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Archive for the ‘Luke 15’ Category

We are looking at Luke 15:11-32 this morning and the story of the prodigal son.

The point

. . . of this parable is easy enough to discern. The verses right before it set the context for understanding it: Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”

  • Jesus is receiving and eating with repentant sinners; people who have intentionally disregarded God and knowingly done what was wrong.
  • The Pharisees do not approve of this; people who have tried to keep God’s will.

This is the situation that is being dealt with in the whole of Luke chapter 15.

Then in Luke 15:3-10 come the twin parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin – which comment on this situation. Yes, there are those who are not lost – the 99 sheep and the 9 coins, but when the one that was lost is found there is rejoicing. Even rejoicing in heaven among the angels.

Then in our text we have:

  • The younger son’s repentance which is celebrated
  • And the elder son, who grumbles about this

So, you can see how these all line up, and what corresponds to what:

prodigal context

So all these parables refer back to the situation of Jesus and the Pharisees and comment on it.

The point of our parable, then, is that it is right to welcome and celebrate sinners who repent.

  • The father celebrates his son’s repentance. In vs. 23-24 he said, “Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
  • The father tells his older son that it is right to do this. In v. 32 he said, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

Now, beyond this central point – there is much that we can learn from this parable about repentance, and we have looked at it in this light.

There is also something to learn about how those who have sought to be faithful and have been serving God for years, should be welcoming to repentant sinners, and rejoice for them, despite their years of sin and failure.

And there is also much to be learned about God’s love. And this is our focus today. And to get to this, first we look at . .

The love of the father in this parable

He is actually the central figure of the story. It begins and ends with him, and he is the thread that holds the two parts together, first with his younger son and then his elder son. So lets look at his love:

1. The father’s love endures rejection. His son’s request was highly unusual, indeed insulting to the father. You only get your inheritance when your father is dead! And so the son is, as it were, treating his father as if he is already dead. And he just wants his money. He doesn’t care about his father, only what he can get out of him.

But the father grants his wish. V. 12 – says “he divided his property between them,” that is the two sons.

2. The father’s love accepts his son when he repents. Even though the father knew his son was wasting his own hard earned resources and squandering his good gifts . . ..

Even though he knew that his son was debasing himself:

  • using the money on prostitutes (v. 30)
  • sinking to the lowest possible point for a Jew, caring for pigs which are unclean animals
  • and being so hungry that he longed for their food . . ..

Even with all this, when the father saw his son coming v. 20 says,

  • he “felt compassion”
  • he “ran and embraced him”
  • he “kissed him”

This kind of display of affection was unusual in this cultural context. It shows the intensity of his love for his son. And this despite all that his son had done wrong.

The father’s love survived all the insult and pain and was there waiting for him as he returned from far away and from his foolishness. It was waiting to accept him.

3. The fathers’ love is full of mercy. He gives him so much more than he deserves, given all that he has done. V. 22 speaks of . . .

  • “the best robe”
  • “a ring” (a symbol of authority)
  • and “shoes”

All of these items speak to a certain social status. The father is proclaiming him to be his son and not a servant. (The son had only hoped to be accepted back as a servant).

And then the father welcomes him with a party – v. 23. The fattened calf is brought out, reserved only for the most special of occasions.

4. The father’s love is patient with the elder brothers grumbling. The elder son objected to the party. In fact, he insults his father by not taking part. Even though the father pleaded with him.

Yet the father is patient and only gently rebukes him. He says in v. 32, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad . .  ..” The father is saying, ‘He’s your brother! And something amazingly good has just happened.’

5. The father’s love rewards the faithful service of his elder son. In v. 31 he says to his elder son who has worked for him so long and so hard, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.”

This shows us again that sin has consequences. The younger son’s inheritance was still all gone. But the point here is that the father honors faithfulness. Everything the father has is his elder son’s. He is blessed for his faithfulness.

Our heavenly Father’s love for us

Now, the father in this parable certainly represents to us our heavenly Father. So let’s see what we can learn from him about the love of God:

1. God’s love endures our rejection of him. So often we dishonor God by making our own choices that go against God and God’s way. But yet, like the prodigal son, we want what we can get out of God. When we get in trouble or there is an emergency we call for God’s help.

But despite our all this, our heavenly father’s love for us endures.

2. God’s love accepts us when we repent. No matter how much we have rejected God, no matter how much we have debased ourselves, no matter how much we have squandered God’s gifts to us – when we come to our senses and come to him in repentance – God is there to welcome us with affection and love.

3. God’s love is full of mercy to us. Our heavenly father gives us so much more than we deserve. When we come in repentance –

  • He blesses us with gifts
  • He calls us his children
  • and there is rejoicing in heaven

None of which we deserve.

4. God’s love is patient with us when we grumble. Although we all live out the prodigal son’s story to some degree, since we understand that we have all sinned against God, we can also all find ourselves in the place of the elder son.

Perhaps you were raised as a Christian, or at least you’ve been a Christian for many years – serving God and seeking to do what is right.

And we become proud and un-accepting of those who have lived truly sinful lifestyles for years. All the attention and fuss that is made over them. We’ve been toiling in silence for years!

Yet God lovingly and gently admonishes us to rejoice with those who have come to their senses; to welcome them.

5. God’s love rewards us for faithful service. God’s grace to those who have wasted so much of their lives in sin, will not cheat anyone out of God’s blessings. No one needs to fret or be upset.

If we have truly been faithful, God will be faithful to bless us for all that we do for him.

So we learn much about God’s love to us in this parable – when we are walking in sin, when we come to God in repentance and when we are faithful as well. God loves us with an amazing love!

William Higgins

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We are planning a special outreach event on March 22nd – Bring a Friend Sunday. That is, a friend who is not yet a Christian, or a Christian who doesn’t already have a home church.

The idea is to bring in some visitors and make some connections. We want to reach out.

So I want to share some teaching this morning to help us get focused on outreach and our need to be thinking, praying and acting to “Seek out the Lost.” This comes from Jesus’ example and his teaching.

1. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to seek out the lost

 This is what Jesus says about himself in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus is teaching us that God sent him for this very reason. This was Jesus’ mission; the focus of his existence; why he came to earth.

The purpose of Jesus was “to seek out and save the lost.”

2. Jesus was not satisfied that some were lost

Remember the parable of lost sheep? Jesus said in Luke 15:4-5 – “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

And then remember the parable of the lost coin? Jesus said in Luke 15:8 – “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?”

These parables teach us, among other things, that

  • Jesus was not satisfied with the 99 sheep who were fine
  • Jesus was not content with the 9 coins already accounted for 

-all of us who come here regularly and seek to follow Jesus.

He was not satisfied because one was still missing.

3. Jesus worked hard to seek the lost

To use the language of the parable of the lost sheep, he had to “go after” the lost one – Luke 15:5.

He didn’t stand next to the 99 and yell out to the lost one, “come on over here!” He didn’t say, “that sheep knows where we are, let him come and join us if he wants to.”

As the parable pictures, he had to do something. He had to work. He left the 99. He went after the one, walking and looking, seeking it out.

To use the language of the parable of the lost coin, he had to “seek diligently” to find that which was lost –  Luke 15:8.

He didn’t figure that one day the coin would simply show up. That someone would stumble across it.

As the parable pictures, he did something. He had to work. He lit a lamp, he swept the house and he searched carefully.

Searching for what is lost requires work. It can be tiresome, inconvenient and frustrating, but Jesus did it nevertheless.

Jesus sought the lost even though it was hard work.

4. Jesus sought the lost even though many were undesirable or unlike him 

  • The sheep were no doubt dirty, muddy, bleeding or sick.
  • The coin was no doubt dusty, dirty and covered with cobwebs.

Jesus sought out tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.

  • These were people that did things that were wrong and offensive.
  • These were people that were different from him; from a different background and a different social setting.

Yet he sought them and welcomed them – Luke 15:2.

Even though the lost were often undesirable and unlike him, Jesus sought them out anyway.

5. Jesus sought the lost even though others didn’t approve

Luke 15:2 says, “And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” And not only that, since Jesus was with sinners, they began to call him a glutton and a drunkard – Luke 7:34. It ruined his reputation.

But Jesus was not deterred, for though

  • He made some people mad
  • He made the angels in heaven rejoice

As Jesus said in Luke 15:10, “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Jesus sought the lost even though others did not approve.

6. Jesus sought the lost even though many rejected him

Mark 6:1-6 tells the story of how his hometown rejected him and they asked him, “Who do you think you are?”

Matthew 8:28-34 tells the story of how Jesus healed a demon possessed man, and how afterwards the people of the town asked Jesus to leave. “Can you leave us alone!”

The truth is most people ended up rejecting Jesus, but he sought out the lost anyway.

7. Jesus sought the lost because he loved them

Matthew 9:36 says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus felt for them and their situation; he had compassion.

And so in Matthew 10:6 (right after this) he sends his disciples to “go . . . to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His love moved him to send out his disciples to help him find the lost.

Jesus sought the lost because he loved them.

Sisters and brothers, as we see in this last verse . . .

We are to be like our Lord and seek out the lost as well

1. Like Jesus our purpose is to seek out the lost. Jesus sends us out to finish what he came to do. This is our mission statement; the very focus of our existence – to seek out the lost.

2. Like Jesus we cannot be satisfied that some are lost. We can’t be satisfied with the 99 sheep that are found, or with the 9 coins already in the purse. With those who already have found Jesus.

  • We cannot be satisfied because one is missing
  • We cannot be satisfied until what is lost is found

3. Like Jesus we are to work hard to seek out the lost. We have to go out. They will not come to us. They are, after all, lost. Which by definition means they don’t know their way back! They can’t find their way to us.

Searching can be tiresome, inconvenient and frustrating. But nevertheless, we are to do the work that is necessary to seek out the lost.

4. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost, even though many are undesirable or unlike us. They are dirty, as it were, from their very lostness (which, by the way, we were as well in our lostness). They come from different walks of life than we are familiar with.

Yet we are still to seek them out and welcome them.

5. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost even if some do not approve or grumble that we do so, or slander our reputation.

We do this because we know that the very angels of God rejoice when the lost are found.

6. Like Jesus we are to seek the lost, even if it brings us rejection. So that people say to us, “Who do you think you are?” Or, they tell us, “Go away!”

Most people will not respond to us, but we seek out the lost anyway.

7. Finally, like Jesus we are to seek the lost because we love them. They are harassed and helpless and need a Shepherd. And so we must act. And in acting we reveal our love for them.

We show them the path to Jesus and to new life and new hope.
______________

Now I know that many of us are intimidated by this, and so we are reluctant to reach out on our own.

And that’s why we are providing you with, what is a fairly simple way to do this – to invite a friend to church for a special service and a meal.

We want you to begin this week by thinking and praying about who you might ask. And then when you have the person or persons in mind, to begin to pray for them.

This is where you can start, and then next week, I’ll have some more information for you.

William Higgins

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