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We celebrate Homecoming this week!  

There are many “homecoming” stories found in the Bible. But I believe that one of the most familiar, and certainly the most joyous, is found in Luke, Chapter 15. Turn with me this morning to Luke, Chapter 15, to the parable that is traditionally referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal means “wasteful,” but to me, this could just as easily be called the parable of the Loving Father, because it emphasizes the love, the graciousness, the wisdom, and the forgiveness of the father more than the wastefulness and sinfulness of the son. But it is nonetheless a great story of homecoming, and the parable begins like this…

Verses 1-2:

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, and eateth with them.

Here we see the outcasts of the church; the publicans and the sinners gathering around the Lord Jesus to hear His Words. And here we read of the arrogant and jealous church people, the Pharisees and the scribes, murmuring against Jesus and against the people who have come to hear Him.

Jesus has been teaching the people about lost things. The shepherd who has lost one sheep (verses 4-7) goes out and searches diligently for that one sheep and brings it home, rejoicing. The woman who has lost a coin (verses 8-10) searches meticulously throughout the house for that one coin, and when she finds it, she too rejoices. But when the human heart is lost, only the human heart can make the decision to bring itself back home.

It is important that we keep in mind the audience that has gathered to hear the LORD. The sinners and publicans are there to hear the Word of the LORD. They are hungry to know more about the Kingdom of God. And when Jesus taught, his teaching astonished the people. They listened intently to what he was saying

For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:29)

Teachers, let me tell you that there is excitement in the Word of God; every book, every chapter, every verse, holds wonderful news relating to the LORD Jesus Christ. I encourage you, as you study your Sunday school lesson, to seek God’s face that He might impart to you the wonderful truths hidden there.

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

When you have first sought God’s face in prayer over your Sunday school lesson, read the Scripture text for yourself; then and only then, will you begin to study. So, here in the first few verses of the chapter, Jesus has been talking about lost things; the lost sheep, the lost coin, and then, he speaks of the lost soul:

Verses 11-12:

... 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.

Now some would say this was a foolish action on the part of the father. But the father knows something about the son that we fail to see. He raised his son, he worked with his son, and he knows his son’s heart! God knows the heart of every one of His children. He even knows the heart of those who are not his children. This Father knew his son had arrived at that age of independence, and would be restless until he let him go.

We note that the son had enough respect for his father to come to him, and to talk with him, basically saying, “Dad there’s something out there for me, and I want to find out what it is!”

And so the Father’s ears, and his heart, were open to his son’s request. I am so thankful that our heavenly Father is an understanding Father. He’s an approachable Father. And the question is, can our children come to us? Are you approachable? Can your children talk to you, Mom? Are you willing to give ear to your children, Dad?

Our heavenly father is approachable. His ears are always open to His children.

The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. (Psalm 34:15)

In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. (Psalm 18:6)

And so the Father’s ears, and his heart, were open to his son’s request.

Verse 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.

The hunger for independence—every one of us has experienced it at one time or another. This is the heart of the younger son.  He sees the fulfillment of all his hopes and dreams just over that next hill. Perfect love must sometimes let go. Many parents see little of their children after they have left home, for when their children do come home, the parents still treat them as children. Children must grow up, and parents must learn to let go. Children must, eventually, face the world on their own. The father knew his younger son’s heart, and as much as I believe the father’s heart was breaking, he let go! You can’t trap your children’s love; it wouldn’t be perfect love. Perfect love is that love that is given freely. A father, or a mother, can never really own their children’s love unless the children are willing to give that love freely.

Do you see this setting Jesus is in? His lost children, the sinners and the publicans, are coming to Him. They’ve had enough of the world, they’ve had enough of the church, they’ve had enough of misery, heartache, and pain, and now, they’re coming to Jesus. Why? Because they know He cares for them, and He gives them hope for the future. They come to Him freely. The free will of man is God’s way of letting go! The only way God will receive pleasure in you and me is if we freely turn to him and say, “Lord, I love you.” And so the father shows great love for his son by letting go.

Verse 13:

And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country...

The money was just burning a hole in the younger son’s pocket. He had to get out there and see what life was really all about. For a time, it was eat, drink, and be merry, but too soon the money ran out.

Verses 14-16:

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.

Most children today would call home! They won’t come home, but they’ll call home for money, or for some other type of help! But it must be refused! One of the grandest lessons to learn from this parable is: though the father wanted his son to come home; was no doubt worried about his son, where he was, and what he was doing; the father did not go out into the world looking for him. If the son is going to come home, it must be a perfect homecoming. It must be because his son wants to come home; not because he is compelled to come home.

Dad doesn’t run after the son. This is significant. The Shepherd went looking for the lost sheep. The woman went looking for the lost coin. But the father must wait for his lost son to come home on his own. This is perfect love.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The lost son went out into the world to find life, yet he found the pigpen. In his father’s house, he’d had it made. He was somebody. But in the world, he was lost and dying. Many of us today fail to see our need for the heavenly Father’s home.  We may have grown up in the church, but we’ve never had a true relationship with Christ. And in the world we’re trying to find some peace of mind, some rest for our weary soul, and yet nothing we cling to gives any real satisfaction, contentment, rest, or peace.  The son was out there with money to buy, but he could not buy the love, the peace, the security, or the contentment that he’d had in his father’s house. And the voice of the Father calls,

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?  and your labour for that which satisfieth not?  hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. (Isaiah 55:2)

As the younger son looked back, his face down in the pigpen, he could see the mistakes he had made! What would be his response to this personal evaluation?

Verses 17-19:

 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.

Not only does he see his transgression against the love of his earthly father, he sees his transgression against the heavenly Father as well. And this speaks wonderfully of his spiritual upbringing. When he thinks of his earthly father, he is reminded of his heavenly Father, and he makes that great decision to get up out of the pigpen, and head back home. This young man changed his mind about himself and his situation. He remembered his father’s generosity and kindness to all. And he remembered that service at home was far better than “freedom” in the far country.

Remembering the love and goodness of his father caused him to change his mind about himself, and about his situation. But merely changing his mind was not enough to get him back home to his father’s house. He needed to change his direction. True repentance involves the will as well as the mind and the emotions. The young man said, “I will arise... I will go ... I will say...” Warren Wiersbe writes, “Our resolutions may be noble, but unless we act on them, they can never of themselves bring about any permanent good.”

This young man put his words into action:

Verse 20:

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.

Here is a father whose mind was always upon his son, whose eyes were fixed every day to that horizon, with the blessed hope that one morning he would arise and look upon that horizon to see the figure of his son coming home. And this was that blessed day! The father looked out that window and saw his son coming down the road and he stopped what he was doing, dropped everything, and ran down that dusty road to embrace his son. What rejoicing, what excitement, and what satisfaction! What a wonderful father’s day gift... to see his son coming home!

Verses 21-24:

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. 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.

How wonderful for this father to know that his son, who was dead in the world, was now alive and safely home again. Young people, there is no greater gift that you can give your parents than the gift of them knowing that you are safe and secure in the heavenly Father’s house, that you have made your commitment to Christ, and received Him as your personal Savior. And fathers, our children may never find that eternal security with the heavenly Father if our example does not lead them in His direction. This boy remembered his father’s love and goodness, and it reminded him of his heavenly Father’s love as well, and he came home.

Are you out there in a far country today?  Has your life somehow ended up in a pigpen somewhere? Today, in fact, this very moment, you can rise, and go to your heavenly Father, ask forgiveness of sin, and be restored to His house.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

This is God’s invitation to you this morning.

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