This is difficult…. but it must be addressed. We just finished a look at Luke 15, ending with the story of the lost son… There was no balancing the books for him. The books could no more be ‘balanced’ than for the unmerciful servant of Matthew 18:22-38. The books could no more be ‘balanced’ for this son, than yours or mine can be with God. If it were not for the father’s UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and AMAZING GRACE AND FORGIVENESS, this parable would not make sense. The son would have been deeply disappointed and hurt, and lost. Home was special even more now to him. The things he didn’t like about home, now he deeply loves and appreciates. Would he leave again and run off to that far off country? NO WAY!!! He was home to stay.
SOME HOMES ARE NOT SAFE!!! Those who are lost like this son, and wanting to come home, but knowing their home is not safe, what can be said, or done to help? They know that waiting for them is judgment, and harsh words, and maybe a back handed slap, or more. They know this because that’s why they left.
A WORD TO THE ABUSIVE PARENT! Get some help! Refuse to let another day pass, without getting on the phone, and making an appointment with someone qualified to help you. Not all children who run off are innocent of guilt for sure… but then neither are you. So much can be gained by just sitting, being open and honest, and getting the help which is so desperately needed.
What if the father in Luke 15 were an abusive parent? What would the son have done? Would he let a little thing like a pig pen send him back? Many run away children return home only in body bags… and surely this is too much pain.
The key to getting someone home, is make home worth coming home to. Make it safe, loving, kind. Make it a place where openness and sharing is welcome, and where tempers, throwing things, and striking out is forbidden. Home is the one place where children should be able to come to and when the front door is shut… the world is shut out! Danger is locked out, love is locked in.
“With the same letter heaven and home begin,
They dwell together in the mind,
And those who would a home in heaven win,
Must first a heaven in home begin to find.”
Paul said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4).
This is sad, “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:25-28a).
This was a time for celebrating, but not for the elder brother. He heard how the
father was rejoicing with the return of his brother, but he did not share the
feelings of his father. You remember how this began? “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.”
The elder brother was angry, and refused to go it and celebrate. Why? Because his brother had gone off and squandered everything, and then comes home and seems to get it all back! It’s almost like the elder brother is jealous! “You should tell your son that he is not welcome anymore!” “He has done too much! He has not obeyed your commands like I have!” “He has not worked every day in the fields like I have! He has done everything he could to shame and dishonor you, Father!!!” “This is just not fair! You receive him back with open arms, give him the best robe, a ring, shoes, and
kill that stupid calf… which should have been for me!!!” On and on the brother complains, and reveals his heart to the father.
The father now responds to his other son. The one who had been ‘faithful’, and kept his commandments, and worked so hard… “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:31-32).
“Christians are not perfect (by a long shot), they’re just forgiven.” The life of the Christian is one of growing in grace. Grace is not something which just saves, it is that by which one GROWS AND BECOMES. It’s about ‘elbow room’, its about patience with each other as well as love. One does not need to know everything about the Bible to be saved, he just needs to come to Jesus, repent of sins and be immersed into Christ
(Acts 2:38)… Then the new Christian (babe) needs to grow. Will he make mistakes
(sin)? Yes. Doesn’t every child do things need corrected? Yes. Even when your
child breaks your heart… you don’t disown the child.
Are there any who have lost their way out there? Any who just want to get up out of the pig pen, and ‘come home’? Are there any who feel so unforgiveable and unworthy as this son did? No wonder the tax collectors and the sinners “drew near to Him”… Jesus was then, He is now… the one who can fill the needs of all who are lost. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like …. me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
“The fatted calf, the robe, the shoes, the ring,
They’re all for me, (an) unworthy son.
But the most wonderful thing, God ran to meet me.
I saw God run.”
The sweaty son smelled like a pig… (this comes with the pig pen), and the long journey home. He looked like he had really had a hard time. His self image is crushed, due to his experience with God’s law, (“sow and you shall reap”). His robe was dirty, smelly, torn and ragged. His sandals were long worn out and now his bare feet were blistered, bruised and dirty. He no longer looked like his fathers son, his hair was long and nasty, his beard was the same, and he was deeply depressed.
Things could not be worse… but at least he was home. Expecting the worse, he had begun his much rehearsed speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). He was having trouble speaking since he was being hugged so tightly by his father. He had not expected this response, and had not seen his father run to him before.
The father seemed to not even hear what he had said, and perhaps he repeated himself. FATHER!! I HAVE SINNED!!! I AM NOT WORTHY!!! Have you ever said this? I have. So why was the father ignoring what he said? The son couldn’t believe his ears, as the father cries out….
“… Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22-25).
Wrap your heart around this. The response he expected… he did not receive. What he didn’t expect, he got! This is mercy and grace. He expected to be scolded, slapped, spit at, he expected to be PUNISHED. He was guilty and he knew it. He could not understand, how can his father still love him, much less give him the BEST ROBE, A RING (sign of being a son), shoes, and then kill a specially prepared calf, saved for celebration with special guests!
This had been waiting for him all the time. He didn’t have to stay in the far off country! He didn’t have to sell himself just to be able to eat slop! He didn’t have to be in the pig pen. ALL HE HAD TO DO WAS COME HOME! O, how he wished he had come home sooner. Even more! He wished he had never left!!! Memories and flashbacks of a sinful life and the consequences kept coming, bringing with them shame and disgust as he looked in the mirror. “How could you shame your father?” “How could you make him cry?”
Now he sits on his bed, in his room, wearing the robe, the ring, and has new sandals on his feet. “You don’t deserve this!” he says. “You owe him everything.” He then says “I will never leave again.” “I’m home now, and I am staying home.” “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” Praise His name!
Before we look at the other brother, I wanted to look closer at what all these gifts from the father to the younger brother really means to us.
The action of the father, was no less than the expression of AGAPE LOVE. ‘Agape’ is the word which describes the highest form of love. It is not based on emotions or feelings. This love is a choice ‘in-spite of’ the one loved being deserving or able to ‘pay back’ anything… it is the love of John 3:16, as well as the love of Matthew 27:35-50; I John 3:16. ONE CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM GOD’S LOVE… NO WAY, NO HOW! (Romans 8:38-39). This was the basis for the father’s actions when his son returned.
The BEST robe, which was reserved for honored guests. (When you visited someone then, you would stay in a special guest room, and in the closet would be a choice of robes to be given to you. Your feet would be washed by the house servant, and you would be formally welcomed and presented with the robe. It was a gift, a symbol of honor shown by the host.)
The implications of the best robe, sandals, and a ring given to the son… well, this surely startled the servants and others as well (especially the older brother). The father, by giving the these things is saying, “THIS IS (STILL) MY SON, I AM ACCEPTING HIM BACK, ALL THE WAY!” The son was not put on probation. He is not back to ‘work it out’, to ‘pay back’ anything. He is not just one step above a slave. He didn’t have to try and un-do all the sins he had committed. He wanted everyone to know, without a shadow of doubt, “THIS IS MY SON!”
Christianity today, has fallen prey to a subtle (and dangerous) legalism. Many cannot understand the very thought of a father who would give the best robe to a ‘dirty hog slopper’. “This son needs to PROVE HIMSELF!” “He needs to make right the lies, give back the money etc…” That’s not the case with this father. Who knows what the son had done! Who knows how many women he had slept with. Who knows how many mornings he had gotten up with a ‘hang-over’. His father did not sit him down and give him a questionnaire to decide whether or not he come came home! Nor did he say, “Well son, you’ve just done too much… I don’t think you would be happy here.” The best robe in the house went to the most undeserving. Agape love is like that. Forgiveness is like that. Restoration is like that. Repentance was obvious, forgiveness is given, and now appreciated more than ever before. God didn’t say, “YOU’LL HAVE TO TRY HARDER SON.” He said, “Welcome home”.
Some Christians could learn a lot from this father. God help us today, when someone has sinned, and wants to come home… to receive him, no questionnaires, no probation, no requirement to ‘unscramble the eggs’. Just give him the robe, sandals, and the ring… not just any robe… the BEST ROBE… the robe of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Not just any ‘ring’, but the ACCEPTENCE ring.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet” (Luke 15:17-22).
What made him do it? He had so much and threw it all away! Leaving had been his biggest mistake, and now he knew it. Finally, “he came to his senses…” Finally he “woke up”, he started talking to himself, (even done that?). Well, no one else there but the pigs! He was thinking about how his father, the servants… they were doing really well. From the pig pen.. home looked so good. He was an UNWORHTY SON, an UNDESEREVING SON, a DISGRACEFUL SON, a HEARTBREAKING SON, he was a LOST SON. Now he was a HUMBLE SON!
Home is not hard to find… asking for forgiveness and acceptance may be more difficult. What would his father do and say? Would he lock him out? Refuse to even admit he was alive? Scold and curse him? Throw him in some dark place to be beaten? All of these thoughts nearly made him sick as he thought about his messed up life. HE WAS TO BLAME! He knew it. He couldn’t blame his father… Humility doesn’t seek to blame, it seeks forgiveness.
With each step he, he felt sick, just thinking about what lay ahead. Nervous? More than that! The days stretched into weeks of walking, thinking, hoping, praying. “I just don’t deserve anything, I just want to serve!”
Then he could see familiar land marks… he had passed them before. Then he could see home, like a small hump on the horizon. The more he walked, the more nervous he got. But then there was something moving in the distance… He couldn’t quite make it out, it was his dad! He could not believe it! This just didn’t happen in Palestine. Fathers do not run to a shameful, runaway child who is returning. It’s a matter of pride you see. This was shameful in itself. Honor required that the son come and beg forgiveness!
His father, his dad didn’t care about the humiliation, his son was coming home!!!
The son had practiced his speech all the way home. His dad nearly knocked him down hugging and kissing him. Tears fell like rain… The son began his speech, but the father never seemed to listen… The Ring, The Robe, The fatted calf… all for me? O God, I don’t deserve it. I have shamed you, hurt you… The father whispers… “Be quiet my son… I love you ANYWAY! Welcome home my son.”
Many have lost their way ‘home’. Runaways by the hundreds and thousands concern parents and special units of law enforcement. milk cartons, posters, bill boards are seen in stores, bus stations, air ports, and post offices. ‘MISSING’ HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOY OR GIRL? Special hot line call numbers are provided for any information. All the while, parents wait, hope and pray that their special child will come home.
Luke 15:11-32 contains the story of a father who’s younger son left home. The son, had finally “come to his senses and decided, “I’m going home!” He had had enough of the ‘promises of Satan’ and the ‘far off country’ and the ‘wild life without boundaries’. Home really looked good from the pig pen, better than it looked when he was home, but finding the way home is more difficult than leaving it.
Here are some suggestions:
1.) It all begins with a WAKE UP CALL and a FIRM DECISION to leave the pig pen. What ever the pigpen looks like, (and they all don’t look bad), the decision must be made, TO LEAVE. Not to go to another pigpen, but to go home!
2.) Don’t let pride get in the way. Pride is what keeps one from saying things like, “I AM SORRY”, “I HAVE SINNED” “PLEASE FORGIVE ME”. Here are some things Solomon says about pride. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). “A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence” (Proverbs 15:5).”Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19). “Haughty eyes and a proud heart— the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin” (Proverbs 21:4). “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (Proverbs 29:23). Pride ‘gone to seed’ hardens the heart, stiffens the knees, is ever on the offensive, and is never in the wrong on anything.
3.) Take the first step toward home, this is the hardest. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It is not easy, nor should it be. The son had gone a long way, and done so much… so why should this be easy? Yet when HOME is the goal, somehow, the feeling of “DOING THE RIGHT THING AT THE RIGHT TIME” returns. Each step taken in the right direction brought a feeling back to the son… a thought… “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!”
4.) Don’t stop till you get there! Don’t settle for another pigpen, or another empty promise from Satan. It won’t be any different in the long run. There was no sign of this son stopping. From the first step towards home till he got there it seems he was rehearsing his confession, “FATHER I HAVE SINNED…”
5.) ‘Man-up’ with humility. Be big enough to admit wrongs done, with the determination to start over and do better.
6.) Accept (if there are any)any and all consequences for wrong doing. He, you’re home. At least the time for a new beginning has arrived, and you have a safe place to do it.
(What if ‘home’ is not a safe place? We’ll deal with that later, but the father’s house, was safe, and that’s where he was going.)
“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them” (Luke 15:11-12). Sometimes parents disappointment to their children… but not in this case.
The father had two sons, both will, disappoint the father in different ways. The younger son came to his father and as one version says, “give me what is coming to me”. If I had said that to dad, he probably would have given me something, but it wouldn’t be money. The father responded by giving him his part of the estate. Now it was up to him what he would do with it.
This son, had been planning. Perhaps he was tired of the rules and regulations. Perhaps he was tired of his older brother. The dust from the road was on his heart, long before it got on his feet. He packed up, no signs of saying ‘good bye’, and he left. This alone broke the father’s heart. Sleepless nights, and worry filled days followed as every meal would hear the echo of the father… “My son is gone!” His days of waiting,
hoping and watching began….
The son… he was ‘free’ at last. He was on his way and would not stop even though he knew what he had done had broken his father’s heart. He would not stop until he reached his destination, a country where he could ‘be his own man’. He was the ‘life of the party’, and he ‘picked up the tabs’. People would finally ‘respect’ and ‘look up’ to him, he thought. “(Prodigal) riotous living” meant just that for him… wild parties, drinking and women! No one to stand in his way now!
Satan makes many promises of unbridled pleasure and ‘fun’, yet as someone has said, “Satan always crops the picture” of what he promises. The picture of ‘paradise’ leaves off the pig pen. Satan doesn’t want us to see the whole thing all at once, especially where all this leads. The son would have never made the first step in this direction if he had known a stinking pig pen was waiting for him. Satan’s promises are ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS… worse in the end.
It happened… the money ran out, the friends ‘ran out’ as well. The ‘respect’ he
had gained, was gone, and since there was a famine in the land, the consequences were catastrophic. This son had to sell himself to someone in the land.
The job he got… feeding pigs in the pigpen. Now I love bacon like most people, and
wouldn’t have a problem with raising pigs. I have been to some pig roasts, and
it was good tasting meat. However, this was forbidden to Jews. The pig pen,
well what do you think it was like? In a word, “STINKING”! He had no food, so
he was eating what the pigs got.
How far does one have to go before he finally wakes up? What will a person ‘eat’ before he finally wakes up? He hit the bottom… “I’ve had enough… I’m going home.”
The father, he is still waiting, hoping and praying…. for his son.
I know you are used to it being called the Lost Coin, but there is more to it. Luke 15:8-10 is about a lady who lost a coin. It says, “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The coin was very important since it (a Greek coin called a ‘drachma’), was equal to a day’s wages. Somehow, by an act of carelessness or perhaps forgetfulness, she had lost it. Now what? She still has nine… what’s one lost coin? Look carefully at the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were OK (they thought). If any were acceptable to God, if any had a future home in heaven, it was them, because they kept all the commandments and laws and traditions… they earned it. Their motives were wrong (Matthew 6:2, and 5), and “grace” (getting what is not deserved) and “mercy” (not getting what you do deserve), seemed far from their minds in dealing with those they called “sinners” and unworthy. So, the lost were just LOST to them… tough luck. Why not just care for the ones not lost?!
The woman was determined, she swept and cleaned the whole house. The tragedy of being lost is hard to put into words. It is certainly not fun. Have you ever lost your credit card? What about money. I remember one day dad told me of the time when he came home from the bank. He had cashed some money for some reason. Yet when he got home… it wasn’t in his pocket. He looked in the office, and it wasn’t there. He checked and re-checked his pockets and drawers. He re-traced his steps, and went to the truck… still no envelop… no money. He went and got his keys, and drove back down to the bank and looked where he had parked…. not there. He went inside the bank and asked the customer service lady, and she said, “Yes, someone found the white envelop in the parking lot and had brought it in.” Determination paid off. How relieved do you think he was? He told mom, he told everyone!!!.
The coin was lost by no fault of its own, (as some are lost today) it still belonged to the lady… she searched till she found it… she rejoiced… Does this say anything about Jesus? God? Grace? Forgiveness? Being lost is hard…(whoever causes it) and knowing that there is someone who is looking for you is wonderful. Knowing that someone still values you, is wonderful. Being found… is marvelous. Too bad, these religious leaders did not see the joy of finding those who were lost.
“Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence ofe angels of God over one sinner who repents.”