Summary: This is a sermon based on the parable of the lost son and how it reflects on todays church.
Let me begin today with a story about a youngster. His mom died during his birth so his father was the family he had. He and his father were very close.
But as the youngster grew older, he became a bit rebellious. He began disobeying his dad. One day he traveled to far from his father’s protection and found himself kidnapped. Immediately he realized his error and felt the hopelessness of being lost. He knew there was nothing he could do to return to his dad. He eventually ended up imprisoned, staring at the freedom just outside his walls. He had lost all hope.
But what he did not know was that his father was searching for him with determination. His son’s rescue became the father’s entire focus. No matter how big the world was, he would not stop pursuing his son’s safety. Soon his determination became the talk of the town. Others became involved.
Soon the word came to the son. Suddenly he was encouraged. Suddenly he became emboldened. With his desire to return to his father and encouragement from his cellmates, he made a risky dash for freedom. He succeeded and was led by another to be reunited with his father. Thus, we have the happy conclusion for Nemo in “Finding Nemo.”
What a classic story for the love that God has for us. We may have wandered from him but He seeks us. We may be in bondage but He seeks us. He sends others to rescue us so that we can respond to his seeking us. That’s the parable we will discover today in Luke 15
As we begin our study today, we find Jesus surrounded by tax collectors, “sinners”, Pharisees, and teachers of the law. The tax collectors and “sinners” are listening to him teaching. The Pharisees and teachers of the law are accusing him under their breath. “Look at the trash he hangs out with.” So Jesus tells three parables.
The first one is about a lost sheep. He asks this question in Luke 15:4, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
Now you may ask why he would leave all the other sheep in peril to find one. Well, he doesn’t. If this where a real life situation he would have asked a neighbor or hired someone to assist him. But remember this is a parable, a story with a spiritual meaning. As you continue reading the parable you discover that there is greater rejoicing over the lost sheep than the 99 that where safe. This was a reflection of God’s love for the sinner. There was no reason to celebrate the righteous that did not need to repent.
Again, we see this principal taught in Luke 15:8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?”
We may wonder, “What’s the big deal? She still has nine.” But this was possibly a wedding present, ten coins on a headband. It would be like having a wedding ring with 10 diamonds on it and losing one of the diamonds. The ring is not the same now. There is emptiness. How many women would search everywhere they could think of to find that lost diamond? And once they found it celebrate because the ring was made whole again. This also reflected God’s love for the sinner. For when the sinner repents, his family is made whole.
Next Jesus began to tell the parable of the lost son. This parable is the one we will study today. It is one of his longer parables and it is filled with twists designed to shock those who are listening. Let’s begin.
Luke 15:11-12 “To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: ‘A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, “I want my share of your estate now before you die.” So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.’”
A couple of things here. This son was a member of the family. Jesus’ audience would have understood that this was a Jewish family not a gentile family. Knowing this would have shaken them to the core to hear the arrogance and disrespect of a child demanding his inheritance before his father’s death. They would be even more shocked when they learned that the father agreed. The son deserved to be publicly punished. But rather he was given the equivalent of 1/3 of the estate in cash with his older brother receiving 2/3.
It wasn’t unusual for the fathers to decide to divide their estates while still alive in order to retire early. Then they would depend on their children to care for them until their death. But for the child to initiate this action was unheard of. We continue.