Summary: The parable of the lost son demonstrates the impact of hard-heartedness on relationships, families and communities.
Twenty years ago, I visited the city of Calcutta on work. I was looking forward to the visit because it was the city my father grew up in, and being a typical Bengali, he was very proud of his city. But I was also looking forward to the trip because there was a little old lady in Calcutta that I had never met, my grandmother, my dad’s mother. I was hoping to visit her. When my father had become a Christian as a student in university, his family had cut off all ties with him and so I had never met my grandmother. I called to tell them I was in town. My grandfather was dead and my dad’s oldest brother now ran the joint family. What he said went for everybody. How would he respond to my call? Would I finally get to meet my grandmother? I had heard she had always been very keen to patch things up with my dad but the men in her life, her husband, her oldest son, always said no.
Then the answer came: “Your father is nobody to us and so you too are not welcome.” Later I had the chance to meet my dad’s sister and she told me my grandmother really, really wanted to meet me. But she could not go against the man in the family, my dad’s older brother.
Often in broken relationships, there is a thread that is common: hard-heartedness and stubbornness on the part of one or both sides of the broken relationship. For the past few weeks in the morning service, we have been looking at God’s message to people with different types of heart condition. We are not talking about those with cardiac problems but looking at the human conditions: broken-hearted people, faint-hearted people, and today hard-hearted people. Now you might be thinking, “I wish I brought so-and-so along today because they really need to hear a message on being hard-hearted.” Or “I hope my husband is listening because he really needs to hear this one.” Or, “That’s so my brother – I hope he’s got his ears wide open.”
IN order to help us hear God’s message to the hard-hearted in us, I would like you to turn to Luke 15 where we will be following the story of the prodigal son.
A. The story of the prodigal son
(11) Then he said, "There was once a man who had two sons.
(12) The younger said to his father, ’Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ "So the father divided the property between them.
(13) It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had.
(14) After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt.
(15) He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs.
(16) He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
(17) "That brought him to his senses. He said, ’All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death.
(18) I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you;
(19) I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’
(20) He got right up and went home to his father. "When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.
(21) The son started his speech: ’Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
(22) "But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ’Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
(23) Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time!
(24) My son is here--given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.
(25) "All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing.
(26) Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on.
(27) He told him, ’Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast--barbecued beef!--because he has him home safe and sound.’
(28) "The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen.