From Luke 14-16
Jesus has just finished telling the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Both describe sinners having left the righteous majority, being sought out and found. When the sinner rejoins the original group of righteous there is a celebration. Today’s parable follows the same pattern. It highlights the joy it gives to God when sinners return to him and questions our response to God’s forgiveness.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The parable starts with a shock breakup in the family.
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.
14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ (Lk 15.11-19)
‘Two sons’. The way Jesus introduces the parable indicates it concerns a fathers two sons. The younger distinguishes himself by being incredibly rude and hurtful.
‘Share of the property coming to me’. He asks for his share of his inheritance which would come to him on his fathers death. Essentially he is telling his father, he cant wait until he is dead, he wants his inheritance now. So the father does and he leaves and begins to squander the wealth, wasting it recklessly.
‘Famine’. After he spends all his inheritance a famine comes to the land. Famines are serious. He is in danger of starving so he hires himself out to some Gentile pig farmers so he may survive.
‘Pigs’. According to the law of Moses, the Jews believed pigs were unclean and this is the message Jesus wants to communicate to his audience. The younger son has hit new lows and still in distress.
Its the famine which causes the son to return to his father.
‘Came to himself’. The younger son remembers what it was like for his servants to live under his father and realises he would be better off there. So he decides to try and get a job there planning to asks for forgiveness.
20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Lk 15.20-24)
‘Long way off’, ‘Father saw him’, ‘ran’. We find out the father was hoping for his younger son would come back all along. He was looking for him daily and spotted him when he was ‘a long way off’. The father then ran to his son, something men did not do because it was undignified. He embraces and kisses him before the son could say anything.
‘Celebrate’, ‘Dead and alive’, ‘Lost and found’. The father then throws a big celebration, explaining in spiritual terms that his son was dead and lost, but is now alive and found.
The fathers response to the younger son shows how God yearns to reconcile with wayward sinners. We also should rejoice when God welcomes sinners into the family.
The older son however isn’t so pleased.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in.
His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ” (Lk 15.25-32)
‘Angry’, ‘served you’. The older son is a bit peeved his father welcomed him back so graciously and treated him far better than he ever treated him.
‘Dead and alive’, ‘Lost and found’. Again the father explains why this moment was so significant and why it was fitting to celebrate as he did. His son has come alive. He is now found. These are given great importance in God’s eyes.
The earlier parables highlight the God leaves all the righteous in order to find sinners. That was what Jesus was doing in the religious communities of Israel. How would the righteous view God’s priorities? How would they respond when God welcomes a repentant sinner back into their community?
None of these three parables suggest one has to be a sinner to be saved. The righteous are saved as well. What they do highlight though is the importance God gives to seeking the lost – Jesus came to save sinners – and the joy He experiences when they come back to him.
Perhaps you have been serving the LORD for most of your life. How do you respond when God receives back into our church family a wayward sinner?
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2017. All Rights Reserved.