There are many things in life about which we can be concerned. We can be concerned about the weather – when will it be warmer? We can be concerned about the economy – especially if we are being directly affected by the recession. One’s health is also a matter of concern to many people. This morning as we continue in the series, Priority Check, we come to Luke 15. We will find a variety of concerns contained in this chapter. Jesus tells three parables about the tremendous concern that develops over that which is lost and the great joy that results when that which is lost is found. He tells about the concern of a man over a lost sheep. Jesus tells about the concern of a woman over a lost coin. He then tells about the concern of a father over a lost son. Jesus is using the parables to point to the priority of concern God has for His children who are lost and the joy that results when they are found.
This morning as we continue to take make a Priority Check we will be considering what it is that concerns us. As we look at Luke 15 we will see the importance of having a Priority of Concern that is built on godly values.
Luke 15 opens with a description of those who were hearing Jesus. Most people would see the great difference between these people.
1 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.
2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
The first group is found in verse 1 – tax collectors and sinners. Most would say these were the dregs of society. Tax collectors were despised because they had united with the Roman government and were collecting taxes from the Jews to further fund the oppressing government. Not only that, they usually overcharged the tax in order to line their own pockets. The other group were also despised by most Jews, particularly Jewish leaders. These were given the general category of sinners. This group would include prostitutes, thieves, drunkards, adulterers, and such.
The second group is found in verse 2 – Pharisees and scribes. These were people recognized as leaders. They were well-educated. They knew the Law. They were considered by many to be best of society. While people might be quick to see the differences between these two groups, Jesus could see the similarity. They both had a serious need. Both were lost and needed to be found!
With these people listening Jesus told them a story about a man who lost one of his one hundred sheep. That man frantically searched for the lost sheep until he found it. Then there was great JOY! Jesus went on to tell about a woman who had lost one of her ten coins. These coins (drachmas) had an approximate value of one day’s wages. She frantically searched for the lost coin until she found it. Then there was great JOY! In both instances Jesus told those listening to Him that there is great JOY in heaven when a sinner truly repents. Right away we can see the PRIORITY OF CONCERN that is important for those who are lost in sin! Today there is still great JOY in heaven when one is found through the Gospel of Christ.
Jesus then comes to the third parable that begins in Luke 15:11 and continues through the end of the chapter (vs. 32). This parable is well known by many today. It is frequently called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Prodigal means “recklessly wasteful.” Some have said a better title for the parable would be, “The Parable of the Loving Father.” Another perspective could be taken and the title could be, “The Parable of the Self-Righteous Brother.” We will be seeing different concerns from each of these in the parable – the younger son, the elder son, and the father.
I. Concern of the Younger Son
11 And He said, "A man had two sons.
12 "The younger of them said to his father, ’Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So 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 impoverished.
15 "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
17 "But when he came to his senses, he said, ’How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!
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."’
What was on the mind of the younger son? What was the focus of his concern? He was self-centered. He knew he was to receive an inheritance when his father died. But it seems he had plans for that inheritance in the here and now. He wanted his portion of the estate NOW! We are also told what he did with the money he received from his father. He wasted it on meeting his self-centered and sinful choices. Did he have fun? I’m sure he did – but that fun was short-lived. In fulfilling his concern to enjoy himself and enjoy his wealth he created a much more serious concern – staying alive! He went from being rich to being extremely poor. He was now at the bottom of the pit. Feeding the swine. Longing for the food he was feeding swine. His life was most MISERABLE.
It was at this point that the younger son became fully aware of his bad choices. There are people today who make some obviously bad choices, but they seem to have something in common with this prodigal son. They don’t realize their most serious need until they are completely down and out. So it was with the younger son. His concern went from having fun to staying alive! He tried to meet his own needs through his own efforts, but they were not enough. He was LOST and now he realized it! Verse 17 is a major turning point as we are told “he came to his senses.” Then we are told he realized he had left his greatest source of blessing – his father. He decided to repent, to change his direction. He would return to his father, admit his sin, and ask to be treated as one of his slaves.
What is your priority of concern? Pleasing self, or pleasing your heavenly Father? The good news in this parable is that the younger son “came to his senses.” It is good news today when anyone becomes aware of having the right priority of concern in life. It is not the empty pursuit of personal pleasure – that will ultimately lead to failure. The right priority of concern is to please the heavenly Father!
II. Concern of the Father
20 "So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
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 celebrate;
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 celebrate.
There are some who are very concerned about the things of life. We saw that attitude in the younger son as he wanted to use the things of life to have fun, to enjoy himself even in “loose living.” There are others who are very concerned about the things in life in a different way. They think of their worth, their value, their importance in the quantity of things they have stockpiled. The father in this story was not primarily concerned about things in life in either of these ways. If he were, he would have been more concerned about the money he had given to the younger son than he was in the son. But the father was looking down that lane for his son – not for his stuff, not for the wealth he had given the son. As soon as he saw him he ran to meet him and to give him a loving greeting. He did not say, “Where’s the money?” He did not even ask him about it. His concern was in his son!
What is the message for us? Fathers should love their sons more than things? While that is true, the teaching is greater than that. Many of those who heard the story would have thought that younger son deserved no such greeting. He had been an embarrassment to his father and to the rest of the family. Some might have thought it would have been perfectly understandable for the father to simply fold his arms, shake his head, and walk away with disgust. They would say that is what he deserved. But the father’s concern took him to give the younger, repentant son, more than he deserved – GRACE. May our concern for others exceed giving them what they deserve! May we be those who show a heart of concern filled with GRACE!
III. Concern of the Elder 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 could 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 pleading with 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 young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;
30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
31 "And he said to him, ’Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32 ’But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’"
The elder son was not so thrilled to see the younger son return home. He was especially turned off by the reception the father gave that reprobate son. In his opinion his brother did not deserve such a welcome. Well, he was right. The younger son did not DESERVE that kind of a welcome. He would not have received that kind of a welcome were it not for the father’s loving grace. His father had a great priority of concern for that son – even though he was a sinful son! That was not a concern shared by the elder son.
Did the Pharisees and scribes see how their attitude was represented by the elder son. They looked at those tax collectors and sinners as people not worthy of their concern. They saw them as worthy only of punishment. They criticized Jesus because He had shown concern for such people. They thought He was guilty of serious error in having such concern.
The father in the parable was not concerned about pleasing the self-righteous, judgmental elder brother. He loved both his sons. He knew the younger son had sinned, but that did not cause him to stop loving him. Do you have people in your life who has sinned against you? Can you still be concerned for them? What does God want? Do you know someone who is lost? Are you concerned about their eternal condition?
Jesus not only spoke to and ate with those tax collectors and sinners – He died for them! He died also for those scribes and Pharisees. They too needed forgiveness. First they needed to realize their own sin. That is something that both groups had in common. A need for forgiveness and a need for God’s loving grace. Paul made that clear as he wrote to the Romans. The Jews were guilty of sin, the Gentiles were guilty of sin – ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And for each who repents, and comes to salvation through Christ Jesus there is JOY in heaven!