Faithlife Sermons

Thieves and Robbers In the Temple

Lent  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view

One of the most beautiful stories of the Scriptures is that of the prodigal son, the youth who left home, got into deep difficulty, wasted his life in riotous living, and ended up in the pigpen.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee once asked, “Do you know the difference between the son in that pigpen and the pig? The difference is that no pig has ever said to himself, “I will arise and go to my father.”

Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. … through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Luke 15:1–3 ESV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
In fact, Jesus told not one, but three parables, two of which clearly dealt with loss. The first two, the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin, illustrated the joy heaven experiences over a repentant sinner, even greater than that experienced over those who have no need of it.
Leaving aside the biblical statement that “there is no one who is righteous,” in other words, no one who does not need to repent, Jesus’ message was directed at people who thought that they had no need to repent. At least, that is how we are inclined to view the Pharisees in particular, because that is how they are presented. In fairness, Luke later presents Pharisees as being part of the church in Jerusalem (), and the Jerusalem community generally viewed them as being zealous for the Law, to the point that their standards of righteousness were generally respected.
That’s why it is rather easy for us to emulate the “righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees () when we seek to establish our righteousness through the Law of God. Generally speaking, on Sunday morning, I am unlikely to be speaking to any criminals, not because I don’t want to, but because I’m in a place that they don’t usually feel comfortable entering, not while openly admitting that they are, in fact, wanted for a crime.
Thieves, in particular, don’t go around advertising their career choice. After all, success in thievery requires a high degree of stealth. Robbery, by contrast, calls for boldness, the boldness to stand flatfooted and demand that your victims turn over their goods to you. Last week, we saw a parable about a thief, a fig tree that stole resources and land but gave nothing by promising fruit without delivering any. Today, the object of our learning is a robber.
Luke 15:11–13 ESV
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.
A robber, you ask? Isn’t that rather harsh? The text identifies this young man as the younger of two sons. This son, however, comes to us as one who makes a demand that violates the 4th Commandment:

The Fourth Commandment

Honor your father and your mother.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.

By his actions, this younger son showed that he did not honor his father, did not appreciate his father’s diligence and perseverance in building an inheritance that he could pass on to his two sons. He did not appreciate that the Lord had blessed him to have his father still with him. He demanded that to which he was not entitled, even as a son.
It is interesting, how the Scripture shows us how this was resolved. The father “divided his property between them.” We just glide over those words, but something really significant happened while you were sleeping. Both of the sons received their inheritance on that day! The younger son demanded property unlawfully, but the older son received stolen goods! Don’t worry, we’ll come back to that later....
Most of you know the rest of the story, how the younger son went into a far country and wasted his goods, only to get caught up in a severe famine after all his money was gone. I imagine that not very much time had passed either, since he “squandered his property in reckless living.” When you don’t care about your future, it usually doesn’t take long for you to waste it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Elder Brother has been toiling away, apparently faithfully and without reproach. The younger brother sinned openly and brazenly, but the older brother kept it in the closet. We don’t hear anything about him until the next crisis point in the story, when his younger brother has returned in shame and with every intention of offering himself as a common day laborer. C. Talbert, Reading Luke, 150, supports K. Bailey here: “ ‘Treat me as one of your hired servants’ (vs. 19). A typical Jewish father might have considered this expedient until the son’s reformation had been confirmed. It would, moreover, allow the youth to make reparations required by repentance (cf. ).”
ut reproach.
ut reproach.
Arthur A. Just Jr., , Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1997).
Luke 19:8–10 ESV
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
So, as you can see, the younger son’s words were consistent with the culture of his day, and yet the father never let him get all the way through it. He never got to offer to his father the penance that he understood he needed to do. He confessed, and the father immediately absolved him, following it up with a celebration. That’s food for though. We should treat God’s declaration of forgiveness as a declaration of life from the dead, because that is what it is!
Romans 6:23 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But wait, we left the older brother, hiding like a thief in the shadows. You see, he sinned too. He took stolen goods; in fact, based upon the laws of inheritance, he got even more than did the younger son, who did all the grunt work! He didn’t ask for his portion, but he didn’t turn it down when it was given either. He did nothing to stop his younger brother from what he knew was contrary to God’s Commands, nor did he do anything to prevent the rupture of his brother’s relationship with his family. He sought to profit from his brother’s crime, and he did so!
But wait, we left the older brother, hiding like a thief in the shadows. You see, he sinned too. He took stolen goods; n fact, based upon the laws of inheritance, he got even more than did the younger son, who did all the grunt work! He didn’t ask for his portion, but he didn’t turn it down when it was given either. He did nothing to stop his younger brother from what he knew was contrary to God’s Commands, nor did he do anything to prevent the rupture of his brother’s relationship with his family. He sought to profit from his brother’s crime, and he did so!
How many have profited from the sins of others, and thought that, because their actions harmed no one, as far as they could tell, “no harm - no foul!” You’re in a safe space now, this is the confessional. I won’t judge you. The Spirit of God is using this Word to make us think. He’s shining the light of the Word on your path. Instead of preparing the next generation to fulfill their vocation in the Kingdom, some have been holding on, standing in the way. Our young adults leave because they see no opportunities here to serve. Is that right? They go and make Las Vegas a better place, and Atlanta a better place, and Phoenix a better place, and on and on and on.
Or they stay and grumble, “move over old man; it’s my turn to get mine now!” Not much better, because it still violates the commandment! Lord help us to love others for Christ’s sake! Help us to honor one another and esteem one another in the Lord, recognizing the gifts of God that are within each of us. We are called to be helpers of one another, not lords over one another!
Romans 12:3–8 ESV
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Thank God we have a heavenly Father who does not deal with us according to our sins or punish us according to our iniquities. In mercy He corrects us, and receives us as sons.
The parable doesn’t give us an ending for the family. Does the younger son end up with or without an inheritance? Does the older brother come to himself and join those who are rejoicing? That story remains to be told, and its up to you. The Gospel is preached so that we will be part of the marriage feast of the Lamb, but unless you repent, you will likewise be cast out into the outer darkness, “where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
So come on in today, join us. If you are a baptized Christian, remember your baptism and repent, and if you are not, repent and be baptized, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is the perfect season for coming to yourself; Easter time is the perfect time to celebrate being made alive in Christ. Here at St. John’s we are eager to help you grow in grace, discover and develop the spiritual gifts that God has placed in you, because it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus! God receives you as His beloved children, and He makes you a part of the Mission of God – the Missio Dei! You are “Ambassadors for Christ,” as Paul described it in
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
That young man came back a different person, and this message calls us to be different - not wasteful, but extravagant! Extravagant in grace, extravagant in mercy, extravagant in faith, extravagant in hope, extravagant in love. Jesus made a change in us, now, together as the body of Christ, we can make a change in the lives of others. We are people on a mission; we are a church on a mission - God’s Mission!
And let the peace of God that passes understanding guard your hearts and minds, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Related Media
Related Sermons