Summary: “Prodigal” means extravagant, lavish, unrestrained, and even to the point of being what some would consider being wasteful. Watch the father in this story. It was the father who threw himself into the prodigal land of extravagance and unrestrained love fo
Opening Statement: In Luke 15, Luke gives a series of three parables in response to the criticism of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus received unbelieving people and even ate with them. Evidently, His love and vulnerability attracted lost people from all classes and lifestyles. He was bringing them to a meaningful relationship with God. These were people who had no regard for the Torah or for religious traditions. Jesus had made it clear that He came to save people like this, not self-righteous people (Luke 5:27-32; 14:21-24). Seeing the many needy people around Him who were lost and recognizing the criticism coming from the religious establishment who were also lost, Jesus told three “Parables of Lostness.” He talked about lost sheep who needed a shepherd; about a lost coin that had value and needed to be put back into circulation; about two lost sons who needed to encounter a compassionate father’s love.
Transition: Today, our focus is on the third of these stories – lost sons who encounter the most compassionate Father you’ll ever read about in the bible.
Title: The Parable of the Prodigal Father: A Parable of Extravagant Love
Definition: “Prodigal” means extravagant, lavish, unrestrained, and even to the point of being what some would consider being wasteful. Watch the father in this story. Rivet your attention on him. Observe his actions and reactions. Listen to him. Feel his heart break. The spotlight is never off him. He is at the center stage the moment the curtain goes up. The two sons are but supporting characters. He speaks both when delivering his eloquent lines and when he silently waits in the shadows. In his actions and reactions, you’ll find our prodigal God who lavishes love and undeserved favor on both of his lost sons hoping to bring them home. It was the father who threw himself into the prodigal land of extravagance and unrestrained love for his sons. His love knew no limits, his forgiveness no boundaries, his joy no restraint.
Illustration: So watch the father. I remember attending an NBA game in Indianapolis in 1998 when the Bulls played the Pacers. I decided that I would watch the great Michael Jordan the entire game regardless of where the ball was on the floor. He played an important role even without the ball because he set up the other players. In this story, watch the father. His two sons will have the ball, but don’t take your eyes off of the father.
Question: Who is the father in this story? Jesus was hoping that you would ask. The father is God…and He is a Prodigal God!
Recitation: Luke 15:11 Then Jesus said, “A man had two sons. 15:12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that will belong to me.’ [Unable to wait, he selfishly demanded an early inheritance (an inheritance before the father’s death. In so many words, “Drop dead Dad. I want what’s mine.” However, it’s not just the boldness of the son that’s remarkable; I love the approachability of the father. What must the father have been like for a younger son to approach him and even ask for such an outrageous request? If the father had been anything other than approachable, he would have never asked! There’s no hint of harshness. There’s no suggestion of a rigid dictatorship at home. He was a good father. There was no reason to want out. In fact, the father was wise beyond his years and his wisdom is seen in the fact that he never tried to stop his son. He wasn’t possessive with his love for a son who was old enough to make his own decisions. Sometimes, you have to allow a child to learn the hard way. God does this with us. We can simply choose to take what God has given and walk away and break his heart and squander all that he has given to us on selfish, wasteful living. God lets us do that, if that is what we want. Or, we can receive God’s generous gifts of life, ability, and family in due time and then give them back to God in the form of a life-commitment to honor, serve and fulfill our true purpose in life.] So he divided his assets between them. [What a generous father he was!] 15:13 After a few days, the younger son gathered together all he had and left on a journey to a distant country, [He wanted to break away, to taste life to the full, to be his own man. Staying at home would cramp his style and he would lose out, missing the best the world could offer. What was there for him on the farm when the excitement was "all out there", just for the taking? Yes, we’ve heard that before. If we haven’t done it, we’ve probably thought of it! I’ll bet that walking down that road, he thought, “Man, I’m finally free. Free of the endless chores. Free of getting up at the crack of dawn and working until long after the sunset. Free of milking the cows, tilling the fields, cleaning the stables, and all the other endless chores around the farm. His future looked carefree. He had plenty of money in his pocket and no responsibilities. And for some reason I’m thinking of the Rolling Stones hit, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” This is where he was at.] and there he squandered his wealth with a wild lifestyle. [What would we do in a strange city with plenty of money where anything was permissible because nothing mattered?] 15:14 Then after he had spent everything, a severe famine took place in that country, and he began to be in need. 15:15 So he went and worked for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. [To a Jew, being sent to the field to feed pigs would be an insult, since pigs were considered unclean animals (Lev 11:7).] 15:16 He was longing to eat the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. [These pods would have been the sweet bean from a carob or locust tree. They were commonly used for fattening pigs, and were also used for food by poor people. Sin promises so much more than it can deliver on. There’s nothing worse than being in a pigpen. Used and abused, the text says…] 15:17 But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food enough to spare, but here I am dying from hunger! [Famine hits; the money runs out; and he’s left asking the question “Why in the world am I living this way?” It is God’s goodness, not just man’s badness that leads us to this place of repentance.] 15:18 I will get up and go to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.”’ 15:20 So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way from home his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran and hugged his son and kissed him. [This is the only time in scripture where we have the picture of God running to someone. “He fell on his neck,” an idiom for showing special affection for someone by throwing one’s arms around them. The picture is of the father hanging on the son’s neck in welcome. Several suggestions can be offered as to why the father ran. Undoubtedly, he loved him. But there’s another reason. According to Deut. 21:18-21, he should have been stoned to death. If they were going to stone him, they were going to have to hit the father too!] 15:21 Then his son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 15:22 But the father said to his slaves, [So the father interrupts his well rehearsed confession.] ‘Hurry! Bring the best robe, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! [Tokens of sonship, not servanthood.] 15:23 Bring the fattened [grain-fed] calf and kill it! Let us eat and celebrate, [In the ancient world, preserving meat was more of a challenge that it is for us with large freezers. When guests came, an animal was killed that could be eaten by the guests. If another family came, it would be appropriate to kill a chicken. If two families came, they might kill a duck or goose. If more came, a goat or lamb was killed. The killing of a fatted calf was done only if the entire village was invited.] 15:24 because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. [Instead of a funeral, there was a feast! And don’t you wish the story ended there. But Jesus said a man had “two sons.”] 15:25 “Now his older son was in the field. As he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 15:26 So he called one of the slaves and asked what was happening. 15:27 The slave replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he got him back safe and sound.’ 15:28 But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, 15:29 but he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years I have worked like a slave for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me even a goat [he didn’t even get goat meat, much less a fatted-calf.] so that I could celebrate with my friends! 15:30 But when this son of yours [not “my brother”] came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 15:31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. 15:32 It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.’”