Lost and Found – The Prodigal Son


Peninsula Community Church

Lost and Found Part 3

August 30, 2015

Luke 15:11-16 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’  And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

As we continue our study today, I would like to hone in on what has been called the parable of the prodigal son. When we get into the nuts and bolts of this story we find that the story of the prodigal is as much a story of the Father and both of his sons as it is just about the younger son. The father had to deal with two sons who were ungrateful and self-focused. One took the path of unrighteousness and rebellion and the other took the path of self-righteousness and religion. While their actions were different, both sons in essence had the same problem and attitude. In this story, we find both sons dishonoring and demeaning their father in their actions. One ran away, while the other thought his father would love him more by doing all the right things.

For our time this morning, I would like to focus on the story of the younger son and the father’s response to him. So let me tell you the story by giving you some of the back story, and then finish by giving some key lessons we can take from this story. From a historical perspective, we find some unsettling truths and issues here. In our culture, today, we would not understand these issues but in Jesus’ day the actions taken by all three characters (the younger son, the father, and the elder son) would have been off the chart.

We find the youngest son coming to the father and asking for his portion of his inheritance. In those days one’s wealth was valued by the amount of property one owned and the amount of live stock they possessed. In distributing the inheritance, the father would have given two thirds to the eldest son and one third to the youngest son. Normally, this would only happen upon the death of the father, as one’s inheritance was rarely distributed prior to the death of the father.

Most historians have stated that this request by the son was in fact a way of saying to the father I want my inheritance because to me you are already dead and I do not need you any more. This was the greatest slap in the face that any child could give his father in that day. To request his inheritance early was in fact a matter of disowning the father and was rejecting his lineage which meant everything. What he was saying is, I don’t trust you to run my life I want to run my own life and I will do so. Just give me my stuff and let me go.

The son was motivated by his greed and desire to sow his wild oats. We do not have any insight into the reasoning why he made this decision other than he wanted to leave town and do his own thing. As we discussed last week, we are often tempted to wander away from God. We wander because we believe that the rules and guidelines established by God are too binding and too prohibitive for us to have any fun. So, we experiment with life out from under the umbrella of God’s protection and His grace.

For the father, he had to sell off his property and sell his live stock for this to happen. He had to diminish his size and his wealth to accommodate the rebellious son who wanted it all. Because of this, the entire community knew what was happening. It was a really sad situation. He gave his son his portion and off the son went. But it was not long before the son had used up everything he had. He found himself broke. He was without friends, funds, or food and to top things off there was a famine in the land which in our day would be equated to a serious downturn of the economy. The result was that the younger son found himself destitute and alone.

He eventually found a wealthy family to attach himself to and he became a laborer for them. He became a pig farmer which in the Jewish economy was the worse thing a person could do. He fed pigs which was a major disgrace to the Jew. But these circumstances were used to cause him to come to his senses. The son was looking across the landscape of his life and realized that even the lowest of servants in his father’s house had it much better than he did. They were treated better and had better food than he did in that moment. His plan was to go to his father, repent and ask if he could become a laborer for his father. So, he leaves and heads home. But the father does an incredible thing. He welcomes him back and restores him to the position of full sonship. He gives him his ring, his robe, his sandals, and throws him a party. That is so amazing!

So as we look at this story what are the take aways? What do we learn from the prodigal? First, the draw of sin is not all it is cracked up to be, it will leave you desolate and alone. Sin brings pleasure for a moment but in the end it leaves us void of life and a future. The biggest problem for the son was that he was more in love with the things of the father than being in love with the father. He wanted the things that the father gave but he forgot the necessity of building a loving relationship with the father. For us personally, the gifts God has given us are so amazing but there are too many times we want what God has to give without having a relationship with him. We want his peace but we don’t follow his word that brings us peace. We want his prosperity and we want success but we don’t want him to lead us to that prosperity or success. We want to do it ourselves without his spirit. We are in essence saying we do not need God.

The second lesson for us is that God loves us. He has loved us. He will always love us. There is no place we can go to hide from the father’s love. This is so amazing. The father could have rejected the offer made by his son but he allowed him to go his own way because in doing so he would learn the lesson that the father’s house is a better place to be than out on your own. But even in the rejection of the father, the father’s love was still with him. Romans 8 reminds us that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Remember God loves us. He loved us. He will continue to love us. 

A third lesson is that no matter what view we have of ourselves God the father has a different view. The son was rejected, at his lowest point, and smelled like a pig sty; and yet the father rushed to hug him and to restore him to the place of sonship in his house. The father did not see him as lost but he saw Him as his son. The father received him not as a loser, a servant, or a cast away. He received him as a son.

This is evidenced by the actions of the father. First, he ran to greet the son. In the context of the culture it was not an acceptable thing for an elderly man to be running. It was in fact disgraceful for him to run because it forced him to gather his robes up round his waist. His legs were worn with years of farming, and with his age he could fall, and that would embarrass him and his family. But, the father put aside all of the cultural norms and ran to him because his love for his son was greater than his desire to be politically or culturally correct.

We have to understand that this stands juxtaposed to the criticism the scribes and the pharisees leveled at Jesus in the first verse. In essence, Jesus is saying my love often breaks what is culturally accepted and what is politically correct. My love goes to the broken and lost while the pharisees and scribes would seek out those who were already whole. The scribes and pharisees wanted to be politically correct rather than godly.

Not only did the father run to him, the father also gave the son his ring which was like giving him his credit card and then placing his name on the card. He gave him his robe. This was not just any robe but it was the father’s robe. It represented the father’s authority. He gave him a pair of sandals which to us is no big deal but in that culture servants wore no shoes. So the father in essence is saying you are not a servant you are my son and I want to treat you like my son and not a slave. Then the father throws a party and brings in the fattened calf which was reserved for special occasions.

A fourth lesson is that when we return with a repentant heart, the father always receives us back with open arms and loving forgiveness. Notice, the father does not condemn the son or judge the son. He realizes that the son is already condemned by his sin and by his demeanor. The son’s intent was to repent but the father never gave him the opportunity. It is almost like he knew the son’s heart without him saying anything. You see the fact is God is more interested in our heart than he is in what we say. Sometimes, we repent because we have been caught and not because we want the father’s forgiveness. This is huge because we forget that God our father knows our heart and knows our motivation.

Today you may be the prodigal, or you may the one who has a prodigal child. But know this continue to love that child and when they return love them with the love only God can give.

Link to video shown during service – http://www.godvine.com/At-2-43-My-Heart-Was-In-My-Throat-This-Prodigal-Son-Story-Had-Me-Wanting-To-Hug-My-Whole-Family–6091.html

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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