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06.15.08 The Prodigal's Father

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Intro: Luke 15:1-10

The story: Luke 15:11-32

The younger son –

·        Grew up with privilege – all his needs were met.

·        At some point a root of entitlement, ungratefulness and pride began to grow in his heart.

·        He decided in his late teen years to take what was rightfully his and set out on his own.

·        He went to his father and asked for his part of the family inheritance. 

o   Jewish law allowed his father to divide the inheritance

§  2/3 to the oldest son

§  1/3 to the youngest son

o   Jewish law also said the younger son was justified in asking for his portion.

o   However, it was considered extremely bad form.

o   In essence he was telling his father, “I wish you’d hurry up and die.” Or, “Give me what I’ll get anyway when you die.”

·        So he took his inheritance and a short time later headed off to a distant land.

·        Once he arrived, he began to indulge his every desire… a real party animal so to speak.

·        All the while thinking he was on top of the world

·        But it didn’t take long for him to spend it all.

o   Suddenly he was no longer able to keep his life-style going.

o   To make matters worse, a famine hit the land at the same time.

·        The tables had turned.

o   His party friends had probably abandoned him, either because they had problems of their own or they just did not want the downer of him hanging out with them.

o   Now he was destitute and starving.

o   Obviously viewed as useless by the world around him.

o   Not long ago he had all he needed in his Father’s house.

·        He found work though… slopping pigs.

o   He was at the bottom of society.

o   So low he was doing what was forbidden by Jewish law

§  “Cursed is he who feeds swine.”

o   In his culture, pigs were considered dirty, filthy, unclean animals.

o   And here he was, feeding the despised swine while he was starving.

o   He was so hungry, if he could have he would have eaten the corn-cobs that were a part of the slop, but no one would give him anything… even pig slop was to good for him.

·        And then, probably for the first time in years, he came to himself.

o   Here he was, begging for pig slop to eat while back at home, his father’s hired-hands had three meals a day with food to spare.

o   He had used up his inheritance and had nothing to show for it other than squalor.

o   So he decided to head home, throw himself on the mercy of his father and beg to be brought on as a hired-hand, not as a son.

§  In fact a slave could be considered more a part of a family than a hired-hand.

§  The hired-hand could be dropped at any time.

§  They were disposable.

§  That’s all he was hoping for; a disposable position serving his former family.

o   As he neared his former home, the landscape looking familiar again and his heart pounding, he thoughts obsessed on the probable reception he would receive.

§  “I’ve proven myself to be a complete fool.”

§  “I’ve thrown away everything that was given to me.”

§  “My father is probably ashamed, angry, and disgusted with me.  He hast to hate me.”

§  “I’m an embarrassment to my family.”

§  “I deserve the worst.”

o   Then he lifts his head up and sees his father running towards him; the dreaded moment in time he had been trying to prepare for.

§  All he could think of was the line he had carefully rehearsed on his long walk.

§  “Father, I’ve sinned against God and I’ve sinned against you.  I don’t deserve to ever be called your son again.  Treat me like one of your hired hands.”

§  No way there would be a happy ending to this story.

§  But when his father reached him he was shocked by what happened.

·        His father embraced him and kissed him.

·        He barely had time to choke out his rehearsed lines…

o   “Father, I’ve sinned against God and I’ve sinned against you.  I don’t deserve…”

·        But his father acted as if he hadn’t heard a word his youngest son had said.

o   There was a whirl-wind of activity around him.

§  Some of the family slaves immediately surrounded him, dragging him to the house in his bewilderment.

§  He was given clean clothes and new shoes.

§  They put the family ring on his finger.

·        In essence he was given honor, status as a son, and the authority of the family.

§  It was as if he had never left… actually he was treated better than if he had never left.

§  And topping it off a little while later he was ushered into a party where he was apparently the guest of honor.

o   At some point, the youngest son had to have had a moment to stop and begin taking this all in.

§  How overwhelming it must have been.

§  To reject your father, your family and selfishly leave with your inheritance.

§  Throw it away on wild living.

§  Then come back looking for a hand-out.

§  He knew he deserved a beating, or shunning or tar and feathering.

§  Not new clothes, renewed status and a party.

§  It was something he just could not understand.

The older son –

·        Meanwhile, the older son was walking back to the house after a long day in the fields.

·        He had a perspective on his younger brother too.

o   Many a time he’d hear his younger brother going on and on about how bad life was under the old man’s roof.

o   His rules, his ways, his house.

o   The older brother found him to be a whinny, ungrateful, spoiled brat; probably all true.

o   When his younger brother left with his portion of the inheritance, a part of the older brother was glad to see him go.

o   He would stay on and prove his loyalty to his father.

o   Albeit, more out of duty than love.

·        And the older brother did just that.  He worked hard at the family business the entire time the younger son was gone; he never let the father down.  He did everything required of him.

·        In his mind he had chalked up a lot of points with him.

·        He had reason to be self-righteous and he was.

·        So as he approached the house that evening, he was curious to hear the sounds of a party going on.

o   It had been awhile since he had heard sounds like that.

o   Laughing, singing, lots of commotion.

o   It sounded like fun, but he was a bit curious.

o   He hadn’t heard of any plans for a party from his father.

o   Why wasn’t he told about the party?

·        Just then one of the family slaves came hurrying by.

o   “What’s going on in there?” he called out.

o   The slave said, “Oh, your brothers’ back.  The father’s ordered a big barbeque and party because he came home safe and sound.”

·        The older brother just about threw up.

o   He felt his stomach climb up over his heart and into his mouth.

o   “Of all the unjust, unfair, undeserved things to do for little bro’ this has to be at the top of the list!  Unbelievable.”

o   He was mad.  He decided he wouldn’t be a part of it at all.

·        His father heard about this and tried to persuade him to come in.

·        But the older brother would have none of it.

o   “Listen,” he said, “I’ve been slaving away on this family farm all this time.  I obey everything you tell me to do or not do.  Yet, you’ve never even given me a package of hamburger to have some friends over for a party.  And then this little conniver comes home after wasting his inheritance on prostitutes and you go all ‘Stuart Andersons’ on him!”

The father –

·        He loved his sons so much.

·        He had provided for them everything they needed out of his wealth and resources.

·        As they were growing up, his favorite thing was to see them learn, grow, experience the joy of living, experience his love for them.

·        The joy of living life with him.

·        He also disciplined them because he loved them; they were his boys, but they weren’t perfect.

·        He saw signs that his youngest was pushing back as he grew older. 

o   It happens. 

o   No surprise.

o   It was very human of him.

·        He understood the younger son’s drive for independence, but it still concerned him.

·        Then one day, his younger son approached him with defiance in his eyes.

o   “I want my inheritance now.  I’m leaving.”

o   So, rather than saying no, he said yes, and let the consequences begin to play out in his son’s life.

o   Probably the only way he could learn now.

·        After his younger son left, the father continued to oversee the family business, continued to provide for his older son and allowed him to be a big part of the family.

·        He loved his older son, but still desired a renewed relationship with his younger son.

·        The younger son’s defiance hurt, but his love for him never subsided.

·        Then one day, he heard from one of his workers that they had seen the younger son approaching the home.

o   The father began walking toward the main road, searching the horizon for a sign of his son.

o   Then, he saw him.

o   He was filled with compassion for him, not anger or bitterness or even the need for justice… he just loved his now broken son.

o   And so he ran,

§  He ran toward his son with arms open wide, with tears of joy, and his heart beating with excitement.

§  His son was home.

§  His son: dirty, smelly, rebellious, broken, broke, rejected by everyone else, the cause of so much hurt and concern over the past months, but still his son… and he was home!

o   When he reached his youngest son the father immediately embraced him, kissed him, and forgave him.

§  The son began to mumble something about not being worthy or whatever, but the father never really heard it.

§  He was to busy giving directions to his slaves:

·        “Get him some of our best new clothes”

·        “Get him some shoes fit for my son”

·        “Get the family ring back on his hand”

·        “Prepare the best grain-feed, organic heifer we have, barbeque it up and let’s have a party!”

·        “My son is home!  He was dead, he was lost, and now he’s alive.  He’s found.”

o   And so the preparations began.

§  He had to chuckle a little as his bewildered son was led off by some of the workers.

§  Sometimes it’s tough to receive extravagant grace especially when its unexpected.

§  The party was a good one with lots of laughter and singing and feasting on the barbequed beast.

§  But then he was told his older son was home and was not happy.

·        So, the father went out to the front of the house and began trying to persuade his oldest son to join them in the party.

o   But he would have nothing to do with it, no matter what the father said.

o   The son felt rejected, ripped off so to speak.

o   He had served his father hard and wondered why he wasn’t given a party for all his obedience and hard work.

o   Hadn’t he more than earned the father’s favor?

o   He deserved the father’s attention, unlike his younger brother the screw up.

·        The father responded,

o   “Son, you are always with me.  What’s mine is yours.  But your brother was dead and now he’s alive.  We had to celebrate.  How could we not?  He was lost and now he’s found.”

Nice story, but so what.

·        It’s important to understand what the story is not about.

o   It’s not about shaking our finger at the foolishness of the younger son.

§  There are many lessons in foolishness to learn from here.

§  We can see how choices we make bring consequences with them.

§  But that isn’t the point.

o   It’s not about trying to justify the older brother’s feelings.

§  In human perspective, maybe he had a right to feel slighted.

§  Maybe the father was unjust in not celebrating the older son more than he did.

§  But that is insignificant in comparison with the true theme of the story.

·        What is the theme?  What was Jesus’ point?

o   The hero of the story is the father.

o   The story isn’t about the sin of the brothers, but the love of the father.

§  The older son missed the point of the father’s grace.

§  We see ourselves in him any time we’re motivated to “do”, trying to prove how loyal and good we are.

§  We identify with the older brother when we forget that our heavenly Father isn’t impressed by even our best efforts.

§  And in our delusion of self-righteousness, our Father loves us even as he corrects our thinking.

o   Our Father God loves prodigals like you and me as well.

§  We are the prodigal in all of his self-centeredness and debauchery.

§  We are the prodigal in his rejection of all the good things found in living as part of God’s family.

·        Illustration: Man who rejects feast to go back to the garbage in the alley.

§  We are the prodigal in his determination that his way was better than the Father’s way.

§  We are the prodigal in his brokenness, in his humility as he approaches his father after screwing everything up… expecting well deserved punishment.

§  But to our surprise the Father gives us grace and mercy and love and compassion and forgiveness that are totally incomprehensible in human thinking.

·        Chances are, in this room some may be thinking, “I can understand how God loves others in their failure, but I can’t see how God can love me in my failure.”

§  But that’s exactly the way it is… I know, it’s hard to comprehend.

§  Even when we don’t understand, the Father extends His love to us.

o   What Jesus has shown us is the picture of a Father God who looks for us, extends His love to us, even if we have turned away from Him on our own.

·        Father’s day brings up different emotions for all of us.

o   On this father’s day, consider the incomprehensible love of our Heavenly Father, our Father God, for you right where you are today.

o   He wants you to know Him, join Him and live in His love as a part of His family.

o   Welcome home!

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