The Prodigal Son

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable:                                                                                                                             Luke 15:1-3

 

NOTE:  Hear Tommy and Eddie dramatize the Parable of the Prodigal SonCLICK HERE

So to be clear, the younger son took all his inheritance, with arrogance, a lack of respect to his father and his older brother and his unquenchable self-absorption and left town. The crowds and those Pharisees who stood just far off enough, but in earshot, surely knew the characters well: a renegade child, a faithful family member and a parent who would give the shirt off his back for their child is as common as the earth is old. 

The account gets messy about halfway through. The youngest realizes the errors of his ways, knowing full well that the animals at the homestead are eating better than he. So he rushes home and when (I just love this part) his dad sees him far off in the distance, it’s like a Hallmark Classic, the two of them start into a run until they meet and embrace and (as David shared in his message Sunday), they could live happily ever after!  Imagine the crowds: what could be going through their minds? Were some thinking that they were the prodigal son?  Were some parents still waiting for their wayward child’s return?  Did they get that one of the characters needed Jesus; one had Jesus in his life; and one was, in fact, Jesus?

Sunday, David reminded us that the father was indeed, Jesus, who in a moment will welcome back those who are arrogant, lacking respect, and unquenchable in their self-absorption.  Jesus’ forgiveness and love lavishes on even the worst of sinners. It is a happy ending.

Except…the parable isn’t over!

Jesus didn’t stop with the great feast the father threw for his younger son!  There was an older son that Jesus’ listeners had to reckon with.  This was the son who stayed and worked.  This is the son who watched his father sell enough land in order to give the full inheritance to his younger brother.  This is the son who was not around when his lesser arrived home because he was out in the fields working like a good son.  Jesus tells us the whole account of the elder son in Luke 15:25-32. This son comes on the scene during the feast. When he finds out about his younger brother, Jesus tells the crowd: The older brother became angry and refused to go in.  So his father went out and pleaded with him.  How dare this father lavish so much on the one who abandoned him. “What about me?” I can hear the older brother say. The younger son deserved nothing! 

What’s Jesus saying here?  Don’t miss this.  This older brother had no desire to celebrate his brother’s homecoming because he was thinking more of himself.  Was he any different than his younger brother?  Was he not, also, arrogant, lacking respect and full of self-absorption?

So, who are Jesus’ three characters?  God is the father.  How about the younger son?  Who does he represent?  Someone you know who has left the faith?  Who has wronged another?  Who is not like me?  And what about the older brother?  David shares (and I agree) there are many (dare I say, “most”) and most of the older brothers are us; those of us who have been faithful in the church and to God.  We are the ones working our hearts out in the field: sitting on the committees, always showing up on workdays; volunteering in the office or counting the funds, staff working extra hours; even giving our treasures consistently.  Without us, there just would not be a church!  Are we the older brothers who complain that this person is not dressed right and that person is not reliable?  And, then, there is that one who doesn’t act Christian enough. Ouch!  Could we who are steeped in church ministry be that older brother?  One way to know for sure is ask yourself when you see something that you don’t like: “What’s wrong with them…!” “How dare they…?” “I refuse to talk to them because of what they said/did…!”

And then comes the most painful of the “older brother syndrome” that says: I’m going to tell how I feel about that person but I’m not going to talk to them myself!  Oh, what sinners we Christians are.  We will murmur like those Pharisees but we are slow to accept or forgive or to listen and talk with godly wisdom.  And all the while the Father is saying, “Come to the party!  I have forgiven and I have big plans and there is enough for all!  Everyone is forgiven!  I’ll leave no one out who wants to come!”  And I wonder too, if Jesus is asking, “Who will you invite to come to the party?  Who will you seek out and show unconditional love, forgiveness, respect and grace to?”  

Friends, regularly I must check if I am being arrogant, lacking respect for others or unquenchably self-absorbed.  Am I missing the joy of the salvation of another who needs a Savior?  Am I unwilling to come to the party and bring others to celebrate?  Jesus is calling us to live, not like the older brother, but as one who welcomes everyone home!  Cason is the perfect home because Cason is: Where All Will Find and Know the LOVE of GOD!  Will you go after the lost and celebrate when the lost is found?  Will you love all people as God loves us?  Will you put any arrogance, lack of respect and self-absorption aside for the work of the LORD?

Thank you, David, for your powerful message on Sunday.  And thanks for loaning me the book that inspired you: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by: Tim Keller.

I just love being your pastor, Cason!  Joy, joy,

Pastor Alexis

 


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