Jesus also tells about a woman who lost one of her ten pieces of silver. Though she had nine remaining, she searched diligently, cleaning out, until she found it. The church is to seek all the lost. Then Jesus comes to the parable about the lost son. The father has two sons, both are his family. The Father loves them both.
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
It is so easy to decide that the younger son gets what he deserves. He says to the father I want out of here. Some commentators suggest that he is telling the father, " I wish you were dead so I can have my inheritance." Notice though, that the verse says the father divided unto them his living. He gave to and divided his living to both of his sons. God has given to us all generously. He provides life, knowledge, talent, and ability. He has enough for every son and daughter. He blesses us abundantly and we decide how to use it. The older son stays with the Father. The younger son takes off with his goods to see the world. The Pharisees are listening intently but so are the undesirables. How will the Father treat the son who deliberately takes his inheritance and leaves?
And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
Can’t you just hear them gasp? Feed swine! Everyone in this crowd knows not to have anything to do with swine! It might have taken longer to realize the younger son also spent all his inheritance and began working for and depending on someone - a citizen of that county. He had consequences for wasting his living. To sink so low as to wish he could eat the hog food. It says he would have eaten, but no one gave him anything. Consequences have a pattern. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15). Don’t become too puffed up. We have all been here. We have all done something we thought was best for us, only to find that we stepped outside the will of our heavenly Father. The world, represented by the citizen of that country, doesn’t love us as the Father does. If you starve, it's the survival of the fittest, simply the consequence of your stupidity. Thankfully, the younger son’s story doesn’t end here.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
He came to himself. He realized his mistake. He knew what he had taken for granted. He remembers the goodness and abundance of the Father. Most importantly, it registers that this is not going to end well unless something changes. He can die, or he can go back to the Father. He is not where he belongs. He has a choice. He readies himself by saying he will go back to the father humbled, repentant, and wiser. He is prepared to be a servant - his father owes him nothing more. When did you realize that the Heavenly Father has abundance but owes you nothing more? He provided everything needed, including a plan of salvation. Has shame or regret ever caused you to re-think your choices or to look ahead to see the direction you are heading, and change course?
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Can’t you see the Father watching on and off every day, looking down the road or across the fields, hoping to see the son? The Father never stopped loving the son. Can anything separate us from the love of God?
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans8: 38-39)
May we never be so arrogant as to forget this is true and genuine love.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
The father saw him and ran to his smelly, dirty, famished son. His heart is rejoicing. He hugs and kisses him. The son confesses. I have sinned. I was wrong. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I let you down, Dad. I dishonored your name. I was on the verge of eating hog food. I am sorry. Notice what the father does not say. He did not say you are worthless. It's your own fault. It serves you right after how you acted. The Pharisees might have been waiting for him to say that. We might have foolishly waited for him to say that. The father says, let's CELEBRATE! Get out the steak! Get my son clean clothes, shoes, and a ring! He was gone from me -separated as in death but he is alive- back home where he belongs. He was lost and now found. There is no sadness in the father at the return of the lost son. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (Luke 15:7).
Our lesson ends with verse 24. The added verses finish up the story and illustrate the differences between how the Jews (Pharisees) and the undesirables (sinners and Gentiles) think. Keep in mind the Father loves them all.
At this point in Jesus' story, the gentiles and sinners are rejoicing. The Father loves them. He accepts pleas for forgiveness. He is happy his son came home. The Pharisees, on the other hand, represent that brother that never left. In some ways, this can also represent organized religion and, unfortunately, the church. Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings (1Peter2:1). As the Bride of Christ, let us guard ourselves against these thoughts:
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. Malice.
And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: Guile (Deceit).
and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. Envy.
And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22: 37-40).
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!