Summary: Lent 4(C) - Even when were dead in transgressions and sins God made us alive with Christ because God our Father is rich in mercy.
GOD OUR FATHER IS RICH IN MERCY
March 26, 2006 -- Lent 4 - Luke 15:11-32
Dear Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
Certainly today’s text is a familiar parable that we may have heard many times. It is still good to refresh our memory of the divine meaning here for our learning. In the readings today we heard about forgiveness. In Psalm 38 we sang the same refrain three times, "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned." Our scripture lessons (listed below) and Psalm 38 point to the meaning of today’s text also--that our Father in heaven is rich in mercy. Though we don’t deserve and cannot earn it, God forgives our sins. In our first reading we are reminded that God’s gift of mercy comes to us purely out of his grace, his great love for us. So the opening verses of that second lesson give a summary of our text today. In Ephesians Paul writes: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4,5). Today, as we look at this account, these words of Jesus, we are reminded that:
GOD OUR FATHER IS RICH IN MERCY
I. We were dead in transgressions,
II. God made us alive with Christ.
Or as it says at the end of our text,
we were dead and lost; but now we are alive and found.
II. WE WERE DEAD IN TRANSGRESSIONS ( = dead and lost)
In verse 1 and 2 of chapter 15 of Luke it tells us there were two kinds of people listening to Jesus. The tax collectors and sinners were there and were anxious to hear what Jesus had to say. But also the Pharisees and scribes were there. They muttered under their breath, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." They had no use for Jesus, because he came to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus continues be telling them the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost sheep.
Next we have the parable of the lost son. Jesus says: "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." During the time of Jesus, the older son was the one who would get the inheritance, the lion’s share of it anyway. The oldest son would generally receive half of the inheritance and the other half was split between the rest of the family. So the oldest son realized his responsibility. He realized that he had to take care of this that was to be his inheritance. The younger son is not so attached, not so responsible. Rarely did the younger son ask for his inheritance, but here we find he does. The younger son wants to go his own way. He wants to run away from his family, from his father; and in the end we are going to see that he runs away from God and loses himself in the world.
The father divides it up, gives his share whatever that was to his son. His share was probably quite a bit; because we hear in this parable the father has hired servants. The son goes off to a faraway country as far away as he can. He has all this money, so he doesn’t take into account that something could go wrong. There is a famine and he becomes hungry, and we are told then, "So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. We note a number of things. This son was very, very desperate. He was lost. The son was dead in his transgressions. It says he attached himself to this foreigner, this citizen of a faraway country. The worst thing of all, this citizen sent the younger son to feed pigs. Pigs for the Jewish people were unclean animals. They did not eat pork or get close to them or they would be unclean. So they were detestable and despicable in the eyes of the Jews. What happens? This son is so lost, so dead, that there is no hope. "He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything." He was ready to eat pig food, the garbage that was thrown to the pigs. No one gave him anything. He was still hungry. He ran off and was lost and dead. He was at the very bottom, wasn’t he? Even this young son realized his predicament.
In the next verse he says, "How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" The younger son didn’t realize what he had until he gave it all up. He didn’t realize that in his father’s home he was taken care of very well. He gave it all up. We might think of the scribes and teachers of the law here who lived in the Father’s house, who were to lead the people in worshipping God, but in the end gave it all up; because they wanted to go their own way.