Summary: The pharisees and the teachers of the law had a warped view of God... and many today have the same problem. What did Jesus mean to teach about the Father in this parable?
OPEN: (It is best to memorize the following illustration to allow for optimum delivery)
“Feeling footloose and frisky, a featherbrained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the farthings and flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune, feasting fabulously with faithless friends.
But fleeced by his fellows in folly and facing famine he was forced to find a job as a feed flinger on a filthy foreign farm. Fairly famishing, he fain would have filled his frame with the food fragments from foraged fodder.
Then he said to himself: “Fooey (pause) my father’s flunkies fare far finer than this!”
And the frazzled fugitive - frankly facing facts - fled forthwith to his family.
Falling at his father’s feet, he forlornly fumbled. “Father, I’ve flunked. I’ve failed. I’ve fruitlessly forfeited family favor.”
But, the farsighted father, forestalling further flinching, furiously flagged down his flunkies to fetch a fatling from the flock
… and they fixed a feast.
APPLY: The fact I want to focus on today is the fond father’s fervor for his son.
I. When most people hear this story, how do they usually refer to it?
It’s the parable of… (the Prodigal Son). That’s right, the parable of the Prodigal Son. And it is that. It’s the story of a boy who foolishly threw away his fortunes in an effort to live his own life in his own foolish way.
But I’ve come to believe that Jesus actually intended this story to tell us as much about the Faithful Father as it did about the Prodigal Son.
ILLUS: Scholars have discovered that Jewish rabbis told a similar story to this one YEARS before Jesus began His ministry. So, as Jesus was telling story, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were thinking, “Yeah, I’ve heard this one before.”
But, there was a difference in the ending of the story the rabbis told. As the rabbis told the story: the younger son ran away from home, spent all his father’s money - and when he came crawling home - his dad rejected him. As the Rabbis told the story the repentant son begged his father to take him back. But the father looks away and basically said, ‘Forget it! You had your chance. You wanted to live like a pig… go back to your pigs!”
Why did the Rabbis tell the story that way? Because that’s how they viewed God.
BUT… that was an entirely different VIEW of God than what Jesus presented.
The Father in Jesus’ story NOT ONLY did not turn his child away…
… He embraced him
… put His best robe on him
… placed a ring on his finger
… killed the fatted calf and had a feast.
II. So why did Jesus tell this story?
Edward Robinson once observed: “The world is a spiritual kindergarten where bewildered infants try to spell God with the wrong blocks.”
I believe Jesus told this parable because many people have a warped view of God.
Many see Him as a cold, cruel and uncaring deity. They see Him as a judge prepared to pass a terrible judgment on them… because that’s what they’d do if they were in His shoes
ILLUS: I remember hearing a preacher tell about why he entered the ministry. He’d have dreams – nightmares really - where he would see God dressed in a long white flowing robe… seated on a throne far above him and looking down on him with a look of disappointment and disapproval. He became a preacher because he wanted to find a way to make this God love him. His entire ministry was dedicated to working so hard that this God of his would not punish him… that this God would not destroy him.
But he never seemed to work hard enough and long enough to bring him any peace. In his mind’s eye, his was a God who’d never have accepted him if he had behaved like the prodigal son did. This man’s God was not a God of love and forgiveness… but of judgment and fear.
One day, however, that all changed. This preacher said that he was in the bathroom shaving… when suddenly it seemed as if the walls of the room disappeared and he found himself standing before that throne of judgment. There on the throne sat the same God of judgment he’d always seen before… but this time, the judge stepped down from his throne and placed his arms around this man and held him tight. The sensation was so overwhelming that the man just stood there and wept for the longest time. This was the king of God he’d always longed for.
III. Now it’s important for us to realize… God IS a God of judgment
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”