Summary: This week we examine the parables of "lostness" focusing on the parable of "The Compassionate Father and His Two Lost Sons." While the prodigal son’s lostness is obvious, the elder son is lost in his own way as well.
Parables of Jesus
April 26, 2009
A family had put the carcass and scraps from their turkey dinner in a trash bag and set it outside next to the back steps intending to clean up and then put the bag in the can after making sure that nothing else needed to go in the bag. But in the midst of the cleanup, everyone forgot about the bad.
Upon leaving the house to go to worship, the family stepped out the back door to find that some animal had gotten into the trash and strewn it all over the backyard. Not having time to clean it up at that moment, they decided that it would have to wait until they returned from worship.
During the service, the pastor called the kids up for the children’s sermon. He had a big black trash bag with empty pop cans, papers, and wrappers, which he dumped out in front of the kids. His lesson was intended to be about taking care of the earth that God has created. He began with a question, “What does this look like?”
One of the young boys to the embarrassment of mom shouted out, “It looks like my backyard this morning!”
One of the main themes that we find in a lot (although not all) of Jesus’ parables is God’s grace. Specifically, they often point towards God’s limitless grace. That was a central part of last week’s parable: Grace demands our response.
I want to start with a clip from a movie called 3:10 to Yuma. Here is the story. Rancher Daniel Evans, who lost part of his leg in the Civil War, is a broken man who owes a large amount to a powerful man in Bisbee. When the notorious outlaw Ben Wade is captured after the heist of a stagecoach, Dan offers to assist in escorting the cold-blooded killer to the city of Contention, where Wade will board the 3:10 PM train to Yuma and await his trial. In return, Dan would receive $200, enough to save his land and provide a better life for his family. In this scene, Evan’s family reluctantly hosts the Wade for dinner where the family’s faith clashes with the beliefs of their guests.
Grace is for everyone.
This I think is part of the message that Jesus is conveying not just in the parable that was read earlier but in the two previous parables as well. Jesus has been meeting with and eating with tax collectors and sinners. This is something that the righteous Pharisees believe is a huge problem. Their belief system has as an important part of holiness is ritual purity especially at meals. Jesus seems to be undermining their core beliefs. So Jesus launches into three parables of “lostness.” The last is often called the “Prodigal Son” although perhaps a better title is “A Compassionate Father and His Two Lost Sons.” Because as the story progresses both sons are lost in their own ways.
The first son becomes lost in the ways of the world forsaking his family, his responsibilities, and eventually his dignity. He decides to forsake his legacy as a son of his father. The elder son while staying and doing his duty fails to see himself as a son. He thinks of himself more as a servant that does what is right to get what he thinks that he deserves. When his brother returns, the elder brother can’t receive him as the father has and has a hard time accepting the compassion and grace of his father. The father reminds him that his is and always has been a son. The father reminds him that the most important thing is that he now has a brother again and that is a cause to rejoice.
Grace is for everyone.
The purpose of the parable
• To defend Jesus’ association with sinners
These parables are often called “How Much More” parables because Jesus tells the stories of humans who exhibit certain traits and then a phrase is used (“How much more” or “In the same way” of the NIV) does God search for the lost, or give good gifts to His children, and so on. In this case Jesus is emphasizing the great love and compassion that God displays for those who are lost. God is especially on the lookout for their return so that God can welcome them home. When one does return, they are the most important person present. God does not give a “grudging acceptance” as perhaps the Pharisees might (if they even accept such people as it is not clear whether the elder son actually decided to join in the celebration) but God creates room for every person who is found.
In effect, God is saying to everyone, “Welcome home!! Welcome home!!”