(3/9) Well today begins our 6 week study of the Prodigal God, that will coincide with our small group study’s during the week. This is a brief overview of the traditional teaching of what we usually call the story of the Prodigal Son. I hope that you will see that there is more to the story than what first seems obvious.
This is not a Father’s Day sermon, nor is it a sermon on how to be a good Father, I’m not sure I qualify to preach that one, but it is a sermon on knowing God who is a Father. Our Lord Jesus often taught people about the God who is, "Father."
Before, we get into the text, I want to repeat a story that I have told many of you already, and probably several times, however, it is one of those experiences in my life that I will never forget.
It was a Father’s Day about 20 years ago, and my Sunday to preach at the Detention Center. My sermon was about God – Our Father. I led into the sermon with a question I had asked in an adult Sunday School class that morning. "When you think of a Father, what do you think of?" Now, in my class, I got all of the expected answers and it led perfectly into
the class. I expected the same thing at the jail, but I was in for a shocking surprise. The inmates responded with some adjectives I cannot repeat, but basically said things like, "bum, addict, angry, abusive, apathetic, alcoholic, absent, unknown," and other things.
About ten years ago, I was asked to speak at a Father-Son dinner, and the pastor jokingly told me to speak on ten ways to keep your kid out of jail. He later gave me the real topic, however, what he said stayed in my mind, so I went to some of the inmates and I asked them, "What could your Father have done to keep you out of jail? Their response was
unanimous, "Just been there."
One of the counselors for the Health dept, that was working in the Detention Center, a deacon at Friendship Baptist Church said, "I have in 20 years never worked with a client that a good relationship with his father. Even if the father is in the home, he is emotionally unattached, seldom taking an interest in what the child is doing."
Listen to me carefully, one of our country’s biggest problems is not the economy, or terrorism, or war, it is the absence of Dads. Listen carefully:
• One half of all American children will go to sleep in homes in which their Fathers do not live
• More than half of all our children will spend a significant portion of their child-hood with out their fathers before they are 18 years old
• 85% of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
• 90% of all homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes
• 71% of all high-school drop-outs come from father-less homes
• 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse rehabs come from father-less homes
• 63% of youth suicides come from father-less
• 70% of all juveniles in state run facilities come from father-less homes
• 85% of all youths in prison are from father-less homes
• 80% of all rapist come from father-less homes
Does this mean that everyone who grows up without a Father will go to jail? Absolutely not! But the risks are far greater.
Why am I saying all of this? David Popeone in his book, Life Without Father said this, "We now know from a careful examination of the evidence that today’s fatherlessness has led to social turmoil-damaged children, unhappy children, aimless children, children who strike back with pathological behavior and violence….the repercussions go far beyond
children to include a steady deterioration in the lives of adult men and women. If present trend continues our society could be on the verge of committing social suicide." (p.192, 1996 New York: Free press)
And there is another problem, that is, when we hear of God as a Father, we have a tendency to project our perception of our earthly Father to our heavenly Father. We see God as an angry, abusive, absent, and apathetic God.
What does this have to do with Luke’s Gospel? The answer is, it has a lot to do with our Lord’s teachings. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day presented a god that was partial, prejudice, concerned about legalities more than about mercy and grace, as we saw last week.
Notice our Lord had just finished teaching about inviting the poor, lame, blind and the maimed.
And He, Himself was often criticized for hanging out with those who were social outcasts. (cp.19:7; 5:30; 7:34,39; and here in Luke 15:1-2)
Now, does God hate sin? He sure does. Does God love the sinner? He sure does.
Remember that one of the reasons Jesus came in the flesh was to reveal the Father to us. (Cp. John 1:14 with 14:7ff) To show us his love for sinners, He tells us three stories. The first two are directed to His critics. Notice:
1. The lost sheep. Which of you …?
• With a missing sheep, would not leave the 99 and search diligently for the lost one?
• Which of you would not lay it on His shoulders and rejoice?
• Which of you would not call all your friends and celebrate finding the lost sheep?
• Which of you would say, "Just let it go, as it doesn’t appreciate or deserve what it had?" Or, ‘Who needs that sheep anyway? It deserves what it gets."
There is joy, lots of joy in heaven for every lost sheep that is found.
2. The Lost coin. What married woman having a garland with ten silver coins and finds one missing, doesn’t look everywhere, with a flashlight and dustbuster until she finds it? This is coin is important, part of dowry, or a gift from her husband, or whatever. The relief and joy that comes from it is exciting and she can’t wait to share the news and to
celebrate with friends. What is the point? Look at these two verses. (vv.7 and 10) Who is rejoicing? God!
3. The Lost Son
This 15th chapter is often referred to as the story of the Prodigal Son and is used to teach us of the forgiveness and grace of God. But the chapter should be called, the Prodigal Father. (A piece of candy for the first person who can tell me what the word, prodigal means)
Prodigal (synonyms-Wasteful, Reckless, Extravagant, Uncontrolled)
I want to tell you that the Father is the Extravagant one. Let me take a few moments and show you the Father.
The Father in this story represents God. Our Lord Jesus has already used the image of God as our Father several times (Luke 11:2; 13; 12:30-32).
• Do you know that if God is your Father He is so because He had adopted you and that is an act of His grace and not based on anything you are or have done?
• Do you also know that it is your Father’s desire to adopt more children, and He specializes in adopting sinful children and changing their lives?
I will not spend anytime talking about the sins of this young man, except to say that He did what was disrespectful, dishonoring, and humiliating to His father. He proceeded to turn his back on his family and to waste his father’s money, this boy’s inheritance. The consequences of his actions, left him broke and dirty, and alone and hungry and at "rock
bottom." Then He came to Himself. He remembered His Father! (v.17)
His Father was not absent, or angry, or abusive, or apathetic. His Father was Home and He was a gracious man (v.17). So the son repented. He was sorry, and changed his mind and he went home. Notice he found things in his Father:
1. That His Affection for His Son was Extraordinary (v.20) This father had raised his son right, taught him well and loved him beyond measure and then gave him the freedom to make his own decisions, to succeed of fail Do you know that because His love for you is so extraordinary that He will tell and teach you right from wrong and He will warn you of
the consequences of doing wrong. That’s why He gave us the Bible and church and parents and teachers, but He will not restrict you from making your own decisions? He wants your obedience and loyalty and faithfulness be because you love and trust Him and not because it is forced on you. He let Adam and Eve choose. He let this young man choose and He let you choose. Many of us
walked away. Wanting to taste the world, to have our freedom, to do what we wanted and by restricted by someone else’s rules. (vv.11-13) But His love is hoping and praying that you will make the right choices. But because He loves you He releases you to make your own decision. Will you love and honor and trust and obey Him? Or will you listen to the call of the world and try
to make it on your own?
• Notice that the Father was Looking, hoping, praying, maybe today, my son or daughter will come home (v.20).
• Notice His Compassion. (v.20) When He saw His child He had compassion- His insides stirred, the emotions overtook Him, the way your insides react when a great surprise, need, or hope is before you. He just wanted to be with His son and have Him home and shower His love on His child.
• He Ran, Uncontrolled. Respectable Jewish men didn’t run, it wasn’t culturally acceptable, but this Father ran to His son
• He Embraced His Son - He fell on his neck and kissed him. The dirty, pig smelling, barefoot son was home and That was all that mattered.
2. Notice that His Acceptance of His Son was beyond Expectations (vv. 21-22). The son had repented and the father didn’t need to hear all the details. His repentance was enough. Notice, please, His focus was on His son and not on the sin!
• The Robe was a symbol of the special relationship between Father and son; not something a servant would wear
• The ring was a signet ring, a symbol of authority, enabling one to conduct business in the name of the Father.
• Sandals or shoes were for sons and not usually not for servants
• His son was home and accepted back into the family, restored to the place he had before he had left. Just like Peter.
3. Notice His Attitude was one of Exuberance (vv.23-24) This was time for celebration, a feast, not a funeral. The Son was home. Do you see why? His son is home, reconciled, restored, alive. Because he received Great Grace, He is able to show great grace to others in pig pens. He is able to show other pig keepers that there is a Father of great grace
waiting to receive and to restore. Sadly, those who have forgotten the pig pens or have not been to the pig pens often don’t display much grace for those are in the pig pens of life, (like the older brother), like the story in Ch. 7 of the woman and the feet anointing.
Listen carefully, our Father gives great grace, so that those of us who have been greatly graced, can give great grace to others who need great grace. You have been received into the Father’s home so you can show others to that home where a great father is awaiting to restore or adopt more Children as His own.
This, my friends, is your Father in Heaven. Many of us have the pain of walking away from Him and messing up terribly. Some of you have experienced this extraordinary affection, attention, and, and grace beyond comprehension. Heaven threw a party for you. Angels and saints were high five-ing. Some of them might have been family members that are waiting
for you. And the Father sang. Zeph. 3:17
Some of you, unfortunately, have forgotten, and like the older brother in this story and the religious leaders in the beginning of this story, have become judgmental and prejudice and partial in your acceptance of "sinners." That is sad.
Some of you are still in the pig pens and wanting to come home but are afraid of how you will be received. Maybe you think, God can’t or won’t forgive me, I’ll just come in and sit in the back. My friends, your Father is waiting, watching, hoping that today, you will come home. You don’t have to clean up first, just come home and he will clean you up.
There is no limit to His grace and mercy, He never runs out and you can’t use it all up. (Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 8:35-39).
Your sin did not take God by surprise. He knew about all of them and His death on that cross was sufficient to pay for everyone. There is no sin that He will not forgive completely and immediately. It’s time to come Home.
You have a Father who is waiting to receive you or adopt you. Come Home.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman