The last time we were together studying the parables of Jesus, we took a look at the first two parables in the series of the parables of the lost found in Luke 15. We saw the shepherd go looking for the lost sheep and we met the woman who tore her house apart looking for the lost coin. We didn’t have time to take a look at the third parable in the series–the parable of the lost son, or better known as the Prodigal Son. I want us to spend all of our time this morning taking a look at the parable of the Prodigal Son because, for so many of us, it’s more than a story, it’s a painful reminder of how we’ve either been a prodigal, have a prodigal son or daughter, or have loved a prodigal at some time in the past.
Is there a more painful experience as a parent than to have a prodigal? I know that I have always heard that nothing is worse for a parent than to have to deal with the death of a child. I’ve been with some of those parents and I cannot imagine a greater grief. I also know many parents of prodigals and what they describe is much like death—the death of the child they once knew, the death of a relationship they once shared, and the death of dreams they once held for their son or daughter. I think the greatest thing that separates the two sorrowful experiences of these parents is that the parents of prodigals at least have some hope that they will one day get their child back.
The stories of parents of prodigals share many similarities. With tears streaming down your face you stood there to welcome your most precious gift into the world. You held her like she was the Hope Diamond. You rocked her in the middle of the night when she could find no peace, no rest. You changed her when her cry let you know that she needed to get out of that wet diaper. You fed her when she was hungry. You taught her to talk, to walk, to tie her shoes. You knelt by her bed and taught her to pray to the Father who had given her life and dreams for the future.
Could the comfort you gave, the love you offered, the constant support and affirmation you lavished upon her through the years have formed a more solid bond? Yet, somewhere along the way things began to change. You caught her in a lie and she was defiant. You found notes that led you to believe that she was sexually active. When you confronted her, with concern in your voice, she was defiant. “You have no right to even be in my room so I don’t want to talk about it,” she screamed. Her grades began to drop like shooting stars falling from the heavens. Her friends were not the kind of friends that you would have chosen for her. And then the day came when she couldn’t stand you anymore… so she left. When she left your heart broke. You worried, you prayed, you cried.
Are any of you familiar with this story? It is a story told over and over again as parents who have loved their sons and daughters more than life itself have watched their children turn their hearts from home, from mom and dad, in defiance. I received an email from the mother of a prodigal. I have no doubt that she typed these words wiping tears from her eyes.
I have questioned everything about myself before my Lord. I have done an inventory of my very being before the throne. No act of kindness, support, or love is accepted as simply and kindly as it is given. It makes me question everything I ever did in my son’s life. I pray constantly for God to use me as an instrument of His love and healing.
This note could have been written by any parent of a prodigal who is experiencing the loss of the relationship they have given their life to develop and nurture. When a child walks away it causes you to question everything…everything. So what is a parent to do? Do you cut your losses and move on? Some do. I’ve known some parents who have chosen to do this, but I don’t see how. Do you try and do everything in your power to win your prodigal’s heart back? Bribe them, entice them, try and manipulate them? Do you buy them things to try and win them back? Do you bail them out when their bad decisions require them to pay a price? I’ve known some parents who have tried this path because of their great pain and desperation, but I’ve never seen it work. What do you do? That’s a great question! We do the best that we can don’t we? We pray like we’ve never prayed before and seek God’s counsel through His Word. Let’s take a look at a story Jesus told about a prodigal son, a lost son. Turn with me to Luke 15:11-32 and read together.
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13“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. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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. 21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.'” (Luke 15:11-32 NIV)
In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Jesus ends this chapter with the most beautiful picture of God’s love found anywhere in God’s Word. Let me set the scene for you.
In Jesus’ story there was a man who had two sons. The younger son was tired of being tied down on the farm so he went to his dad and said, “Give me my inheritance.” How rude can you get! How insensitive! How disrespectful of the son to talk to his dad in such a tone! According to Jewish law the younger son was entitled to 1/3 of the estate of his father, the older son got 2/3 of the estate. (Deuteronomy 21:17) The fact that the father gave his young son his inheritance was very unusual to say the least. The son had one thing on his mind as he demanded his inheritance and it was not his father’s feelings. We read in Luke 15:13,
13“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. (Luke 15:13 NIV)
As soon as the boy got what he wanted he was out the door. He had been dreaming of the day he would be free, free from his father’s rules, so that he could finally do what he wanted to do. Jesus tells us that he set off for a “far country” where he “squandered his wealth in wild living.” There are a couple of important words that we need to understand to get a glimpse of what was foremost in the boy’s mind.
The first word I want us to look at is the word translated, “squandered” in our English Bible. The Greek word, “diaskorpizo” means, “to scatter abroad, disperse, to winnow.” The word is used to describe the process used to separate wheat from chaff. Long ago, wheat farmers would take a double handful of wheat and throw it up as high as they could so that the wheat and chaff would separate in the wind. This is the picture of what the boy did with his inheritance—he took the money that his father had worked so hard for and he threw it to the wind. This young man knew better than to do what he was doing. He was taught God’s Word as a young boy. He knew where the wild life would lead him. I have no doubt that the boy had listened to his father read to him from Proverbs 23:19-23 on more than one occasion. Listen to these words.
19 Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. 20Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, 21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. 22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (Proverbs 23:19-22 NIV)
This past week I was thinking about how timeless God’s Word and His lessons are for us. There is not a day go by that we don’t hear of some life that has been derailed because of loose living—drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality, greed, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes folks will suggest that our day is unlike any day that has ever been in the history of the world, but listen to the Apostle Paul as he writes to the Romans.
13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:13-14 NIV)
The human heart is wayward. We crave that which will destroy us just like the young son did when he would lie in his bed at night and think about all that he was missing while being confined in what he saw as his father’s religious concentration camp. Dad was a prude. He needed to loosen up. He didn’t read Playboy, he read Proverbs. He never brought in women for the hired hands. He never threw a “kegger” on a Friday night. Life is short. You’ve got to loosen up and have some fun.
The second word that I want us to take a look at is the word that is translated, “wild living” in your Bible. This is the Greek word, “asotos” and it means, “decadently, recklessly, licentiously, or debauchery.” This word gives us further insight into what the boy was doing while he was living in the “far country.” He was living recklessly, involved in all kinds of debauchery. “Debauchery.” The word even sounds raunchy doesn’t it? Take a look at 1 Peter 4:3-5 and you will see what lies beneath the attractive, glistening appearance of the road that leads away from God.
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do– living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3-5 NIV)
This is what the boy had his mind set on when he asked his dad for his inheritance. It is interesting to me that after we read about the boy setting out for the far country and his living on the wild side, we read,
14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. (Luke 15:14 NIV)
It was gone. He spent his last dime on what he wanted and where did it get him? He found himself in need. This boy started out living in plenty, he was living high on the hog, but after a short while he found himself in dire need. He was hungry. He didn’t have any money and his friends were nowhere to be found when his pockets were empty. The roar of the crowd at the club was exchanged for the growl of his stomach.
Being both broke and hungry can be a great motivator to find a job. Dad’s cupboard was no longer available so the boy found a job. It wasn’t the job a Jewish boy would normally take on, but the fact that he was willing to work with hogs tells us how desperately in need the boy was at this point in his life. Hogs were despicable, detestable, unclean animals to the Jews (Leviticus 11:7).
Jesus tells us that the boy longed to eat the pods that the hogs were eating, but that nobody gave him a thing. He couldn’t even get a meal with the hogs he was taking care of. The boy had shunned his father’s lessons, he had cast his money to the wind, and now he was living in the consequences of his own decisions. He had nobody else to blame but himself. Jesus says,
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ (Luke 15:17-19 NIV)
The phrase “he came to his senses,” means he finally started thinking right, he regained his sense of what was going on and how it all happened. The boy had lost his mind, but the tough times he had been experiencing was making it all clear. Funny how tough times do that isn’t it? We won’t listen to folks who try to give us good, godly counsel, but then when the roof caves in and we are sitting in the rubble of our lives, rubble that was created by our own hands, our own decisions, we are more prone to humility.
The young man decided it would be better to live like a slave in his daddy’s house than to keep living like he had been living. His heart wasn’t right. He wasn’t remorseful for throwing his father’s hard-earned money to the wind on wild women and partying every night. He was in a fix and he wanted out. The only way out was to go home.
The boy headed home. He rehearsed what he was going to say. His palms were sweaty, his breathing was shallow and rapid like he had just run a marathon as he took his first steps out of the pigsty and onto the dusty road that led home. Then we read,
20 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. (Luke 15:20 NIV)
Oh, how I wish I had two weeks to talk non-stop about this beautiful, powerful little verse of God’s Word because it is so full of meaning concerning who God is and who we are as sinners in relation to our holy and righteous God. Did you notice that the father saw the son while “he was still a long way off?” Don’t you know that dad was looking out his front window every day since the day his son left home? Don’t you know that he went to the mailbox every day hoping, praying, for his son to come walking down the dusty road? The father had wanted to track his son down. He had struggled with the desire of his heart to know his son was safe, to follow him, check in on him, but he knew that he could not rescue his son—he had to allow the Lord to take him to class for a hard lesson. When he saw his son coming from way in the distance the father was thrilled that the “semester of study” in the school of hard knocks was over for his son!
The son may have rehearsed his lines, but he couldn’t get a word in as his father ran from the house, down the road, and swooped his son into his arms kissing him over and over again. That’s what God’s Word says. The word that is translated “kissed” is taken from the Greek word, “kataphileo.” Listen to the definition of the word—“to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly.” Can you see it? Can you feel the love of the father for his wayward son who has come home? No explanation is needed, none required—he’s home!
I need to tell you that what the father did was highly undignified. In Jesus’ day men wore long robes. If you were a man and you were going to run you had to gather up your robe in your hands so that you wouldn’t trip over it. The only problem with that is that it would show the world your legs—that’s a “no no.” Dignified men, respectful men, did not run. This daddy knew all of that, but he threw dignity and sophistication to the wind because his son was home!
As the father was kissing his son the boy tried to stop him so he could deliver his well crafted speech. After all, he had worked hard on it while he was walking that long road home. Dad didn’t even respond. He called to his servants and had them bring the best robe to put on his son. The stench and filth of the young man was covered with a beautiful, clean robe. What a picture of how the Father clothes us with the righteousness of our Savior. He had them bring the family ring and put it on his finger. Sons were often given family rings that had the family seal on them. The son probably left home with his ring, but he had pawned it along the way. His dad put a new ring on his finger and sealed any question of the boy’s standing with his father. He had them bring sandals, something a hired hand didn’t wear, and put them on the feet of his son. Last of all, he had the servants kill the fattened calf so that they could get the party started because, as dad said, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” Let the celebration begin!
I don’t know about you, but when I know that I’ve messed up I am so filled with shame. I wince when I think about how well God knows my sin and how I’ve grieved the heart of God. This story shows me that the Father is waiting, anxiously waiting for me to acknowledge my sin and head back into His arms of grace and mercy. The Father is waiting to lavish His healing, welcoming kisses upon lost sinners who come home. Pastor Spurgeon has written,
Slow are the steps of repentance, but swift are the feet of forgiveness. God can run where we scarcely limp, and if we are limping towards Him, He will run towards us… The father kissed his son much to make him quite certain that it was all real. The prodigal, in receiving these many kisses, might say to himself, “All this love must be true, for a little while ago I heard the hogs grunt, and now I hear nothing but the kisses from my dear father’s lips.” So his father gave him another kiss, for there was no way of convincing him that the first was real like repeating it; and if there lingered any doubt about the second, the father gave him yet a third. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Many Kisses for Returning Sinners, or Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son, December 27, 1891.)
How great is the sin of the wayward human soul? So great that nothing in all of the world can turn it around and thwart its desire to head to the far country. Oh, but while we throw our lives and resources to the wind in the far country there is the sound, the quiet sound of a Father’s strong love calling us home. How great is the Father’s love!
If you are a prodigal to Almighty God, our Father in heaven, then won’t you come home? Aren’t you tired of living among the ruins of your decisions? Aren’t you tired of living in the rubble of your life, rubble that you’ve created with your own hands? Can’t you hear the Father’s voice calling you, beckoning you to come home? Come on home.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 25, 2018