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A LOST SON
By Dale D. Meredith
March 11, 2018
University Baptist Church
790 Dodge Road
Getzville, NY 14068

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Good News Bible, The Bible in Today’s English Version, copyright ©1976 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.

1 One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, 2 the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, "This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!" 3 So Jesus told them this parable:
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11 Jesus went on to say, "There was once a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to him, 'Father, give me my share of the property now.' So the man divided his property between his two sons. 13 After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. 14 He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. 15 So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. 16 He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. 17 At last he came to his senses and said, 'All my father's hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! 18 I will get up and go to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against God and against you. 19 I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers."' 20 So he got up and started back to his father.

"He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son, and kissed him. 21 'Father,' the son said, 'I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.' 22 But the Father called to his servants, 'Hurry! he said. 'Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. 23 Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! 24 For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.' And so the feasting began.  (Luke 15:1-3, 11-24)

Parables had a simplicity which made more demands on spiritual insight and readiness to repent than most people were prepared to face. Jesus used “miracles” as “signs” of the kingdom to be seen and “parables” as “signs” of the kingdom to be heard. Last week we examined how Jesus used miracles to validate His ministry. Today we will examine a parable to show that His teaching ministry is important.

LUKE CHAPTER 15

1 One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, 2 the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, "This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!" 3 So Jesus told them this parable:  Verse 3 indicates that all of Luke chapter 15 is one parable with four parts.

A LOST SHEEP: Jesus said that if man had 100 sheep and lost one of his sheep he would look for that one sheep that was lost until he found it. He would then want to celebrate with his friends. Jesus continued, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine respectable people who do not need to repent.” Jesus continued the parable with an example of a woman.

A LOST COIN: If a woman lost one of her ten coins she would look carefully everywhere until she found it. Her response would be like the response of the man. She would then want to celebrate with her friends and neighbors. Again, Jesus closed this part of the parable with “the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents.” Jesus is emphasizing the joy of everyone who finds something that had been lost. Jesus may have paused, but he did not stop.

A LOST SON: Jesus went on to tell the next part of the parable which we read a few minutes ago. The younger of two sons asked his father for his share of the inheritance. From Deuteronomy 21:17 we learn that the eldest son was to receive a double portion. Thus, the younger son was to receive one-third for the estate and the older son was to receive two-thirds. This was an insult to the father. The inheritance of the estate was to be after his death. The younger son was insulting his father and saying, “I consider you to be dead and I don’t want to be associated with you.” However, the father divided his property between his two sons. After a few days the younger son had sold his part of the property and moved far away where he foolishly wasted his money.

There was an economic downturn and the only job he could find was to feed and care for pigs which Jews considered to be religiously unclean. Pigs can also be very physically unclean. The arrogant, wealthy, popular young man soon became a dirty, smelly, lonely young man. He was so hungry he wanted to eat what he was feeding the pigs. That is about as low as you can go. It is worse than eating from garbage cans and dumpsters.

One day when he thought he was about to starve, he remembered that his father’s hired workers had more than they could eat. He decided that he would “get up and go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. 19 I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers. 20 So he got up and started back.” (Luke 15:18-20).’” He had sinned against God because God had commanded for children to respect their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16) and he had insulted his father. He had been going away from his father. He now went toward his father. He had turned around. He had repented because repent means to change directions by turning and going in the opposite direction.

His father was waiting, watching, and wanting his son to come home. He saw him a long way down the road. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son began to confess to his father. The father was so happy his son had returned he put the best robe on him to show how he loved him. Jacob had loved Joseph more than his other eleven sons. He had given Joseph a special robe (Genesis 37:3). The father wasn’t done. He put a ring on the son’s finger. The pharaoh had given Joseph his signature ring when he made Joseph second in authority in Egypt (Genesis 41:42-44). The son could now act with the authority of his father. The father had more. He put shoes on the son’s feet. From Ruth 4:7-8 we learn that after Elimelech had died his nearest relative gave his sandal to Boaz to indicate that Boaz had purchased, and now owned, the property of Elimelech. With the shoes, the father indicated that his son now owned what the father owned. The father’s house would be the son’s home. But the father wasn’t done yet.

The father ordered the prize calf to be killed and a celebration feast to be arranged at once. Goats and sheep were the primary animals eaten. The killing and eating of a prize calf represented an extravagant festival feast. Only the best was sufficient for the celebration for this son who had been lost, but now had been found (Luke 15:23-24). The joy of the father was greater than the joy of the owner of a sheep and the owner of a coin. A son was much more important than an animal or a piece of metal.

Jesus had not yet completed the parable.

FOUND OUT: The older son had been out working. He was doing what he thought the father wanted done. He worked hard at obeying his father. At the end of the day when he came close to the house he could hear the joy expressed in music and laughter. He discovered from a servant that his brother had come home, and the father had killed the prize calf to celebrate. The older brother was so angry he wouldn’t go into the house.

The father came out and begged him to come join the celebration. But the older son “spoke back to his father, 'Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends!’” (Luke 15:29). Then he accused his younger brother of wasting his father’s property on an immoral lifestyle and then doing nothing to earn the right to come home and be treated as his father was treating him. The father tried to explain that everything he owned was for the older son. The father had divided the property between the sons (Luke 15:12). What was left really belonged to the older son. He hadn’t used it and enjoyed it even though it was his with the father.

Whereas the younger son had been found, the older son was found out. The older son behaved as the grumbling Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. As a sign of his self-centeredness, he used “I,” “me,” or “my” five times in three sentences trying to explain why he deserved better treatment than his brother. He didn’t understand or love his father. He didn’t love his brother. He thought property and things were more important than his brother. He thought he had to earn what was already his. He though he was better and deserved more than his brother. 

CONCLUSIONS

Jesus came to do the will of the Father. It is important that we study His birth, crucifixion and resurrection. They contribute much to our understanding of God. However, between His birth and resurrection He did and taught much that also contributes to our knowledge and understanding of God. Jesus was best able to “explain” God because He was God the Son. In John 14:9 He stated that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus acted and taught to show and tell us what God was like, how God loved us, how God wanted us to accept Him, what God wanted us to do. This parable from Luke chapter 15 is a “sign” of the kingdom to be heard. There is so much that we could glean from this parable. Today I will only mention four very important things we see in this parable.

First, God loves everyone, and He wants everyone to receive His love and presence in their lives. He loved and received the son who came to Him in confession and faith. He was waiting, watching, and met the son before the son could make it all the way to Him. He does that for each of us. He loved and wanted the older son to obey the rules, but He wanted more that the older son would love Him and join Him in loving and celebrating when a brother comes home to Him. The father went out even at an inconvenient time during the celebration to beg the older brother to join the celebration.

Second, the parable shows the kind of repentance the Father responds to. The younger son came to his father totally yielded to do whatever the father wanted. He had nothing to offer but himself and his willingness to do what the father wanted. The son realized and confessed that he had sinned and asked for his father’s assistance. He realized that he didn’t deserve it and he couldn’t earn it. God accepted him.

Third, the parable shows how the Father responds to repentance. The father did not respond with harsh, condemning judgments or punishment. There is no need to be afraid to approach God or to confess sin, mistakes, or inabilities. He accepted the young man as a beloved son. He showed the son love, trust, and continuing presence. The son could share the father’s house and the father celebrated with his friends that the son had come home.

Fourth, with God there is a lot of celebration. Being with God is not all negative and rules. Legalism is not the rule of the day. Love and celebration is the theme in God’s house. Life with God is to be enjoyed.

There is much more, but if we can grasp these four things we will know God better and be better able to serve Him.