Sunday, February 25, 2007



We come to the third parable of the lost. Jesus has shared the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and now the lost son. This is by far the most popular of the three. In this story Jesus takes it to a human level—the dynamics between a father and his two sons.
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father. 

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

"'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

This is so familiar that I’ll let the story speak for itself. What I want to do is to deal with the three characters—the lost son, the son who stayed at home and the father.

FIRST—The younger son took his inheritance and squandered it all. He ended up working for someone else and found himself wallowing along with the pigs. He woke up and made the decision to go home and see if he could possibly work for his dad as servant, because he knew that being a servant for his dad was so much better than hanging out with his pig friends.
When he came home, his father greeted him enthusiastically. He interrupts his son’s rehearsed speech and ordered the servants to prepare for a celebration. He ordered them to bring four things—the best robe to honor him, a ring to signify his rich love for his son, sandals as a sign of a freeman as opposed to a slave and a fatted calf that had been specially fed in order to be ready for a special occasion.

SECOND—The older son who never left and squandered his wealth, but continued to stay at home and do what he was supposed to do. However, what we have here is not just one son who was in the wrong, but two.

There are two types of sinners mentioned in this story. There was the younger son who really blew it and squandered his father’s wealth. And there was the older son who was more of a hypocritical son in the family. The younger son sinned against his father and admitted his wrongs. The older brother had anchored himself in Pharisaical self-righteousness. The younger obviously disregarded his father’s love and yet the older also disregarded the love of his father. He didn’t appreciate what he had. The younger was honest and the older is extremely hypocritical.

THIRD—The father was father not only to the prodigal son, but to the Pharisaical son. He had to face two kinds of failures in his family and did so very well.

There are, at least, 4 basic lessons in this story:

1. When there is true repentance, God exuberantly extends His love.
2. God's great love is for all sinners—no matter their stance before Him.
3. God desires sons more than servants.
4. God’s love is unconditional. You can’t do anything to turn His love away.

This third parable paints a good picture of God’s attitude toward those who are lost. The father in this story is the God-like figure for us. All three parables on those who are lost—the sheep, the coin and the prodigal son—should set in concrete two revolutionary thoughts about God and His attitude toward you.

FIRST—God is relentlessly pursuing you with His love. He will do anything He has to do to connect with you.

SECOND—God loves you no matter what! This is nailed down by Paul’s words in the letter he wrote to the followers of Jesus who live in Rome. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”