“And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into the fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called a son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends; but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
Parable of the Prodigal Son
“‘Father, we settle our hearts as we continue as we’re about to open your Word. And Lord we know that your Word is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, that it divides down within our being, that which is soulish and spiritual. And Father we ask that your Word would be that in our lives, Lord, that none of us would gather here, Lord, with our hearts away from you Lord, not really interested, that none of us would gather here determined not to hear your Word, and to yield to its instruction and direction. Father we praise you that we have this freedom to gather in your presence and sing your praises, and study your Word, that we might know Jesus more when we leave than when we came, Father, that we might love him more when we leave than when we came. And Lord we pray that in the things that we do, Lord, as we come and sing your praises and study your Word and fellowship, that none of these things would ever become empty, Lord, that it would never be a dried wineskin, that there would be life, Father, and flexibility, Father, that your Holy Spirit would always find us yielded, open, yielding. Lord we put these things before you, we know we’re praying according to your will, Lord, and we pray in Jesus name, amen.’
Context of the Parable
Luke chapter 15, our context is, in verses 1 and 2, “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners,”---I’m glad of that---“and eateth with them.” I’m even glad of that. And he puts forth these parables. The religious leaders of the day are struggling with the fact that Jesus Christ can sit down at a table and eat a meal with notable sinners and tax gatherers who they consider traitors to Israel and to the Kingdom. And in that culture, if you sat down at a table and you broke bread with someone and shared a meal, you were partaking of the sustenance of life together, you were in a sense becoming one with them. And they could not believe that Jesus, this notable rabbi, maybe a prophet, this miracle-worker, was sitting down and eating, and talking, and looking into the eyes of tax gatherers and sinners, and that they were coming to listen to hear his words. And first he addresses them about the lost sheep, something they would understand, a shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine with the other shepherds and go to seek that one that was lost. And then he speaks to them about the lost coin, a woman on her wedding veil or on her wedding headpiece, loosing one of the coins. Though the coin did not have that great intrinsic value, value within itself, yet it had great meaning to the woman, who tore the whole house apart to find it. It would be like losing your wedding ring, whether it was a $90 ring or a $9,000 wedding ring, it was meaningful, it had value to you. And how the Lord places a great value upon sinners, those who were gathered to him to hear his word, and likening that to a woman who had searched the whole house to find that coin. And then he comes to this parable beginning in verse 11, that most of us are very familiar with, called the parable, that we call the parable of the prodigal son. It is a parable about a father with two sons. One of them, who takes a portion of his inheritance and goes and wastes that in a distant land. And another son, an older brother, who stays at home with the father. And as we look at the roles that are played out, the father is the one who is portraying the heart of God. The younger brother is the one who is portraying the tax gathers and sinners that have come to Jesus. The older brother is the one who is portraying the Pharisees and Sadducees [today, ‘the legalists’], the religious people that are offended that this younger brother would be received home again. It could really be the parable of the older brother. One third of the verses are about the older brother, and it’s told in the context of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And obviously the most remarkable picture in it is that of the father, and the father’s heart, and the father’s willingness to restore and to love. As we look at this, and as you read through it on your own, remember, both brothers are prodigals. Both of them are away from the father’s heart and the father’s intention. Neither of them, initially, are understanding the heart of the father in this whole scene. One son is wasteful and sinful, not understanding the benefit that the father wants to provide for his life, but returns to his senses and comes home. And maybe in that, begins to touch the heart of the father more than the other brother. The other brother is home, but is still at a distance from the father’s heart, because he doesn’t understand it either when the father begins to forgive. And it’s very interesting to see these two sons, because one is softened by the father’s love, and the other is hardened by the father’s love. One son is drawn to the father because of his love, and the other son finds himself repulsed and at a distance because of the father’s love.
The Parable Stated---‘Give Me My Portion’
Jesus begins the parable by saying to us “A certain man” verse 11, “had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called they son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (verses 11-32). He begins by giving us a picture of this father with two sons. We don’t know the conditions that are at home. When I read about this older brother, maybe I understand a little bit about the younger brother wanting to go, and get away. [I sort of see a picture of the historic division that took place between the ten northern tribes of Israel and the tribe of Judah under Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The elder brother being Judah, Levi and part of Benjamin, the younger brother being the ten northern tribes of Israel. Essentially, they never got along with each other for the entire history of Israel recorded in Kings and Chronicles. See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/1.html, and read through that series, to follow up on this historic analogy, only one of a few analogies that can be drawn from this parable. We do see in the Minor Prophets that all 12 tribes of Israel are restored to the land, including these “ten lost tribes of Israel.” Prophecy pictures these ten tribes coming back into the Father’s land, Israel, weeping and crying as they come, humbled by their past sins, so it does seem to fit into God’s plan of redemption for all of Israel. This occurs at and just after the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ.] I think we get a very important picture in verse 12, when it says “the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” Portion of goods seems to be a particular term that speaks of part of the inheritance. “And he divided unto them his living.” Plural, to both of them, “his living.” Now, scholars are divided over this the scene of a younger son asking for his portion of the inheritance. We know that the older son receives the double portion. We know it would have been a greater insult if the older son had said ‘Give me my portion of the inheritance,’ because the younger son could leave, but the older son was the one who would receive the full inheritance, receive the land, would receive the double portion, and had the main responsibility of carrying on the family name. Evidently the younger brother, and if you read Linsky or Ledershine or Wiersby, there’s a list of them that say there was at times, when the younger son would come and say ‘Give me my portion,’ and the word means ‘That which is movable, that could be carried.’ In other words, the land wasn’t his, and the flocks weren’t his, but he was able to have to himself one third of all that that was movable. So we don’t get the whole picture here. But the father evidently has to go and sell some things, the father has to go to a good deal of aggravation in providing this younger son with a third of monetary value of that which would be his. And of course, I don’t think that is the greatest difficulty for the father. I think there’s something, of course, in the pain of having a child leave that is much greater. And as we read the Scripture, quite often the Bible uses what’s called anthropomorphism, which is basically a big word, that people pay a lot of money to learn, which means that God takes human things that we understand, and fits into them divine or spiritual truths. And here, we read in the Scripture of God being our Shepherd, and we’re the sheep. Now they understood that relationship. Or he’s our Father, we’re his children, or he’s the Bride Groom, we’re the bride.
Living in ‘Give Me’ Mode
Now in this picture we have the pathos of the father’s heart that’s broken by a prodigal, by a son whose leaving, whose going away. And I think what typifies this kid is ‘Give me.’ That’s what he’s saying to the father, I want to live my life under the banner of ‘Give me, give me my portion, I want to live in light of that, so give me what I deserve.’ And we live, by the way, in the world of Give me, it’s what drives the world that we live in. We’re surrounded with it. I think we have to be careful as Christians, that we don’t come to church with an attitude of ‘Give me.’ And a lot of people do, they show up and go ‘OK, here I am, meet my needs.’ Like Clint Eastwood, ‘Make my day’, only, ‘Meet my needs! And if somebody doesn’t pay attention to me, if somebody doesn’t meet my needs, there are lots of other churches in the area that I can go to. I’ll give you one or two chances, maybe.’ Now, the remarkable thing is, this son will finally say to the father, ‘Make me’ here he’s saying ‘Give me’, he will say ‘Make me your servant.’ And I think when we come to church to study God’s Word, our hearts should be ‘Lord, make me’, because I think as we examine our hearts, all of us, both sons are there to a degree [ie, in the ‘Give me mode, attitude]. This son is basically saying ‘Give me’, the flesh. ‘There’s something out there, the grass is greener, there’s some thing out there, that if I had it I would be happier. You know, living here with you, living here with this sourpuss of an older brother, I’m not living, I saw it on TV, I saw it here on this channel, I saw it on the Entertainment Channel, I saw it in the magazines, there’s life out there, and there’s lights, and here I am trapped here---Give me. That’s the way I want to live, that’s the way I want to have it. I’m hungering for more.’ And he’s living under that illusion that there’s something out there, there’s unfulfilled dreams, there’s something unfulfilled. And sometimes, you know, people are like that. They’re going from one thing to another in the world, under some illusion that there’s some thing that they haven’t yet come to, that if they have, they’ll be happy. ‘If I can finally attain this much money, or I can have this relationship, or I can land this job, or I can score here, if I can do this, I’ll have something I don’t have now that’s part of this unfulfilment that I live with, this carrot that hangs in front of me that I chase.’ There’s a lot of people that live their whole lives like that. You know old people that are like that, still miserable, cranky, because they still live at ‘Give me.’ And nobody ever has, they haven’t gotten it yet, have they?
I Want Your Provisions, But I Don’t Want Your Presence
He says, “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.” Now possibly giving the older brother enough to buy out some part of the younger son, we don’t know. Those things happen. “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want” (verses 12-14). So, not many days after he gets his portion the younger son packs up, makes arrangements, buys a four-wheeler, loads everything up, and takes off, to a far country. Because he’s kind of, and Jesus is telling this in context of God, that men are like this, they kind to say to God, ‘I want your blessing, but not your presence. I want your provision, but I don’t want your presence. I want yours, but I don’t want you. I want your wealth and your riches, and you make your rain to fall on the just and the unjust, I want your blessing.’ There’s no doubt in this son’s mind that his father exists, there are people who are like that, they have no doubt that God exists, but they say ‘I want what you have, but I don’t want you, I don’t want your control, and I don’t want your rules, and I don’t want your guidelines, I don’t want to be like you.’ And lots of times when a kid leaves home, they’re basically saying that. ‘I want what you have, but I don’t want you, Dad, I do not want to be like you. I don’t want your standards, I don’t want to hear your Bible thumping, I don’t want to be like you.’ Now, you have to, if you haven’t been in that place, and I haven’t, but I can imagine how it would destroy me, the heartbreak of a father, a parent that has that prodigal leave. Because you’re used to their room, you’re used to their presence, you’re used to the milk and the bread disappearing, you’re used to their smell. From the time you have a baby, you take that little round fuzzy head and smell it, it smells like something. You know, my kids, when I kiss them I smell them. Especially when they get to be teenagers, you can smell them. Especially when they come in, you kiss them and smell them [to see what they’ve been up to…laughter]. But his presence at the table, if you have more than one kid, you know there’s kind of an assigned seating at a table. Nobody assigns it, it evolves. And they all have a certain place. And they only evolve to assigned seatings so then they can fight over those seats. Because then they try to sit in the other person’s seat, and they say ‘He’s sitting in my seat!’ Now nobody officially assigned it, but everybody kind of understands, kind of, that’s where they sit. And then you say ‘Get out of their seat!’ and you reaffirm that there are actually assigned seats that nobody knew how they were assigned. And when one’s gone, there’s an empty space. And I think of the heartbreak of a father who has a kid whose using them, using them for the roof, and using them for their food, and saying this kind of ‘I want yours, but I don’t want you, I want your provision, I don’t want you presence.’ And how many people do that with God. They want to play Christian, play religious, and they want God’s blessing, but they don’t want his rules, they don’t want his covering, they don’t want his instruction. [An interesting book of God’s instructions in the Bible is the Book of Proverbs. They are practical applications of keeping the Ten Commandments.] They don’t want the relationship. They go out and they sin, and get a disease and their life falls apart, and they say ‘Well if he loves me, why does he let this happen to me?’ You know, God has explained to us clearly that there is a process of sowing and reaping. You know, if you told somebody ‘Don’t jump out of a plane without a parachute’ and they did it, imagine them smashing on the ground, being in a bodycast saying ‘If you loved me, why let that happen to me!?’ ‘Well I didn’t let it happen, I told you not to jump without the parachute.’ ‘But I didn’t know there were laws of gravity.’ ‘So I told you there were laws of gravity, and if you did this, this would happen.’ ‘Well I didn’t know it was true.’ ‘Well you do now.’ [laughter] You do now.
If Your Philosophy Is One of ‘Give Me,’ You Will End Up In A Situation of Being Wasted and Wanting
If your philosophy is one of “Give me”, you will end up in a situation of being wasted and wanting. That’s how it depicts him. He has become wasted with riotous living, trying to provide something. And you know when you have lots of money, you have lots of friends. [That’s another sociological law.] Riotous kind of insinuates he had lots of good friends. When he’s broke, the friends are gone, they’re gone. When you buy a pickup truck you discover all of your relatives that need something moved, relatives that never really bothered to call you before. If you get a swimming pool you get neighbors you never knew about. And when you have lots of money you have all kinds of friends. I remember when Mike Tyson, his career started to climb, one time I saw him standing out behind his mansion in New Jersey in his pigeon coop, and he was happier there than in the mansion. And he said “One of the things that’s bothering me, everybody wants, everybody whose around me, I don’t know who my friends are anymore. Everybody wants something.” And then when the money’s gone, the friends are gone. You know why? Because they’re from the land of Give Me too. And they want your provision and not your presence. They want from you just what the prodigal wanted from his father. And it’s a bitter spoon to eat your own medicine. And when you live a life and you turn away from God, and you turn away from that which is good, and you end up out in the world---I remember what it was like in the drug days. Somebody would be your friend until you wouldn’t give them some Coke. ‘What!? I can’t believe, they didn’t tell me, they told you, you were over there and you didn’t tell me, they didn’t share with me, I can’t believe!’ and you know when you have it, you don’t tell them, because they didn’t give it to you. The amazing thing is, then you get saved, everybody wants to give it to you after you get saved, ever notice how that happens? [laughter] But in the land of Give Me, they want something from you, they don’t want you. And if you live that way and turn away from God, he will let you have your own medicine, and you will end up in a place of waste and want. And let tell you something, we live in a land of waste, and the greatest waste is of human life, the greatest waste of all is you here this evening if you’re away from God. Let me tell you something too, if you’re under 24 years old and you’re here, half your generation didn’t make It out of the womb! Half of your peers never survived the womb. In America today, the most dangerous place to be is in the nine months you’re forming in your mother’s womb. And if you’re 24 years old or younger here, half your generation was never born, they were aborted. And the Devil that did that is not done with the survivors. And if you think the land of Give Me is a place of fun, it’s a place of total waste, it’s the greatest holocaust we’ve ever seen. And if you think it’s a game, half of you are already dead. And Satan has been around for thousands of years, and he doesn’t mind taking 30 years to get you, or 40 years to get you. He doesn’t mind taking your life in increments, if you’re willing to fly a banner over your life that says Give Me, instead of Make Me. He comes to a place of waste and of want. It’s where it leads, self, selfishness.
When you get to the place in your life where pigs are good teachers, it’s time to wake up
It says “And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into the fields to feed swine.” He’s got no friends, he’s got to find a citizen. “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him” (verses 15-16). And to the Jew that was listening to Jesus, it was the ultimate disgrace, because the Romans sacrificed pigs, and Antiochus Epiphanes had sacrificed a sow on the alter in Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple, desecrated it. Pigs were unclean, the Jews were not allowed to be around them. And now he [the prodigal son] has been lowered to a place of disgrace, living on the level of an animal, in the fields slopping the hogs. Not only is that bad enough, he ain’t just slopping the hogs, now he wants to share the slop with the hogs he’s slopping. [And if you’ve ever driven by or been in a field that has had hogs or pigs in it for awhile, the stench of their manure will overpower you.] He wants to eat the husks it says, which are probably the empty carob pods. I like that word there, because it says “he fained”, he imagined he could have filled himself with the empty husks that the world fills itself with, no sustenance there, with the emptiness that the world offers. And the bait after bait that’s put out in front of us---if you had more Coke, if you had more sex, if you had more pleasure, if you had more money, if you had more power, if you had more companies, if you had more homes, if you had more cars---the empty husks that are constantly put in front of us that will never fill the empty spot inside of us. He would have filled himself, it says, with the husks. Verse 17, is says, “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s house have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Isn’t it interesting, he says he came to himself. Your translation might say “he came to his senses.” It’ll give you a little bit of insight into someone whose not a believer, someone whose lost their senses, or someone who calls himself a Christian that’s backslidden. You ever try to witness to a backslidden Christian? It’s almost like they’ve lost their mind. And that’s what it says here, ‘When he came to his senses, when he came to himself, when his senses returned.’ When you get to the place in your life where pigs are good teachers, it’s time to wake up. And there is kind of that illusion, you know, somebody, they lie to themselves first. An adulterer is always a liar, if they call themselves a believer. A Christian whose in adultery is always a liar. A Christian whose given to alcohol, always a liar. [Comment: A liar to themselves, self-deception. The steady, slow increase of a person’s tolerance for alcohol which leads some, many, into alcoholism involves a high level of self-deception. And a deceived person does not know he or she is deceived. That is how Satan has deceived the world, they don’t know they’re deceived.] A Christian whose given to drugs, is always a liar. Because they have to lie to themselves first, to do what they’re doing. [And this is not a conscious thing, this is self-deception. What does Jeremiah 17:9 say about human nature? Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The thing about self-deception though, is that you don’t know you’ve lied to yourself, it is not conscious lying, a little bit different from what Joe is alluding to here.] And then it’s no big deal to lie about anything else. But you run out of room. The problem with being a liar is, you have to remember every lie you ever tell to cover yourself. And you just ain’t that smart. And somewhere along the line your story starts to fall apart. The great thing about telling the truth is, you can be dumb like me, you don’t have to worry about nothing, walking the light, telling the truth. He comes to his senses. He says ‘Man, in my dad’s house, even the servants get seconds and thirds at the table. I’m here chewing on these husks. My best friend goes Oink oink oink. In my dad’s house I’d have something to wear, I’d have sandals, I’d have seconds.’ I don’t know about you, I mean, I’ve come to that point in my life where I say, ‘Lord, I’ll just be the least in the Kingdom. Just let me in. I’ll be the Kingdom beggar, just let me sit inside the gate with a golden cup and a blanket, just some place warm and quiet, I’m tired. I’m tired of running, I’m tired of fighting, I’ll be the least in the kingdom, I’ve read about them somewhere in the Bible, that’ll be me, just let me in, I want to come back.’
A Servant In God’s House Has It Better Than the Freest Dead Man in the world
“I will arise and go to my father,”---he’s making up a plan now, talking to himself, he’s going to stand on his feet---“and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (verses 18-19). Notice, ‘Make me,’ not ‘Give me.’ Isn’t it interesting, he’s talking to himself, ‘This is what I’m going to do, I’m going to go to my dad,’ and he’s rehearsing his speech, ‘When I get there I’m going to say, Father, I have sinned before heaven and before thee, I’m not worthy to be called your son anymore, make me like one of your hired servants.’ He’s kind of going through this, he’s practicing. You can imagine him walking towards home, ‘Dad, Dad, Daaad,’ But the interesting thing here, is he says ‘I have sinned.’ He’s not going to come home and say ‘Dad, you know that I came from a dysfunctional home.’ [laughter] ‘Dad, you know I’ve been excessive-compulsive for years, dad.’ ‘You know that I have bitter memories, dad, and it made me do…’ No, he says, “I’ve sinned against heaven, and before thee”, that’s where it starts, that’s where coming home begins. Jesus is talking to the religious leaders of the day and says, ‘What we need here for this transaction with heaven to take place is a sinner and a Saviour. If you provide the sinner, God will provide the Saviour.’ But if you don’t know you’re a sinner, you can’t put yourself in that position. This son, now after coming to want, after his life’s falling apart, realizing even a servant in God’s house has it better than the freest dead man in the world. ‘Father, I have sinned.’ I like that, ‘against heaven, I’m not worthy to be called thy son, make me, father I want you, not yours, father now I want your presence, not your provision, father now I want your rules, your covering, your care, not just your provision. Make me, take my life, make me one of your hired servants.’
How God the Father Views A Returning Prodigal
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (verse 20). You have to imagine this. This dad had looked out the window every single day since he left, the way any parent would. How many tears did he cry, how many times do I see parents here when a teenager leaves, involved with drugs or he’s doing something, and their heart is broken. They’re saying, ‘If I had done this different, if I’d have raised them different, if I had tried harder,’ and all of that is there, all that wrestling and the looking and the longing. Don McClure had been talking about his oldest son, Marcus, whose in the ministry now, is doing great, you know, giving him a hard time at one point in his life, he’d gotten involved in cocaine, and they had to put him out of the house, and tell him to be gone until he was willing to come back and live according to the rules of the house. And when he was leaving, Don said, “You owe me one thing Marcus.” And he said “What!?” He said, “I raised you, I changed your diapers, I fed you, I sent you to school, you owe me one thing. If you find anything better than Jesus out there, I want to know about it.” And of course it was months later, Don was at work, and Jean was home, there was a knock on the door and she looked and it was Marcus, haggard, beat up. She opened the door, he said, “Mom, tell dad there ain’t nothing better than Jesus out here.” That father [in the parable] was watching, and he saw at a great distance that figure, and he recognized it, recognized the gait, recognized the way that kid walked, he had watched him take his first steps. He recognized the cantor, may have looked a little haggard, a little thin, smelled a little bit like a pig, and he saw him at a great distance, and begins to run. No patriarchal father in the Middle East would run to a son. And this guy had to gird up his loins with his knobby knees showing, that old dad, and start running to that kid. And the kid’s practicing ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven,’ he’s practicing his spiel. Before the father talked to him he saw him, before the father talked to him he had compassion on him, before the father heard anything from him he began to run. And he fell on his neck, threw his arms around this son, and kissed him, and the tenses in the Greek are ‘he kissed him tenderly and continually, he covered him with kisses.’ The son starts to give him the speech, “And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (verse 21). And before he can say ‘Make me your servant’ the father interrupts and says to his servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (verses 22-24). Now, here’s the amazing thing about this, the father runs, embraces him, kisses him, the father puts a new robe on him, the best. And then the Bible says that when we come to Jesus, he clothes us with his own righteousness. He puts a ring on his finger, which was the signet ring, was the sign of being an heir again, an inheritor again. He puts sandals on his feet. ‘Kill the fatted calf, not the ones that are wandering out there eating weeds, but the one we’ve been feeding grain, getting nice and fat, with lots of marbling of fat’ you know the kind we like to barbeque. And here’s something you have to understand, Jesus in the parable, parabalo in the Greek, means to cast alongside, he’s taking a spiritual truth and putting it alongside of something they would understand. Only Jesus could talk about the Father this way. If you’re here tonight, and maybe you’re coming to your senses, I don’t know, I hope so. Maybe you’re thinking about suicide. Let me tell you something, again, half your generation if you’re under 24, never made it out of the womb, and Satan ain’t done with those who are alive. I hope that you come to your senses. Because if we took the most notorious sinner here, if we put a list on the wall of all of our sins and saw who had the longest list, let’s put yours up first, not mine. And you said to me “Can God forgive me?” If I said to you, “When God sees you coming, buddy, his heart will be filled with compassion, he will run to you, and fall upon your neck, and kiss you, and embrace you, and weep over you, and clothe you with righteousness, and make you an heir.” If I said that, it would be blasphemous. If I portrayed God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, that way, for me that would be blasphemous. Jesus says “No man knows the Son but the Father, and no man knows the Father but the Son, and to whom he will reveal him.” And I pray tonight if you don’t know Christ, that God is revealing himself to your heart. Jesus said “No man hath at any time seen God, but the Son of man hath come to declare him.” “The Law hath come by Moses, but truth and grace hath come by Jesus Christ.”…[tape switchover, some text may have been lost]…And you see, when I was out in the world, I was living in sin. I mean, my dad was Roman Catholic, my mom was Lutheran, I grew up and kind of flip-flopped back and forth between those two churches. I never got a sense of God anywhere that he was brokenhearted over my life, that every day he was longing for me, that he was watching for me. I know that I came to a place in my life, you know, using drugs, and said, ‘Well, if my earthly father knew what I was doing he would be ashamed of me, and if I do have a heavenly Father, if this is true, he wouldn’t even want to own me.’ And I never had a sense, I never heard that in my wasted life, that God was willing to trade away his own Son for me, and make me his own. I never ever dreamt that God was like that. I thought that he was up in heaven with a lightning bolt in his hand, waiting to make me dance. I never perceived him as hastening to me, coming to me quickly to embrace me, and to forgive me, and to welcome me home. And I pray, this evening, that if some of you are coming to your senses, that you’ll come home. I pray that the religious people in this world, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, don’t turn you away. Imagine what would have happened to the prodigal if he had met his older brother on the way home instead of his dad. Now for all of us who are not putting ourselves in this story as the prodigal, let’s put ourselves in as the older brother. Now, by the way, I find a little bit of the prodigal in my heart. I dream of the far country sometimes. Now it ain’t as far as it used to be. And I don’t leave as long as I used to, I just go AWOL for fifteen minutes at a time now. There’s that temptation there, sometimes. He says, ‘Bring the fatted calf, let’s kill him.’ Not just forgiven, but restored. ‘For this my son, owning him, he wad dead, and he’s alive, he was lost and he is found. They began to be merry.’
Can We Ever Be A Proper Son of God If We’re Going To Be An Improper Brother?
“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant” (verses 25-26). He was not watching for his brother, not even aware that he came home. “And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him” (verses 27-28). He’s outside pouting, ‘I ain’t going into the party. You know, I was here and obeyed dad, and did everything he said, and he never even killed a goat for me, let alone a fatted calf!’ That’s what he says here. “Therefore” most remarkably “the father came out and intreated him.” There is Jesus sitting there with the religious leaders of the day, Yahweh-God in their presence, had come out to beseech them and to beg them. And they’re saying to him, ‘You don’t know what God is like!’ And there’s God sitting in front of them with grease on his hands and crumbs in his beard saying to them ‘No, you don’t know what God is like.’ But remarkably, reaching out to those self-righteous, caring for them as well, the other son, entreating it says, begging ‘Come in. Don’t try to take away my joy, because your brother who was lost is gathered in again, don’t try to break my heart because I have received my son back from the dead, don’t take that joy away.’ He was angry, he would not go in, “Therefore came his father out and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:”---I bet his friends were a fun crowd, he’s more bummed out about not getting a goat than getting his brother back---“but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” Notice, not “my brother,” but “thy son”. “And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (verses 29-32). You see, the problem here is, this son wanted the privileges of sonship without the obligations of brotherhood. He wanted the benefits of being “the son” without the responsibilities of being a brother. And can anyone in this room be a proper son, and an improper brother? 1st John says this to us, “We love him because he first loved us” speaking of Jesus. “If any man say I love God, and hath hated his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” The challenge on the other half of this parable, for those that are walking with the Lord, is ‘Can we ever be a proper son if we’re going to be an improper brother?’ Do we ever get ourselves in a situation where we’re aggravated because we see someone, don’t you know, who was out doing all the things that we were really struggling with in our hearts, and you know as I do, that our sins look so much worse on somebody else, than they do on our hearts. And we can find ourselves…We’ve had people in here come up to me and say ‘I was in church this morning’ this old gal came up to me once, ‘and there was a kid sitting next to me with a Grateful Dead shirt on! You need to talk to him, this is church.’ And I thought, I’m one of the Grateful Dead. [laughter] I was dead in trespasses and sins, and I’m alive. And I looked at her and I thought, I didn’t say it [chuckles], I thought, ‘You know, there’s just some Christians who need somebody with a Grateful Dead shirt to sit next to them. It’s probably an angel, that kid.’ I said, “Why aren’t you happy that he’s in church? Why aren’t you rejoicing that there’s a kid with a Grateful Dead shirt on in church? Send them all here. Half their generation never made it out of the womb. We have the great privilege of collecting the survivors and seeing them have life.” And to be a proper son or a proper daughter of the King, we have to be a proper brother or sister. “It was fitting that we should make merry, and be glad, for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again, and he was lost, and is found.”
A Double Challenge
I want to challenge you this evening on two fronts. First of all, don’t let your love turn to discernment. You know what it’s like to be, you know, we go on with Christ, and somehow our love turns to discernment. We used to say when we first got saved, ‘I love that guy. Don’t you love that guy?’ And then, as the years go on, we say, ‘You know what I discern about them?’ You know what I discern about you? Be discerning, that’s a good thing, especially when you can benefit someone else with it. But don’t let your discernment become a beam in your eye. Don’t be the older brother. And we can all be the older brother. The world should rejoice that I’m not God, because I’d be the older God-brother [laughter]. There are cities that I might destroy. Certain types of sinners that I might like to fry early, not giving them a chance. I have not yet learned to love to the point of shedding my blood for an enemy. [To read about the kind of love he’s talking about, the love that makes us a proper brother or sister see: http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm.] And it says “While we were yet enemies Christ died for us.” So I find some of that older brother in me. And for those of you here that are prodigals, you know, in one sense I bear responsibility for all of you, and I pray and I think, ‘If I was a better teacher, if I was more filled with the Spirit, how many that sometimes come and sit here that are playing the game and living in sin, if I was more Christlike, if I was everything Jesus wants me to be,’ forgive me for my failings. But know this, Jesus is the One who has seen the Father, and who has the right to declare him. No matter what your sin is tonight, whether you’re a backslidden believer---and when you read the Bible, you find the word “return” way more than you find the word “turn”, RETURN---we find the Bible saying that God loves the backslider and will heal him. There might be some chastening in the meantime, you need to come to your senses. You start to sense the waste. You know, it says he began to be in want. You know, we’re so stubborn, a little want won’t do, we need a lot of want. When we begin to be in want we still try to hang out there, in the far country. But if you’ve been away, I challenge you to come, return, bring your heart back to Christ. If you’re here tonight and you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Saviour, before you leave we want to give you the opportunity to do that. And he can do it. You know, with a church this big, we hear some great testimonies. We have people here that were in prison for murder, taking human life, and they found the Father running to them, when they turned to him, to embrace them, to make them his own. We have people here in prison ministry, I don’t know if you guys remember this Uncle Eddie in Philadelphia, had AIDS, was molesting young boys and spreading his disease. Well you know what, in prison before he died, he wept and gave his life to Christ. Well I know some ‘older brother’ is going to say, ‘What!?’ No, he got saved. I had the transcript from Jeffrey Dahmer’s trial. And when I look at somebody like that, that could cut up a human body and put it in the freezer and eat it, man, that is a far country. That’s way farther out than anything I understand. But in his trial, he testified before the judge how he had accepted Jesus Christ. And we say ‘What!? He did that!? He’s going to go to heaven [enter into the kingdom of heaven for some]!? You know, you see, there’s people like that who don’t understand, Jesus Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews because they’re so religious. And how many of us have gotten around our relatives, who may have been religious, going to church their whole life, but don’t know Jesus, and they’re saying ‘What are you doing coming around here with that ‘Praise the Lord’ smiling, Bible under your arm…I’m a believer, what do you think I am, I’m an American, I’m a Christian! You’re telling me that I’m not a believer? And you go up there at that old mall with those cultists and the guy with the Hawaiian shirt, and there’s old flunkies and druggies and bikers, and you mean to tell me that those guys, that guy you hang around with who was a heroine addict, and all he’s got to do is turn around to Jesus and say ‘Oh Jesus, forgive me’ and he’s going to go to heaven and I’m going to go to hell!?’ And you say, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.’ [laughter, applause] Well that’s what I’m trying to tell you, if you don’t know Jesus, if you can come to your senses tonight. Because the God that we’re talking about is not the god that so many of us learned of in religious icons and religious imagery when we were little, that’s distant from us, and really not involved in our lives, and who only has handed us down some rule-book of does and don’ts. The God we’re talking about is a God who came from heaven to earth and died on a cross and took our place in death, and took our punishment, and traded places with us in death so that we can have life and forgiveness. And all he asks is that we’ll come to our senses, and to come to him, and say ‘I’ve sinned against you, Lord, against heaven, I’m not worthy to be called your son. Oh, can I be your servant?’… ‘No, no, no, no, bring the best robe, bring the signet ring of a son or a daughter.’ The Bible says in our verses in this chapter, that all of heaven rejoices when one sinner turns to Jesus Christ, the angels of God, when one sinner comes, bring out the fatted calf, let’s be merry. We want to give you that chance, and I’m going to ask the musicians to come, and we’re going to sing a song at the end of the service. And as we sing this song, I want you to listen to the words, when we sing ‘Come just as you are, hear the Spirit call.’ If you’re here tonight, and you don’t know Christ, and maybe you’re intrigued, maybe you’re thinking ‘Could this be true? Is this what God is really like?’ Well Jesus said ‘No man hath come down from above except him’ No one has the right to tell us, no one has the right to tell us that we can live beyond the grave except someone whose died and come back to life. What we want to do is give you the opportunity, as we sing, and if tonight is the night you’ve come to your senses, if you’re willing to say ‘I want to know this Jesus.’ Maybe not the Jesus you’ve heard about your whole life, but ‘I want to know this Jesus, I want to know this Saviour, I want to know the One that will come to me and restore me, and give me life, and take my shattered wasted life with all of its empty husks, and embrace me, and make me his son, and give me a future and an inheritance. I want to know that God.’ If that’s you this evening, when we sing this song, we want you to come and stand here, publicly at the altar, and say by doing that, ‘I want Jesus to be my Saviour.’ We want to give you a Bible, we want to give you some literature to read. Maybe a friend brought you, they’ll come down with you. Let’s stand, let’s pray together…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Luke 15:11-32, by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116]
God’s agape-love, what is it, the love of the Father, and not of the elder brother. See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm
In the Biblically historic sense, the younger brother could also be the returning 10-tribes of Israel at the 2nd coming, whereas the elder brother in the parable is the Jews. To view this history, see:
How Do I Become A Christian? See:
and scroll to the bolded paragraph titled “How to Become a Christian” and read from there.