Sermon: The Father’s Love (Luke 15:11-32)

Luke 15.11-32 Audio

The Father’s Love

Luke 15:11-32

Introduction

Today, we are going to look at part three of Jesus’ trilogy of parables teaching the irrefutable fact that God is gracious and ready to receive sinners who come in faith and repentance.  The extended truth that flows from God’s acceptance of sinners is that we too must receive and rejoice when sinners repent.

The younger son- the tax collectors and sinners

The Father- God

The Older son- Self-righteous

In this Parable we are shown two forms of eternal death:

First, I want other things more than I want Christ…son number one.

Second, I want to earn my own righteousness…son number two.

This is God’s Word…

Lk 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.

Lk 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Lk 15:3 So he told them this parable:…

Lk 15:11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.

Lk 15:12 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.

Lk 15:13 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.

Lk 15:14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

Lk 15:15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

Lk 15:16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

Lk 15:17 “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!

Lk 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.

Lk 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘

Lk 15:20 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.

Lk 15:21 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.’

Lk 15:22 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.

Lk 15:23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

Lk 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Lk 15:25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

Lk 15:26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.

Lk 15:27 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.’

Lk 15:28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

Lk 15:29 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.

Lk 15:30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

Lk 15:31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

Lk 15:32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”

1. The Younger Son (Luke 15:11-19)

Lk 15:12 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.

Lk 15:13 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.

Here, it’s important to understand some of the culture and practices of those in Jesus’ day.

Fathers were highly esteemed and honored, unlike in our day when fathers are depicted as either absent or idiots.  Jesus’ original hearers would have been disgusted with the way the younger son was treating his father.

To ask for the inheritance early was that same as saying, You know dad, I think I would rather have the money than have you.  I wish you were dead now so I could have the inheritance…‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’

Jesus seeks to immediately cause His hearers to be against the younger brother.

It’s not like the first two parables.  We were all rooting for the shepherd looking diligently for the lost lamb.  We were cheering for the unmarried poor girl who was looking for her dowry coin, but not this younger son.

We are all hoping this spoiled brat gets what’s coming to him.  Dad, I don’t really love you and I’d rather have the money.

Now as is typical with this son’s selfishness, he gathers all his stuff together and leaves.  He wants to put as much distance between him and his father and everything that reminds him of his father… took a journey into a far country

If you find yourself not liking this son, that is the emotion Jesus’ original hearers had.  They detested this son.

The Father’s estate meant nothing to this selfish reckless son.  He got to the far country and spent all his massive wealth on prostitutes, parties, and his so-called-friends… he squandered his property in reckless living.

As was typical with ancient views of God’s providence, now this sinful self-centered son is about to get what he deserves.

Lk 15:14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

Lk 15:15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

Lk 15:16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

The money is all gone, his friends are all gone, a severe famine breaks out, and he is in need.  Jesus’ original hearers would have been saying, Good, God is getting even with this selfish sinner.

The son had never been in need before.  He had come from a rich family and servants supplied everything he wanted, but know he is in need.  He is literally starving to death.  The famine in the far off country was severe.  He had no money and no friends.  He is in such great need, that he has begun to work for a farmer and as they say today, slop the hogs.  Here is a well-to-do Jewish young man working with unclean pigs.  Not only working with them but being so low, he even desired to eat what they were eating… he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

This lost sons only hope was to return to the father.  He learned the hard way that people will use you for all they can get.  Friends run out when the money runs out.  His father, however, was different, he could be trusted.

As far as the ancient hearers go, the story could have ended here with a moral teaching.  Jesus could have said, this is why you should always love your parents.  This is why you should not be greedy.  This is why you should avoid sinners.  Young men, this is what happens when you seek out prostitutes and reckless living.

This isn’t the end of the story.  The tables are turning…

Verse 17 marks a shift in the story and a turn in the life of this selfish sinful son.  What happens in verse 17?

Lk 15:17 “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!

Lk 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.

Lk 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘

When he came to himself…when he realized the reality of his situation.  He realizes that he had disgraced his father and treated him very poorly.  He realizes that his actions mean that his half of the inheritance is gone and he’s no longer entitled to anything from his father even to be called his son.  He realizes everything he thought would bring him happiness, money, friends, reckless living, getting away from this father, only served to enslave him.  Where at home, he served as a son now in the far country he is simply a slave.

Awake oh sleeper from the grave, you are a son and not a slave.—John Piper

This verse is the beginning of repentance for the younger son.  It seems he had discovered the vanity that promised life but delivered him so close to death and destruction.  He realizes his sin and what he has done and he remembers that his father is generous and forgiving.  He remembers that his father is kind and merciful.

The son rehearses his speech of confession and repentance and heads home.

2. The Father (Luke 15:20-24)

Lk 15:20 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.

Lk 15:21 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.’

Lk 15:22 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.

Lk 15:23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

Lk 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The first appearance of the father is back in verse 11 when he gives the son half of the estate.  This would have caused the people to think that this father is a pushover and about as irresponsible as the son.  In their minds and in ours the father should have refused the son and in those days possibly even disowned him.  In the minds of the listeners the father’s wisdom perhaps was questioned from the very beginning.

The father knew his son and had been watching him.  Every day on the farm seemed more and more miserable and the relationship between the father and the son was very strained to say the least.  Even though the son was close by, his heart was far from the Father.  The father knew that if his son would ever be turned, he had to suffer first and then come back.

One day the father’s prayers were answered…

Lk 15:20 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.

Have you ever considered that the father saw his son while he was still a long way off?  This father didn’t just happen to be up on his roof patching the gutter and look up and saw his son.  He had spent most evenings and morning gazing over the horizon and praying for the return of his son.

Not only did the Father see his son from far away but also he felt compassion.   

Last week we learned that we should be encouraged to repent because our heavenly Father and all the angels in heaven rejoice when we repent.  Jesus is consistent with these parables.  Here, the father is filled with compassion, not anger, not hostility but compassion.

The father is so happy that his son is alive that he does something that dignified elderly rich men simply did not do in ancient times.  He rolls up his robe and runs down the steps and across the field to embrace and kiss his son.  This is the picture of how ready our Heavenly Father is to forgive us.  When we repent, He feels compassion toward us.

This day was something the Father had prayed for and hoped for but because so many years had passed, it seemed almost impossible.  Had his son strayed too far to return?  The son was also thinking, have I passed the point of no return?

The son prays that his father will hear his plea of repentance…

Lk 15:21 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.’

He begins his rehearsed plea…

He is right, He had sinned against God, he says, against heaven and against his father.  Do you see how complete God’s providence had worked repentance in his heart?  He goes on with the true assertion of himself… I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

One sign of true repentance is we feel completely unworthy for our Father to call us son and daughters.  Do you see the reality of your unworthiness?

Jesus told this story and the tax collectors and sinners bowed their heads in submission.  They all knew He was speaking about them.  They were the ones who had strayed so far from God…and yet they were the ones being welcomed home.

The son began his speech but never got to finish it.  The father says,

Lk 15:22 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.

Lk 15:23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

Lk 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

The father has the best robe brought and clothed his son in it.  Do you know what robe the best robe was?  It was the father’s robe.  Notice, it doesn’t say that his son was taken and cleaned up first.  No, the father embraced, kissed and place his own robe on his stinky dirty pig smelling son.  The father’s tears flowed down the cheek of his son as they embraced and as he kissed him…‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him.

He immediately reinstated him into the family, not as a hired servant like the boy had hoped but as a son by placing the family signet ring on his finger.  The son traveled from the far country barefoot but he wouldn’t stay that way.  The servants were barefoot but not a son.

The fatted calf was killed and the whole household celebrated at the return of the Prodigal son… Lk 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

 

The story could have also ended here with, and everyone lived happily ever after.  However, if this were the case then Jesus’ introduction would have had no meaning, Lk 15:11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.[1]

 

Everyone celebrated that day except one…the other son.

3. The Older Son (Luke 15:25-32)

Lk 15:25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.

Lk 15:26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.

Lk 15:27 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.’

Lk 15:28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

Lk 15:29 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.

Lk 15:30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

Lk 15:31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

Lk 15:32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”

Here is the twist Jesus puts on His story.  The youngest son, the one who took half of the father’s estate, the one who wasted it all, the one who loved money more than his father, etc. is now completely reconciled to the father through repentance.  However, there remains one son totally estranged.  The older brother has been near the father the whole time.  He has been busy obeying even the commands of the father and yet, his heart is not in line with the father.

While the household rejoiced he grumbled.  This eldest son served as an illustration to all those standing within hearing distance of Jesus and for all those who would read this parable down through the centuries of the fallacy of self-righteousness.

Is 29:13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,

The father longed for the return of the son who left and went to the far country and he longed for the return of the son who never left home.

So we see the other form of eternal death: working to earn your own righteousness.

The elder son could not understand why the father would lavish such grace on someone who had treated him so terribly.  He couldn’t understand grace and forgiveness.

It’s harder for the Pharisees to understand the message of Jesus than for publicans and sinners, for the nearer we think we are to God by nature and privilege of birth, the harder it is for us to grasp the truth of the Gospel.[2]

The father leaves the celebration and invites the older son to join in as well but all the older son could do is express anger at the father’s mercy.  Because of all the son’s hard work, he felt entitled to the father’s love.  There is a danger when we begin to think that we have earned the right to be loved by God.

Notice the elder son’s response to the father, Lk 15:30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

This self-righteous son would not even call the Prodigal his brother…this son of yours.

Here’s the twist that’s often missed: The younger son in sin left but when he came to his senses returns in hope that he could at least be a servant but the father made him a son.  The elder son refused to be a son but remained a servant…‘Look, these many years I have served you…

Tax collectors and sinners knew they had not earned God’s love but came to Christ hoping for mercy…like the Prodigal Son who came to himself and remembered his father’s mercy.  We must never think God owes us anything but we come to Him through Christ seeking mercy.

Lk 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.

Lk 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Lk 15:3 So he told them this parable:

Application

Jesus has presented a dilemma to the Pharisees and all would be earners of righteousness:  What happens when the moral outcasts repent?  Are those that are distanced from God, say in a far country, destined to always be far from God?  Does God have the right to do with His creation as He pleases?

It is Jesus Christ who speaks the Father’s love.  He is the One who has opened the door to the Father’s house.  He is the one who invites sinners home.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ sat down with the moral and social outcasts and ate with them and through repentance and faith brought them home.

As we look into our own hearts today we must ask ourselves, Do I come to God with an attitude that He owes me something?  Or do I come as a lowly despised sinner and fall at the feet of Christ pleading for mercy…‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am not worthy to be called your son.’

In this story, Jesus leaves the ending open.  There was still time for the self-righteous to repent as well.  There is still time for you.  Have you drifted far from God?


[1] The Parables, Simon Kistenmaker pg 183

[2] Many Things in Parables Ronald S. Wallace pg 61

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