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On this celebration of Fatherís Day, I would like to share with you a story that Charles Dickens called the greatest short story ever told.† Robert Browning called it one of the gems of literature for all time.† It is a story familiar to every Christian and can be found in Luke 15, beginning at verse 11.† It is the parable of the prodigal son.† But as we look closely at this story we learn that it is more than just a story about one son who leaves home thinking he will find success and satisfaction in the far country.† It is a story that really speaks to us of two sons; one is a prodigal (wasteful and extravagant), the other is selfish, self-righteous, self-centered and arrogant.† In the middle of these two sons stands a Father who is loving, understanding, patient, entreating, wise, and forgiving.† What an example for every father today...
In the beginning of this Chapter, we find that the publicans and sinners have gathered to hear Jesus teach.† To the scribes and the Pharisees, publicans and sinners were the dregs of Jewish society. The publicans were Jews working as tax collectors for the Roman government (of course they were hated). The sinners were Jews that were outcasts of the Jewish religious structure. And yet, when Jesus stopped along his way to teach, it wasnít the righteous church people (the scribes and Pharisees) that anxiously came to hear him teach, it was the publicans and sinners.
Jesus, knowing the hateful and judgmental heart condition of the scribes and the Pharisees for their Jewish brothers, began to teach them about lost things.
1: Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2: And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
In other words, ďHow can this Jesus be anything more than just another sinner. He eats with sinners, and associates with sinners. He must be a sinner as well?Ē
So here, in this audience before Christ, you have four groups of people.
The sinners, and the publicans, who are anxious to hear what Christ has to say.
And the scribes and Pharisees, who are anxious to criticize everything the Lord has to say.
And Jesus, knowing the heart condition of each group, began to tell this parable.
3: And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4: What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5: And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6: And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7: I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
The Bible says,
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd!† He is out everyday looking for lost sheep.
You may be one of his lost sheep this morning.
Youíve heard Him calling many times from just over the horizon, but you refuse to come to him.†
You live in fear and doubt everyday, and so youíre like so many other lost sheep, caught in a thicket with no one there to help get you out.†
But Christ wants to set you free. He wants to bring you home to a place of rest and reassuranceóa place of security and peace.
And so Jesus speaks to the people about lost sheep.
Then in verses 8-10, He speaks to the multitude of a woman who had ten pieces of silver, and lost one piece
8: Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9: And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
How diligently this woman sought to find that one lost piece of silver.
Silver was then, and still is, a precious commodity.
This woman searched diligently throughout her home to find that one precious piece of metal.† And, likewise, Christ considers every soul precious to Him.
So precious that He set aside His glory, stepped down from heaven, and came looking for that precious piece of silver, that lost soul.
In both of these short stories, the shepherd and the woman rejoice greatly when they find their lost possessions.
And we note, in both of the cases, there was a search conducted.
A lost sheep cannot make a decision to come home on its own.
A lost piece of silver will always be lost until someone finds it and brings it home.
But when it comes to the human heart, the lost human heart must make a decision on its own whether to die of starvation in a far country, or come home to the Fatherís house; a place of love, a place of provision, a place of security and satisfaction!
The publicans and sinners are like Godís wayward children.
They are like the lost sheep, and the lost piece of silver.
Every soul is precious to God,
But equally so, the scribes and the Pharisees, are lost and wayward children as well
And so Christ compares the two wayward groups, as two sons.
One wayward and lost (The publicans and sinners).
The other, hateful, prejudiced, and judgmental (the scribes and the Pharisees) who are likewise lost.
And so he speaks of these two lost sons. How does the father deal with these children?
11: And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12: 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.
The son really had no right to his fatherís goods until his death.
But the Father has an understanding heart!
He knows that the human heart is restless!†
This boy was old enough to be on his own.† He was old enough to make decisions for himself. He was not a young teen; he was a young man.† He was old enough to be accountable to God for his actions
And so the father ďdivided unto them his living.Ē
Just like this father, Our Heavenly Father has given each and everyone of us abilities, talents, money, and things, to do with as we very well please.† Our life is our own!† But the quality of our life finds its fullest when we are walking at the Fatherís side.
And so this father divides his living to both sons.
13: 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.
Here the younger son threw his money away trying to find satisfaction in the far country.
Living it up, and having a good time.
No alarm clock to wake up to every morning! Nobody to tell him, ďgo do this or go do that!Ē He thought he had plenty of money,† He thought he had plenty of friends.
††††† And he even thought he had plenty of time. But he didnít!
Too soon, His money ran out. His friends left him. And his time of living it up came to an end.
†† Does that sound like you this morning?
Nothing at all seems to come out right for you.
Youíve got that house youíve always wanted to have,
Youíve got that car, itís the finest and newest on the market, your income is substantial, but itís still not enough to satisfy all your wants and needs, and therefore you find little satisfaction in your life.
Maybe itís because you too are living in the far country.
Youíre estranged from the Fatherís house.
And you need to come home!
This young manís goods soon gave out!
14: And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
The hardest thing for any father or mother, is to see their children in ďwant.Ē
This sonís father was looking out that window, down that dusty road, hoping to catch a glimpse of his son coming over that horizon, coming home.
But today he would not see him!
Instead the son, embarrassed, ashamed of himself, and feeling much less independent and self-sufficient, finds a job working for somebody else, still in the far country.
15: And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16: And he would fain [happily] have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
Everything this young man had before was given to him by his father.
He hadnít worked for it, nor was he deserving of it.† Yet he threw it all away, trying to find happiness in the far country, in the world.
Instead he finds himself face down in the mud of a pigpen far away from home!
Heís found that the world, unlike his father, will give him nothing, not even food to eat!
And hunger has a way of bringing a man close to himself.
And again, today, the Father is looking out that window
Hoping to see his son coming over that horizon...coming home!
But heíll not see him coming today!
His son is facedown in a pigpen, in some far country, starving for the lack of bread!
17: 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!
18: I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father; I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
Note:† When he was reminded of his father, he was also reminded of heaven!
When he surveyed his past, he saw his fatherís smiling face, and his fatherís wonderful care for his servants, and he had to admit, Life was better when he was at home!
He was going to swallow his foolish pride, and when he swallowed his pride, out went the arrogance and stubbornness and the selfishness as well.
He was going to get up out of that pig pen, and go home, and he was going to tell his father...
19: And am (Iím) no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20: And he arose and came to his father.
Mind you, the Father has been looking out that window everyday, looking up that dusty road, with the hopes that he would see His son coming home.
And finally today would be his day of rejoicing!
The Bible saysÖ
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.
(I believe the tears were flowing from the eyes of both)
This is the only picture in the Bible of God ever being in a hurry!
21: 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.
22: 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:
23: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
This is a picture of God the Father responding to you and me when weíve wasted our lives in the far country, finally turning around and coming home to Him.
The son acknowledged his sin, while he was being smothered in his fatherís arms.
God sees our heartís repentance, before we ever speak the words.† But itís important for us to speak the words.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Father loves.
The Father understands.
The Father is patient.
And the Father is rejoicing and forgiving.
But heís got another sonóan older son.
Heís not understanding! Heís not loving. And heís not forgiving
How will the Father deal with his older son?
25: Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26: And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
When youíve been working hard in the fields, itís hard to get excited about others who are dancing and playing music.
Instead of going into the house himself and speaking to his father, he called one of the servants and queried him about the noise.
27: 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.
28: And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
The older brother wouldnít go into the house because his sinful brother was in there.† And he shouldnít be.
He didnít deserve to have a celebration.
If anybody deserves a party, reasoned the older brother, itís me!
This is a picture of the scribes and the Pharisees!
They think they deserve heaven because of their own works and righteousness..
This older son is not happy about his brotherís return.
Heís not happy about his Fatherís forgiveness.
But note, the Father comes out of the house to entreat (make an earnest request) of his older son to forgive and to come into the house and be a part of the celebration.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive you.
Here is the wicked heart of the older son, revealed in his own words.
29: 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:
First:† the older brother sees himself as deserving.† ďI deserve better than what Iím getting.Ē
And yet everything that the older brother has was given to him by his father.
Certainly he had been working in the field, but he was working for selfish gain.
He was not working because he loved his father.† He expected more than what he was getting.
Secondly, he questioned the love and farness of his father. ďYou never gave me...Ē Here we must remember that the fatherís celebration is not to honor his sonís waywardness, but to express the joy in his own heart over his sonís return home.† Everybody ought to be rejoicing over the return home of a family member that was lost.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
This older son was not rejoicing, he was sulking, pouting, brooding over the way his father was treating his younger brother.
He hated his younger brother, and he hated the way his father was dealing with his younger brother.
He questioned the fairness of his father.
Thirdly, the older brother was a respecter of persons.†
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:
Not everybody would be invited to the older sonís celebration...only his friends. Here we see the hateful attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees for their Jewish brothers; the publicans and sinners.
30: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
Youíve done more for him than youíve ever done for me!
31: And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32: 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.
††††† How sad it is that when we come to the close of this parable, we find that the older son is still sitting outside the house sulking, while the repentent son is enjoying his father's love and forgiveness.
What a wonderful example God sets for every Father.
Heís loving, Heís understanding, Heís patient, Heís forgiving, Heís entreating and Heís wise.
And because He is all of these things....Heís happy and rejoicing!† This father knew both of his sons very well!† He understood their needs, and he helped to meet them in a wise and wonderful way; The Forgiving Father of the prodigal son.
Happy Fatherís Day!