Summary: Fathers are to protect their children from dangers, train, exemplify, and urge them to follow Jesus — but they must eventually release them and allow them to choose or not choose to follow Jesus.
The Gracious Father
1. Marylu and I had a great time visiting Hannah and Clayton in Virginia, near DC.
2. They extended the Metro train station to about a mile from their condo, so Marylu walked to head for the National Gallery of Art in the mall in D.C.
3. The Metro station is new, so signs were not up yet. We followed a group of Chinese young people who were ahead of us, thinking they knew where they were going. They did not, so they asked a guard and we continued to follow them.
4. They had the sense to ask. Not everyone does.
5. Here is one comment from a blog-type website: “Today, I went on a dinner date with the guy I like. He ate all his food then started eating off my plate, going on to eat over half of my food. When the bill came, he made me pay for it. “
6. Are people that rude and that out of touch with things like politeness, courtesy, and social expectations? Yes, some people are, but most are not.
7. We learn much by example, both in the realms of social skills and parenting.
8. In today’s fictional story — a parable — we have an amazing example of a gracious father. Being gracious as an important quality, for it is very godlike.
Main Idea: Fathers are to protect their children from dangers, train, exemplify, and urge them to follow Jesus — but they must eventually release them and allow them to choose or not choose to follow Jesus.
The actual emphasis in the parable is either upon the older brother who was ungracious and unaccepting of his repentant younger brother, or the father. Nonetheless, the prodigal himself is also a key player, albeit a secondary one. It is a story about three men in a family.
I. This Parable Seemed All WRONG to the Audience
A. Fathers sometimes divided, but sons never inherited property until dad DIED
1. We can guess that this son was about 18 — otherwise would be married
2. Equivalent in our day to a young adult (matured faster)
3. This young man does not care about the 5th commandment, honoring parents
4. He has not resisted the temptation of teens/young adults — into themselves
B. The prodigal son must have sold his inheritance ILLEGALLY
Craig Keener comments, “ Jewish law did permit a father to determine which assets (especially land) would go to which sons before he died, but they could take possession only on the father’s death: the father was manager and received the land’s profits until then. Thus this son could know what would be his but could not legally sell his assets; he does it anyway.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary, NT)
C. The listeners expect an emphasis on CONSEQUENCE: poverty and misery
D. The father was expected to REPRIMAND the son and treat him as a SERVANT
1. The son had shown utter disrespect for his father
2. The son was all about himself — teens/college most selfish years
E. The role of the older son was usually to RECONCILE dad to the younger siblings
F. Whole-town banquets (fattened calf) usually for Bar Mitzvahs and WEDDINGS
G. The social IRREGULARITIES in this parable accentuate the father’s GRACE
II. The Father in This Parable Exemplifies GOD’S GRACE
A. He LET GO of the reigns of his adult son
1. God calls each of us to FREELY serve Him
Augustine, “For it is wonderful how he who entered the service of the gospel in the first instance under the compulsion of bodily punishment, afterwards labored more in the gospel than all they who were called by word only; and he who was compelled by the greater influence of fear to love, displayed that perfect love which casts out fear."
2. Not ALL of us are serving Him or will do so
B. He loved his WAYWARD child still
1. Loving our children does not equate approval
“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.” [Job 1:5]
2. One of the best things we can do is to pray specifically for them
3. Dick Cheney, daughter a lesbian
4. Do we want to aid and abet them in doing wrong (gay marriage, e.g.)
C. A gracious dad is ready and EAGER to forgive a repentant child
1. Forgiveness, trust, and love are three different things
2. Tough love: must evidence credibility
3. The prodigal realized he had sinned against “heaven” and his father