Summary: Jesus describes two identities with one thing in common neither see themselves as children of the Father and both have consequences. What's your identity?
Luke 15 – The prodigal son
Hi everyone, it’s great to be with you this morning. I wanted to start by telling you a little bit about me and my family so that you get a little flavour of what we are like. Annie and I have been married for 12 years in October, we have two kids, Caleb who is 9 and Talitha who is 7. Annie is a music teacher and works with primary school kids teaching. Both Caleb and Talitha love music, they are both learning to play piano and caleb is also learning guitar and Talitha is hoping to learn the trombone. I love sport but my particular favourite is American Football which I have played at an international level. I am a long suffering Miami Dolphins fan, I also love to read and enjoy watching movies and obviously hanging out with my family.
Anyway lets turn to look at our passage today.
There are so many parables that Jesus taught us which we have become so familiar with over the time. In fact we have become so familiar with them that we let them wash over us and we do not allow the impact of the message penetrate our minds, our hearts or our souls.
Friends this message today is truly scandalous – it is outrageous in its audacity. The very notion of what Jesus presents is pretty much offensive. It starts off with a younger son asking his Father for his inheritance early. Not a big deal in our day– in fact as you may recall there was a bit of a hoohar about David Cameron receiving part of his inheritance early from his mother. But back in the day when Jesus first told this parable, the younger son had no right to receive an inheritance before the father has died. So by asking for his inheritance in this way he is saying that his Dad is dead to him, it’s actually a sign of a significant family breakdown. But we need to note the Fathers reaction to his son rejecting his place in his family, he gives him what he asks for, he gives him the freedom to go his own way and do his own thing.
This is exactly what he does. We know the story he squanders what he is given, he wastes his life but we often miss the point that Jesus is driving at. The fact that the son loses all his money and ends up in a country where there is a famine and so end up tending pigs is not the point where life went bad for the boy, you see life went wrong the moment that he walked away from the Father, where he made the decision to go out on his own, to leave his identity as a son behind and depend on his own decisions as a way of making it through life, then we see this progression of a caricature of poor decisions with disastrous outcomes. You see we tend to think that the problem is the symptoms, the waste of money on women and wine, the famine, the abandonment by straw friends when things are tough, the fact that the prodigal has to lower himself so much that he ends up wishing he could eat pig feed that we see in this story but we miss that the actual point is that these things would never of happened if he had remained in his father’s house.
You see the problem is that we over moralise the parable, we start to compare ourselves with the symptoms and think well I am not doing those things so this doesn’t really apply to me. So we miss out on the cause behind the symptoms – that the son had rejected the Father, he had chosen to live a life away from his birth right and his identity, he misused the good gifts that the father gave him and the result is that he is bankrupt, both physically but also spiritually.
You see at his lowest point the prodigal thinks to himself that he will return to his Father, and we know don’t we that he comes to the conclusion that he will return not as a son but as a servant or rather what he is going to offer to do is come under the Hebrew tradition of becoming a hired slave – it was against the law for Jews to own other Jews as slaves but if there was a debt owed then to repay the it the debtor could sell himself or his whole family into the household of the creditor to work the debt off.
So the prodigal comes to the conclusion that he will become a legal slave when he returns to the Father, that he will give up his rights as a member of the household and live the rest of his life in servitude.