Jesus is the Son of Man
The Prodigal Son
All right! Turn with me in your Bibles, if you will, to Luke chapter 15. As I say every week, if you do not have a Bible or if you need a Bible, please see me after the service and we can help get one into your hands.
Well, last week, we introduced the setting of this passage. Tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus, drawn to him, wanting to hear his teaching and to be on the receiving end of his grace. And as they saw this, the Scribes and Pharisees grumbled about it.
Whether they recognized it or not, they were grumbling at Gods grace. We see what had been happening in Jesus’ ministry. Sinners were welcomed. People were getting healed on the Sabbath. Jesus is claiming the power to forgive sins. Heaven was open to those who would repent and submit themselves to God. But those who think they had no need to repent, those who were self-righteous, they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
“That’s not fair! I did everything right! Why does HE get to get in!” That’s the mindset that Jesus is addressing in these three parables that he tells here. The first two we looked at last week, the lost coin and the lost sheep. And Jesus point was we don’t save us. We don’t even help Jesus save us. Jesus chooses to save us and its all grace, no merit involved at all.
The third parable is the one we will look at this morning as well, the parable of the prodigal Son. Again, Jesus showing that the themes of grace are at complete odds with self-righteousness and pride.
Let’s go ahead and read the passage, Luke chapter 15, verses 11 through 32. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Luke 15:11-32, The Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the Words of Jesus:
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 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. 13 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. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[b] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Thus says the Word of God.
This is one of those well know Bible stories that we have been talking about. We think we know what the story is and what the story is telling us, and we do, partly, mostly, sort of. There are many lessons that we can learn from the prodigal son, the character of the son himself. And that who we tend to focus on. We can learn lessons from the how he deals with his father, his attitude, his heart, how he lives apart from his family and from God. So many of those lessons are right and good lessons, but not a single one of them are ultimately the point of this story.
We start out seeing that this man, this older man, had two sons. And in those days, in that society, using this example of two sons, when the dad dies, each son gets a portion of the dad’s estate, property, animals, etc. The older son, the first born would get a double share. This means that he would get 66% and the younger son would get 33%.
Now, in this case, the son doesn’t want to wait for his dad to die in order to get his share. So, he goes to the dad and says, “Give me my share of your estate now.”
Now we don’t know the exact thoughts going through the sons’ head at that moment. He could have been thinking “Why should I continue working in this apparent dead-end job? I’m not the one who is going to get it.” OR he could have been thinking, “This is too stifling, I have to be true to who I am and follow my bliss, follow my heart and my dreams.” The result is the same, not willing to step up and take responsibility for his life, his work or anything else.
So, he goes to the father and says, Give me what’s my mine! Now, this was not exactly unheard of, but it was pretty close. At the least in was incredibly uncouth for the son to do this. And the father did it. He separated his estate in two sections, 1/3 and 2/3s. He gave his youngest son his third of the inheritance and as one commentator said, and I know a lot of you can identify with this, “the father allowed him to make his own choice to go his own way.” As a parent, especially as the kids get older, that’s the only thing we can do. They need to live their life and unfortunately, make their own mistakes and bad decisions.
Verse 13 indicates that someone liquidated the inheritance. Either the father to make the division cleaner or the son so he could just get going and whoop it up. Either way the son took of a long way away, away from the eyes of family and people that would have known him. He goes far away, like leaving here and headed to Redding or Sacramento or even San Francisco. And he proceeds to spend his money foolishly. He squandered it with reckless living.
Sometimes we see in the Bible, things can be overstated, over emphasis used, telling us to go through the eye of a needle in order to make the point how hard it is to save ourselves. (Spoiler; its literally, physically impossible.)
But I think that here we are seeing the opposite. I think we are seeing some very serious understatement here. The son squandered his money in reckless living. It reads to me like those lottery winners that we all see the stories for. Winning millions and hundreds of millions of dollars and being bankrupt within just a few years.
Just in case things are unclear, especially with the ultimate point of these three parables we are looking at last week and this week, our decisions absolutely have consequences. Just because we cannot save or help save ourselves, that it is 100% God in every way shape and form, just because he is sovereign and predestined all things and controls all things from the grand universe to the tiniest of Atoms, and decrees all things, does not mean that we are puppets, that our decisions don’t matter. We make our decisions day by day, moment by moment how we live, how we act, how we respond to what’s going on around us and inside of us.
And this younger son, he made his decisions. He was willfully defiant. He was a lost cause who wanted to be lost. And he lost all his money. He spent it all. It was all gone. He had nothing. And then, after he had lost all his money, a famine hit hard. So, he had no food. Not things were tight. Not he had to go to the local food pantry. He had no food.
And so, he did the only thing he was able to do. He, a Jewish man, hired himself out to a gentile pig farmer. The pig, of course, being the symbol, the epitome of unclean animals. IT seemed like the lowest of lows.
His self-made circumstances, no money, no food, combined with Gods sovereign circumstances, the famine and so on, both combined to bring this main to what seemed like it was the lowest point that the man could ever get to.
He sacrificed his dignity. He sacrificed his respect. He sacrificed his religious convictions. And then it got so bad, that he was looking at the slop he was feeding the pigs and was jealous of how well they were eating. He wanted to eat as well as them, which was not well, make no mistake.
And then, what could be said next in the text, what is true and based on the context of the parables, I believe is implied, is “But God…”
The text says that he came to himself. He “came to” as if awakening from a spiritual coma. He woke up as “awoken from God, by the Power of the Holy Spirit.” He was at his lowest point, but God wouldn’t let him stay there. God brought him to his senses.
He thought, I remember the people that worked for my dad. I remember the servants. Even the servants! And they were eating good! They got everything they needed and more. I will go back to my dad; I will repent, and I will beg his forgiveness.
I will tell him, I’m not worthy to be forgiven. I’m not worthy to be called your son. I’m not worthy to be even a lowly servant. I have sinned against you and heaven. I can imagine God bringing a little piece if the scriptures to his mind and heart at that moment, maybe PS 51:4 where David says that all sin is against God.
So, he gets up and starts making his way back to his father’s home. But before he gets there, we see something else. We see that the father, since the son has been gone, he has been actively looking, actively searching for him, actively waiting for him to come back home.
He saw his son while he was still a far way off, just as God sees us when we are still spiritually a far way off. The father saw his son in the distance and ran to him. He embraced him, and grabbed hold of him, again, just as God does to us, to every sinner who repents.
As we established last week at the end, we are loved and received by God before we ever make that decision to repent and trust in him. The son hadn’t even gotten there and hadn’t even said anything, but the father already loved him and received him back. We always have a home with God if and when we are willing to repent and turn ourselves our to his grace and mercy.
The son, of course, started to recite his spiel that he had rehearsed. But his father wouldn’t have any of it. He sent for his best robe, for a ring, and some shoes. The son didn’t even have any shoes… But he was reconciled back and welcomed back a s a full member of the family. He was welcomed, he was loved, and he was forgiven by the father. He was also rejoiced over.
The father tells his servants, go prepare the fattened calf for a partay! And to be clear, just in case it needs to be said, the party and the celebration, were in thanksgiving to God, not a godless, self-indulgence party. Just as verses 7 & 10 tell us that there is much rejoicing in Heaven over a sinner who repents.
The son was dead, now he is alive again! Just as Adam sinned and brought spiritual death to the human condition, so too did Jesus, the Second Adam, makes us spiritually alive, bringing us a new heart and a new spirit through the Holy Spirit.
We then are born again. Was dead, now alive. Was lost, now found. Time to celebrate.
But not everyone was happy.
The older son, remember him? He was out in the field working, as he always was. He was dutiful, he was responsible, he was hardworking. He heard the singing and dancing and asked what was going on. What’s the big hullaballoo?
“Your brother is back, and your dad is throwing a party because he is all the way back! He is safe and sound and back a part of the family!”
Well, make no mistake, the brother was angry! Just like the Pharisees grumbling about the tax collectors and sinners. The brother wouldn’t take part in the celebration. He couldn’t bring himself to be happy for the brother. The Father came out and tried to bring him in to join. Tried to get him to be happy for his father and his brother.
The brother lashed out: “It’s not fair! He left. He hurt my father. He squandered his opportunity. Not me! I never left. I have been loyal and steadfast. I followed the rules. I have been responsible.” “It’s not fair! You never threw me a party. You never slaughtered the fattened calf for me!”
But the fathers love and forgiveness were great and unconditional. He was brought back in the fold like nothing ever happened.
Now, when we look at application of some of these parables, one of the biggest things we need to remember is that we are not Jesus. We can’t and shouldn’t automatically do the exact and complete things that Jesus does in these stories.
Is this story an example of how we should always run a business? No.
Is this an example of how we should, without exception, run our family and personal relationships? No.
There are times and places to draw lines. There are times to remember that we are called to forgive, but not forget. There are times to reward loyalty and dedication and steadfastness.
But that’s not how God’s grace works in relation to salvation. God’s grace is scandalous. It is undeserved. It is unfair from the world’s perspective.
It reminds me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20. In Sinclair Fergusons book, The Whole Christ, he talks about this parable and the scandalous Ness of God’s grace. He points out that its not until the workers who showed up early and worked all day long, not until they saw the workers at the end of the day get the same pay, they did, it was only then that they got upset. It was Gods grace that revealed hidden legalism in their hearts.
That mindset, “I deserve it! Especially because they didn’t deserve it and they got it. So, I should especially get it because I deserve it.” This subtle form of Legalism is heading in all of our hearts.
We see in verses 30 that the older brother won’t even calls him his brother, he just spits it out in disgust, “That son of yours…”
The Father responds, the grace I show him has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t affect you one bit. It doesn’t take away anything from you. Other people being saved doesn’t take away anything from your salvation. Them receiving grace does not take away from grace you already received.
We see in this part of the story that Jesus is still and will continue to call the Pharisees to repent and join him in the kingdom of Heaven. The offer never stops being presented. The plea never stops being made.
The father tells the older brother, it is right and proper to rejoice. It is right and proper to rejoice over your brother coming back home. It is right and proper to rejoice in each and every one of us who was lost and is now found. Each and every one of us who was dead and is now alive.
The father is telling the son, I believe, that if you repent and come to me, we will rejoice for you as well. For then you will have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life and will be brought home.
God often will bring us through the far country in order to wake us up and bring us home. And we see this, and we see How Great the fathers love for us. That we will always be welcome home. That he will never stop actively looking for us, searching for us and waiting for us.
We also need to remember that as often as we put ourselves in the younger brothers’ shoes, more often Id says, we are actually in the older brothers’ shoes. God, I’m doing this work for you. I’m loving you and serving you and being loyal and steadfast. Why don’t I get more grace, more mercy, more whatever?
That heart of ours is an idol factory and that is one of them. That’s one of the reasons that Jesus tells us we need to remember. He is constantly reminding us of his grace and mercy and that it is freely given, as Mike read this morning, so that no man may boast.
And so, we remember. Constantly, regularly. We do it every first Sunday of the month. We remember and we know that we are in his hands because we have responded by faith to his death on cross and resurrection. God grace poured out on those covered with his blood, the blood of the lamb, come to take away the sins of the world. He instead he spares us from the wrath of God.
He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Before he did this, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.
We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.
Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper, and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.
Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.
First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.