O’Henry was asked what is the greatest short story ever written. Without hesitation he replied – Luke 15! Everyone knows that story. It may be as equally known as John 3:16. It is a gold mind of truths!
This is one parable and it is about:
1 Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
2 And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 And He told them this parable, saying …
The group most likely to embrace Jesus became his most vocal critics. Their dislike would move to disdain and not give up until he was dead. These leaders became leaders of the blind. To respond to their criticism Jesus gave “a parable.” This is not 3 but this whole chapter is one response.
Jesus gives us the story of how one moves away from God. He begins with sheep:
The sheep was lost unintentionally.
4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?
The nature of sheep:
- Not aggressive
- Not bright
- Not focused
They just looked up and were lost. That is a picture of how some move away from God. One does not start out to get lost. It’s just an innocent trail of poor decisions and bad judgments. One day a person discovers they have moved far from home, family, values, faith and God.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
The nature of the shepherd is to guide and provide for his sheep. 100 sheep is a real challenge! Immediately when he realized one was lost it became the focus of his attention. 99% was not good enough. If you have 4 children and 3 come home it isn’t ok. An all out search began. Too often we see where a child has “disappeared.” Just this past week a 12 year old girl in Washington did not come home. The world stopped for her parents. Want to see what joy is?
5 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
7 “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Here is a hint of the heart of God! Joy bells ring in heaven when just ONE person comes to a saving faith in Jesus!
The coin was lost through no fault of its own.
8 “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?
9 “And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’
10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
This was not just any coin. Tradition tells us this was the equivalent of a wedding ring. The woman would place this special coin in the center of a chain of coins and wear it around her forehead or neck. She dressed, reached for her “wedding ring” and “the set” was missing. What panic! We experienced that kind of feeling when we lose something precious and valuable. Talk about a house cleaning. Never had her house had such a thorough going through! A ha! She found it. Again it was not the commercial estimate that gave it value; it was its emotional significance. June and I were at Bellengrath Gardens in Mobile. I found a pearl necklace with a gold clasp … The message is this: even if you live life as good as you can you are still LOST! Through no fault of your own.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–
Again want to see what joy looks like? Like the shepherd did:
6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!”
Here again we get a glimpse of what bring joy to God:
7 “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Joy in heaven and now joy with the angels! I can feel a rising of emotions in this chapter! Now we come to the part everyone knows:
The son was lost deliberately and intentionally and willfully.
11 And He said, “A certain man had two sons;
12 and the younger of them said to his father,’ Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ And he divided his wealth between them. 13 “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.
14 “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need.
15 “And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 “And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
I wonder how old both Dad and son were? This was an insult to their father. “I want what’s mine now!” The boy wanted to be free of all restraints and do what he wanted to do. And he did! Freedom somehow turned sour. His money was gone. His friends were gone. His myth of freedom was gone. He reached the point of absolute desperation! He was literally in the pig pen. Anyone here been down that road? Or maybe anyone here on that road? Are you a rebel without a cause! The sad part is the one the son hurt the most was himself. Ever heard the phrase “passive aggressive behavior”?
This behavior is designed to hurt or punish someone else:
– Not going to class
– Not passing
– Not keeping one’s room clean
– Intentionally being late
The thing about this is
– It never makes sense
– It never works
– It always hurts the one doing it more than anyone else.
This son was in open rebellion and now totally disillusioned. Look at the key words and turning point:
17 “But when he came to his senses …
The light came on. How thoughtless, Heartless, Stupid, Painful. This is always the way of sin! Thank heavens he felt FREE to go home. Listen as he rehearses his speech:
18’I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men. “‘
He got it! A grand reunion takes place:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him …
He saw him because he was looking for him. Going after him was not an option. Waiting and looking was. Listen to the well rehearsed speech:
21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;
23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24 for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ And they began to be merry
He got a robe, sandals, ring, party! What a celebration! Few things can equal this in emotions! Now too often we think that is the end of the story. Not so. This parable is also about:
Being a slave not a son.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things might be.
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 became angry, and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began entreating him.
29 “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends;
30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32’But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’ “
Talk about a real kill joy!
– I’ve never disobeyed
– I’ve always SERVED YOU
– I’ve never had a party
– What a reprobate your prodigal son is.
Listen to the dad: You have always been with me. All I have is yours! The truth is: There were 2 prodigals. One away and one at home. One was a son who broke his father’s heart. One was a son who only saw himself as a slave. That is a picture of some believers. All the joy of sonship and service is gone! It’s all duty. The story ends with one son in the house and one son out. Which one are you more like? There are you today?
This parable is really about:
Being like the father.
Our heart is to reflect God’s heart! Loving, waiting, forgiving, receiving.