The Prodigal Son Luke 15:1-2, Before we start, I have some questions for you: In this parable, who does the younger son

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1 I. Introduction: The Prodigal Son Luke 15:1-2, Before we start, I have some questions for you: In this parable, who does the younger son March 29, 2009 represent? Sinners (tax collectors) How about the older son? (Pharisees, teachers of the law (scribes) ) How about the Father? (God-the Father) By the time we come to this set of parables, Jesus has been ministering for almost 3 years; His grand entrance into Jerusalem Palm Sunday is only about a month away. Knowing that His time was near, Jesus wasn t pulling any punches. He wanted to be perfectly clear. As we saw in the first 2 verses of chapter 15, the Pharisees appeared to be baffled. Either they still didn t understand what Jesus was doing or they didn t really care. So to answer their comments about eating with sinners, Jesus told them 3 parables relating to lost things; a sheep, a coin, and a son. This morning let s look at the third parable, the one we usually call the Parable of the Prodigal Son. A better name might be the Parable of the Loving Father. Unlike the people in the first 2 parables who went looking for what they had lost, in this parable the father doesn t go out looking for his son, but he keeps watching for him. In this parable it is the memory of the father s goodness that brings the younger son, the lost son, to repentance and forgiveness. II. The Younger Son We see the younger son go through 3 different stages or experiences. First there is A. Rebellion According to Jewish law, the elder son in a family receives twice as much inheritance as any of the other sons in a family. Also, according to Jewish law if he wanted to, a father could distribute his wealth during his lifetime. The younger son had a legal right to ask for his share of the estate. But in this parable, he doesn t request his share, he demanded it! It was like saying I wish you were dead. By receiving his share in advance, the son forfeited his claim to the estate when his father would die. In addition he lost his name, his standing and even his prestige in the community in which he was raised. He was completely cut off and he was regarded as dead. In spite of all that, the son wanted his share and his father gave it to him. Now he was on his own and free to go. His slogan could have been: Have Money, Will travel. So away he went. But life in the far country was not what he expected. His resources ran out and with no money, his fair-weather friends left him. Then a famine came, and the younger son was forced to do for a stranger what he would not do for his father go to work! Since his job was feeding unclean animals pigs he probably was working for a Gentile and probably wasn t even allowed to celebrate the Sabbath. Because of the famine, his daily food

2 was insufficient to keep him from being hungry all the time. He even longed to eat the food given to the unclean pigs. This scene in the story is Jesus way of emphasizing what sin really does in the lives of those who reject God the Father s will. Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery. As Jesus said in John 8:34, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Sin promises success but it only leads to failure; it promises life, but as it says in Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death. The boy thought he would find himself, but he only lost himself. He had looked for human kindness but found none. Because of this he went from rebellion to repentance. B. Repentance To repent means to change one s mind, and that is what the young man did as he cared for the pigs. He began to think about his father how he had hurt him, how his father had provided him with the inheritance that he had wasted. He talked to himself pigs are great conversationalists. He said, How many of my father s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! He compared himself, not to the servants who were in steady employment but to the temporary help. Hired men, such as he was to his present employer, were living like royalty at his father s farm. When things were as black as possible, the young man came to his senses he changed his mind about himself and his situation, and admitted that he was a sinner. He realized that his father was a generous man and that service at home was far better than freedom in the far country. As it says in Romans 2:4, It is God s goodness, not just man s badness, that leads us to repentance. But if he hadn t done anything else except think about the what if s, the lost son would have experienced regret and nothing else. His resolutions were good, but nothing would have happened if he didn t act on them. True repentance leads to action not just thought. If repentance is truly a saving repentance, the sinner must go to God and put his faith in Jesus Christ. He must recognize that he can t do anything on his own. C. Rejoicing Then we see the results of the young man s repentance rejoicing. The father not only ran to welcome his son, but he honored his son s homecoming by preparing a great feast and inviting the village to attend. The father didn t even permit his son to finish his confession; he interrupted him, forgave him, and ordered the celebration to begin. In the East, old men do not run it shows a lack of dignity and decorum a lack of self-respect, especially when this occurs in public view of the villagers. But there were reasons for the father to ignore protocol. One obvious reason was his love for his son and his desire to show his love. Another reason is that the prodigal son had brought disgrace to his family and village and if anyone could shield him from the 2

3 verbal and perhaps physical abuse he might receive, it was his father, who had rushed toward him and provided protection. The father threw his arms around his son and kissed him. He accepted him back as a member of the family before the son could so much as fall before him as a slave and kiss his feet, or bend his knee and kiss his father s hand. By kissing him, the father made it known to his son and everyone else that he still considered him his son. Therefore, when the young man wanted to utter his speech and say that he would like to be employed as a hired man on his father s farm, he no longer could do so. The father had ruled that out by kissing him. But the son did confess his sin. Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. The young man spoke the truth. He was no longer worthy because of his past; he had forfeited every right to son-ship. The father s love forced the son to let go of his carefully rehearsed plan to work for him as a hired man. The father forgave his sins, accepted him back as a son, and this ended any thought of working on the farm as temporary help. The feast was the father s way of showing his joy and sharing it with others. Had the boy been dealt with according to the Law, there would have been a funeral, not a feast (Deut. 21:18-21). That s why it s interesting to see the father s description of his son s experiences: he was dead and is now alive; he was lost but now is found. This is the spiritual experience of every lost sinner who comes to God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ. When you repent from your sins and make Jesus Lord of your life, you, like the son, will be forgiven and welcomed home. III. The Older Son At this point the scribes and the Pharisees must have felt relieved Jesus hadn t said anything about them. For once they had escaped his judgment He had centered His attention on the publicans and sinners. But Jesus hadn t forgotten that the father had an older son. His firstborn had been a faithful son who took personal interest in the farm. Of course, the son knew that he was the heir. He served his father well. And his father appreciated his hard work. But the elder brother has broken both of God s commands he didn t love God (represented by the father in the story) and he didn t love his brother. Just like the Pharisees, the elder brother would not forgive his younger brother for wasting his inheritance and he wouldn t forgive his father for forgiving his younger brother. He was self-righteous, he could definitely see the sins of his brother, but couldn t see his own sin. He was full of pride. He had served his father and never disobeyed. But his heart wasn t in his work. He did it to please and impress his father; not as a labor of love. The same father who had run to meet the prodigal came out of the house of feasting to plead with the older son. How gracious and patient he was with his son just as God is gracious and patient with us. Even though the father explained that he was willing to have a feast for the older boy and his friends and that 3

4 everything the father had belonged to the older son, the older son remained angry and would not go in. He stayed outside and pouted. He was missing the joy of forgiving this brother and restoring the broken relationship. He was missing the joy of pleasing his father and uniting the family again. The father had the last word, so we do not know how the story ended. But we do know that, in real life, the scribes and Pharisees continued to oppose Jesus and separated themselves from his followers and soon were instrumental in Christ s arrest and death. In spite of God the Father s pleadings, they would not come in. IV. Application It was Jesus intention to describe the attitude of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law and the attitude of God the Father towards the Pharisees and towards the tax collectors and prostitutes as well as the Pharisees. He wanted to show them why he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus portrayed the love of the father for his sons in order to make it very clear that God s love is infinite. Like you, Jesus listeners recognized God in the person of the father. The father s attitude in the parable is representative of God s forgiving love toward any, and all, sinners who repent. The father celebrated with his neighbors the return of his son, in Luke 15:10, Jesus said, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, at one time, you were the younger son. You had left God to do your own thing but really, as you know, you were doing what the devil wanted. But you heard the call of the Holy Spirit. Like the lost son, you knew that you were a sinner; as Romans 3:23 says, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You understood that there was no way into heaven but through the love of God; Romans 5:8 says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. As John 3:16 says, you knew that God loved you and sent His Son to die in your place. All you had to do was to have faith in God and believe and give your life to God. Then God welcomed you into His family and the angels celebrated over your home coming. But Jesus showed God s genuine love and care, not only toward the repentant sinner but also toward his obedient child. He asked the religious leaders of His day to celebrate and be glad along with God when a moral or social outcast repents; when any sinner repents. Like the Pharisees, this parable is a warning to us those who have loved God and obeyed Him and served Him for years. We need to be glad when a person repents and gives his life to Jesus. Unlike the Pharisees we need to reach out to everyone not just people like us. We need to celebrate the saving of one soul, regardless of their pedigree. Tabernacle Baptist Church is well-known for being a loving and caring congregation. We need to guard ourselves so that we continue to welcome others to join us. But not only by being friendly this is a 4

5 good thing we also need to be telling others of the only way one can have eternal life. For some people, you may be the only Christian they know. Your life is a witness to them about being a Christian, but more than that, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, you must Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. Are you ready? Do you know the magician duo Penn and Teller? About a month ago someone sent me a video on YouTube made by Penn he s the larger man who does all the talking during their magic show. He told about how after one of his shows a man, who knew that Penn was an atheist, came up to him. After introducing himself as a Christian, the man gave Penn a Bible so that he could read it in his spare time. To those watching the video, the atheist Penn said that, although he didn t believe anything in the Bible or heaven or hell, he appreciated the man s concern. Penn said, If you believe that without God a man will spend eternity in hell, how much must you hate that man to not tell him about God and His love. The Pharisees weren t telling others about God why not? How about you do people see God in you? Are you ready to tell them how they can have eternal life? Do you care? 5

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