January 29 Ignoring The One Luke 15:11-32
Characteristics maturing believers struggle with:
1. We can be Unconcerned
2. We can feel Entitled
3. We can be Unresponsive
When I was a child, I don’t know 6-7 yrs old, I went for a walk to discover what was on the other side of the grade school I attended. It was about 4 blocks to my school and when I was on the playground I always noticed that there were some woods beyond that. So one day I just decided to go on a hike to discover what was in and beyond those woods. I must have been gone a long time that day because my mom was frantic. She got all the neighbors and kids to go looking for me. When it began to get late in the afternoon, I started walking home and was confronted with some people who had been looking for me all afternoon. When my mom saw me about a block away, she ran to me, hugged me, and then whipped my behind all the way home.
That story ended on a good note. But every year, about 2 million children are lost to their parents. Some run away. Some are kidnapped. Some are kidnapped and put in to sex trafficking. I can’t imagine the panic, despair, and grief that a parent experiences when they have lost their child. Can you imagine? What would you do if one of your children got lost, not for a few minutes in the mall, not for an hour, but what could be forever? What would YOU do?
Turn with me to Luke 15:11-32. Today we finish this brief but powerful series taken from Luke 15. Luke 15 starts out with the scribes and Pharisees being upset with Jesus because He was eating with and socializing with tax collectors and sinners. Tax collectors were universally hated by their fellow Jews because they collected taxes for the hated Roman invaders and even worse, extorted extra money to line their pockets. Sinners included a broad category of thieves, prostitutes, and generally irreligious folks. The religious folk didn’t have anything to do with the irreligious folk. And when Jesus spent time with the irreligious and enjoyed their company, the religious folk began to grumble.
Knowing the hardness of their hearts, Jesus launched into 3 of the most well known parables He ever taught. Remember that a parable comes from two Greek word: para meaning alongside and ballo, meaning to throw or throw down. So a parable is a story thrown down alongside a truth to illustrate it.
The 1st parable was about a shepherd who lost one of his sheep. He risked the 99 to go after The One. The 2nd parable was about a woman who had lost a coin. She turned her house upside down searching for The One. Now this 3rd parable takes on a more personal dimension: it is about a father whose son had chosen a path that separated himself from his father, and a father whose heart ached because of the separation and celebrated when the son finally did come home.
Let’s read this well-known passage. Luke 15:11-24 (on screen w/comments).
v.12 “give me the share of the estate I have coming to me” Normally the heirs would not get anything until the father was incapacitated or dead. To ask for a share of the estate ahead of time was incredibly insensitive and disrespectful. It even showed contempt for the father: “Give me my share as if you were dead.”
“distributed the assets to them” The father then had to divest himself of the estate entirely, living off of the good will of the older son. The father took the form of a servant, then, on behalf of the son who was to wander far away.
v.13 “squandered his estate in foolish living.” By using this phrase, Jesus is establishing the association between the younger son in His story with the tax collectors and sinners. They were separated from the father and living foolishly and sinfully.
v. 14 “he had nothing” Nothing to clothe himself with. Nothing to shelter himself with. Nothing to eat. And, don’t miss this: nothing to offer to the father later in the story; he would come empty handed, asking for mercy.
v.15 “to feed the pigs” Jesus could have chosen any form of activity to illustrate this son’s poverty: could have had him begging; could have had him stealing. Could have had him feeding sheep or goats or cattle or cats. No, not cats. But what does Jesus have him feeding? Pigs. Considered by Jews to this day as being unclean and unholy to eat.
v.17 “When he came to his senses.” There are a few phrases in this parable that stand out to me, and this is one of them. The younger son finally came to the point where he saw the error of his ways and the foolishness of his life and longed for something better.
v.19 “no longer worthy to be called your son.” As I said earlier, he had nothing to offer his father; he came empty handed, asking for mercy.
v.20 “But while the son was still a long way off.” This is one of those phrases and it tugs at my heart every time. I believe Jesus inserts this phrase to demonstrate the eagerness of the father for the return of his son. It’s as if he spent much if not all of his day scanning the horizon, longing for his return.
“with compassion” Not anger; not judgment, not spank him all the way home like my momma did—but met him with compassion.
“He ran” Men of that day wore ankle high robes; they rarely ran, particularly the older men because it was a sign of weakness and indicated a lack of self-respect.
v.22 “robe…ring…sandals” We love stories of redemption, right? Some one who has failed, but then is finally restored. Groundhog Day: Bill Murray plays a narcissist who wakes up every morning to what song? (video “I got you Babe”) But he eventually comes to his senses and ends up becoming a loving, caring person. How the Grinch stole Christmas: the Grinch steals all the Christmas presents but then because of an act of love by Cindy Lou Who, comes to his senses and is reunited with the people of Whoville. A Christmas Carol: Ebenezer Scrooge came to his senses, with the help of the 3 overnight guests. So here is one of the great stories of redemption: a young man who was selfish and rebellious but has come to his senses and is now reunited with his father.
v.23 “celebrate with a feast” Remember, this whole exchange began when the religious folks didn’t like the fact that Jesus was eating and feasting with the irreligious. So Jesus is bringing this story around full circle.
v.24 “dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Dead but now alive! Lost but now found!
v.24 “began to celebrate” why? Because the one who was separated from the father is now redeemed and brought near.
If you’re hear this morning and you feel like you’re lost and separated from the Father; if you feel like you’ve been squandering your life in foolish living, there’s a message here for you straight from your heavenly Father: It’s time to come home. He longs for your return. You have nothing to offer Him--except yourself. Jesus is telling this parable because that’s why He came: to pay the penalty for your rebellion so that if you’ll come to your senses, and seek the mercy of God, you will be redeemed. Bow your heads with me. 1: you can bring nothing to God that will make you acceptable to Him. 2: It’s only by your repentance and faith that redemption can come to you.-3: If you will believe in the Lord Jesus and give your life to Him and be united with the Father, raise your hand. (pray) Mark on your worship folder that you’ve just made decision
But wait a minute. Jesus isn’t done with the parable. Somebody is not happy about this reunion and celebration. Who is it? The fattened calf! Oh yeah, AND the older brother is not happy, at all. Let’s look at the ultimate purpose of why Jesus told this parable. (vv.25-32 on screen)
Jesus was really aiming these three parables, this last one in particular, at who? The scribes and Pharisees who had been grumbling because Jesus was socializing with and loved being with the sinners and irreligious. Some of us who walked in here today were or are typified by the younger son—and a moment ago, by raising your hand, indicated that you had come to your senses, repented, placed your faith in Jesus, and were united with the Father.
But most of us here this morning are typified in this story as the younger son. We may remember the days when we were lost; we may remember the day we were found. But most of us here this morning are typified by the older son. To some degree, each believer here this morning is marked with these 3 characteristics to some degree, whether a lot or a little.
Characteristics maturing believers struggle with: Unconcern, Entitled, and unresponsive.
1. We can be Unconcerned. While the father was looking and longing for the return of his estranged son, what did the older son do? Went about his business, taking care of the chores and work necessary to care for the estate. While admirable, it indicates a lack of concern for The One who was lost and separated from his father.
I appreciate the service you give to our Heavenly Father: greeting at the doors, leading worship, teaching children, discipling your small group members. And the Father appreciates it as well. But in our serving, are we forgetting The Ones who are not here? Are we concerned and burdened and longing for their return, praying for them and witnessing to them in the hopes that they will come to their senses and come home?
2. We can feel Entitled: What did the older son say to his dad? “look at what I’ve done for you! Don’t I deserve some special treatment as well?”
When we come to faith and are saved, we’re all excited and thankful for everything. When I was in college, one of my roommates came to faith and we were living in an apt and when we’d cook dinner, when it was his turn to pray, he would pray like this: “God, thank you for these mash potatoes; I know they were in a box just a few minutes ago, but they look and smell so good. And thank you for those green peas. I’ve never really like green peas but I am so thankful to have them.” and he just went on and on.
What happens to us after awhile of being saved is that we begin to feel entitled. I’ve asked you for 2 Sundays to move up and in to make room for people who are new and nervous and may be far from God so that it’s easier for them to find a seat and still a bunch of you cling to your chair, your area, your row because you feel entitled. And some of you older ones that have served in the past are sitting on the sideline, hiding in a Life Group instead of leading a LG because you feel entitled to sit it out. Or some of you who are serving still won’t park on the street or in the south lot because you feel entitled to a close parking place. I could go on an on, but you get the picture. The longer we are believers, the more we feel entitled to special treatment.
3. We can be Unresponsive: Jesus finishes this story with the father pleading with the son to rejoice with him; to be excited and joyful and to celebrate with him. There’s no indication that he did. Jesus ends the story abruptly and in such a way that the question is left open for the listener to respond to: am I going to have the heart of the older son? Or am I going to have the heart of the Father?
How will you answer the question? Remain unconcerned, entitled, and unresponsive, or burdened for, longing for, and engaged in the mission of finding the lost and uniting them with the Father?
Like many of you, I fight those 3 characteristics. But I am praying like never before that God will absolutely shake me at my core and burden me to the point of pain and empower me by His Spirit to be always on the lookout for The One. If you will join me, if we will look for, long for and engage in the search for The Ones that God has already placed in our lives—then we will experience an awakening personally and corporately that will rock our world.
Two weeks ago, you wrote the 1st name of someone in your life who is lost and separated from the Father. You texted the names afterward. I told you we were going to do something awesome with them. Watch this. (VIDEO Band comes out—Send Me Out)