Summary: The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a two pronged message.
Fourth Sunday in Lent 2007
Dr. Paul G. Humphrey
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This morning we are looking at the parable of the Prodigal Son. The first thing that I want you to see is who this parable is originally told to. Look with me if you would to Luke 15 verses 1 and 2.
LK 15:1 Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Here you have gathered with Jesus the worst of the worst and those who thought that they were the best of the best.
“Tax collectors and sinners” is a common phrase in Scripture. Tax collectors were looked upon as traitors to Israel, and were know for dishonesty. They were spoken of hand in hand with thieves and prostitutes.
Notice what the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered; “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The Pharisees were all about ritual purity, and eating with someone was a very intimate act for First Century Jews. It is not this way for us. We go to the food bar, and have no idea who we are eating with, but for them, eating with someone that they saw as ritually impure, or even a Gentile would be detestable to them.
You might recall once in Scripture that Paul jumped all over Peter because he was eating with Jewish Christians but wouldn’t sit and eat with Gentile Christians. This is something so far outside of our cultural views that it is difficult for us to understand.
How many people do you share your toothbrush with? Suppose I wanted to borrow your tooth brush and take it down to a homeless shelter and let those who need it use it, and wash it with alcohol. Alcohol will disinfect it. I can promise it will have no germs on it when I bring it back? You would be saying to me, “Just keep it.” Even if you are absolutely sure that there are no germs on it, just the thought is enough.
Or, how about letting a hobo sleep in your bed while you are not using it? He could take a bath first? You think, my bed would be dirty, I don’t like the thought of that, but to allow a family member to sleep in your bed would be different wouldn’t it? I am trying to get you to have a bit of understanding as to how the Pharisees looked upon eating with someone. The big difference is, while we would be concerned about germs, they would be concerned about the taint of sin.
He eats with sinners, and everyone thinks, "Yuk."
You have the audience in mind, Pharisees, teachers of the law; tax collectors and sinners, now look at what Jesus says to them.
LK 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The good shepherd loves each and every one so much that he would leave the 99 and go after the one. The Pharisees are going to understand that Jesus is talking about redeeming sinners. And, yet, Jesus has thrown them a curve ball in verse seven.
LK 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
How many people do you know who have no need of repentance? There are none are there? But let’s leave this on the back burner for now and continue with what Jesus is saying about the lost.
The first thing that Jesus is teaching is that God rejoices and that the host of heaven rejoices over a sinful person who comes home. Jesus gives another illustration.
LK 15:8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."