See Your Father’s Love! (Luke 15:11-31)

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

It’s a simple truth of life: parents love their children.  Talk to any new parent, and they’ll show their love as they gush about their child.  They’ll tell you that there’s no greater blessing in life than the little one they’ve been blessed with.  Any working parent will tell you that there’s nothing greater than the warm embrace of their child after a long day at work, accompanied by the voice, “Hi daddy, I missed you!

It’s that kind of love which a parent has for their child which leads their heart to break when their child is in trouble, which tears them in two when they see their child putting themselves in harm’s way.

Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, to see Jesus use the relationship between a father and his two sons to describe the relationship between the heavenly Father and the humanity he created.  For as much as any earthly parent may love their child, the Father’s love for the people of this world is that much greater.  And in this parable of the Prodigal – or lost – Son, Jesus urges each of us to See the Father’s love!

There are times when earthly parents might give their children an early inheritance, especially when the financial benefits outweigh the penalties.  But it’s not that often when you might see a child approach a parent and beg for that inheritance early.

And yet, that’s exactly what one of these two boys did.  The younger son went to his father, gave his best puppy-dog impression, and pled with his father – give me my share of the estate. 

You can imagine the heartache this request must have caused the father.  After all, there’s really no reason to request an early inheritance other than to leave the homestead and go out on your own.  The father knew why the son wanted his inheritance early, and you can bet the father was hesitant to give it to the son.  You can imagine that the father had all sorts of fears run through his mind regarding how his young son would manage these finances, and yet the father granted the request.  He divided the property between them.

And it didn’t take long for the son to pack his bags.  Putting his clothes into suitcases, some food into a cooler, and his finances into a money-bag, the son set off.  It was time to be his own man, to make his life away from his father’s house, to make his own choices and live his own life.

And what happened, except that the son found himself making one bad choice after another, squandering his wealth in wild living.  Late night party after late night party.  Superfluous purchase after superfluous purchase.  A new hot date every night.

No doubt, the son found himself enjoying life.  No doubt, he found himself as the life of the party.  No doubt, he was living the kind of life that many only dreamed they could live.  That is, until he woke up one morning and realized that there were only a few pennies left in his money bag.  That is, until he found himself pawning his possessions and clothes just to feed his belly.

And then things went from bad to worse.  When there was nothing left, this son found himself far away from home in country suddenly struck by famine.  Not only did he have nothing left, but the cost of food and living sky-rocketed as food shortages rose.

You might imagine the kind of panic that he went through.  The questions as to where his money went, as to how he had fallen so far, as to how he was going to last another day.

The young man who had once lived the life of luxury and who had never had to work a day in his life, found himself scrounging around for a job.  Any job.  Something that could pay the bills.

But the only thing he could find was a pig farmer who hired him to keep the pigs fat and healthy.  Day by day, he carried bags of slop that he poured into feeding troughs for smelly pigs – and all for a measly paycheck that barely paid the rent for his shack of a home and a daily meal of bread and water.

How many nights do you think he dreamt of the party lifestyle he lived, of the sharp clothes he wore – all while sleeping alone in the same clothes he worked in?

It got so bad that one day he found himself licking his lips as we poured the slop into the troughs.  Here he was, eating nothing but bread and drinking nothing but water – and look how well the pigs were eating!  He had become so skinny that he could count each one of his ribs, but these pigs?   They looked more like large bowling balls they were so fat!  Why were they so well fed but he was starving to death?  Oh, if only he could get down on all fours and throw his mouth into the trough right there with the pigs!  But no one gave him anything. 

That night, the young man realized how bad things had gotten.  What once had been so unappealing to him – pig’s slop for crying out loud! – he now craved just to stay alive.  Where was the luxurious life he once enjoyed: the feasts, the fine clothes, the laughter?  It all seemed like a distant memory, one that he could only remember having in his father’s house.

Ah, that was the life, he thought.  Life was so good, even the servants of my father were considered rich. 

Right then…right there, he made up his mind.  When the morning sun broke on the horizon, he would get up and make his way home.  But he knew that he could never go home and ask for his place back in his father’s family.  But maybe, just maybe, he thought, he could go back and ask to work in his father’s household.  He even practiced his speech along the way: Father, he planned to say, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.  Over and over, he rehearsed the speech as he hitch-hiked his way home.

Finally the day came when he could see the smoke of his father’s warming fire on the horizon.  His soon-to-be coworkers littered the fields, laboring for his future boss.  In nervous fear, his steps became slower and smaller.  How would his father react?  Would he take him back – even as a servant?  In shame, he hung his head as he made his way to the place he once called home.

When he was finally brave enough to lift his eyes towards the homestead, he saw a wondrous sight.  There was his father running – not walking, not stomping…RUNNING! – towards him.  As the young man’s father grew closer, the boy slumped to his knees in shame.  He opened his mouth to speak, but before any words could come out of his lips, he felt his father’s arms squeeze his thinning chest.  He felt the warm drops of his father’s tears run down his own cheeks.  His father’s familiar hands loving embrace his face, and the loving lips kiss his forehead over and over and over.

A bit taken aback, the young man mustered up the courage to speak.  Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But it was as if his dad never even heard him.  Franticly waving a servant over, the father said, Quick!  Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s celebrate!  My son has returned home!

You know the story, don’t you?  Probably just as well as the back of your hand.  But how often do you put yourself in that young man’s tattered, dirty clothes?  How often do you feel his malnourishment and suffering?

Because that’s the point, isn’t it?  That young man is each one of us.  That son is us, for each one of us is part of our Father’s family through the waters of baptism and promise of grace through faith.  That young man is us – for each time we sin we are doing nothing but asking to leave our heavenly Father’s homestead and make it on our own.

Have you felt the way that sin drains you?  The way it takes the joy out of life, the way it robs you of the luxurious life that is meant to be your inheritance?  For that’s the other side of the coin: at first, sin may look appealing at first.  Yet, before too long you begin to realize that you’ve given up the peace between you and God; that you’ve exchanged the future of everlasting life for a certain, excruciating, death; that once repulsed you now seems better than the way things are.  Sin lures you in with the promises of freedom, only to let you down in the end.  And before too long, you’re at rock bottom, realizing just how far you’ve fallen – deserving every bit of the misery you experience and have coming to you.

But did you see your Father’s love?  Do you see the promise he makes – that when lost, dead, and fallen sinners come to him in repentance – pleading for his mercy, recognizing just how much they need his grace – he welcomes them back with open arms!  No questions asked.  Not even after promises of faithfulness.

When sinners repent, God offers unconditional forgiveness.  When sinners plead for his mercy, he restores them to their places as his sons and daughters.  Freely.  Unconditionally, with over-whelming abundance!

But let’s not also forget about those times that we’re more like the second son.  When our sin isn’t so much open rebellion and disobedience…but grumbling and ungrateful hearts.  You heard the second son’s complaint, right?  All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.  Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But this brother of mine?  When he comes back after years of open disregard for you, then you reward him?!

How often haven’t we been just like that son: ignorant of the many blessings that our Father bestows upon us, all while wanting him to withhold his mercy until these other “sinners” prove they are worthy of it!

Even then, see your Father’s love!  My son, he tells you, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  I give you blessing after blessing, grace after grace; mercy after mercy.  Even this sin of an ungrateful heart I freely forgive.

It bears mentioning, but it’s not that God doesn’t care about the sinner’s sin.  God never turns a blind eye towards that sin.  He very much cares about it; sin angers him more than maybe we’d like to know.

It’s just that when sinners repent, he no longer holds those sins against them.  That’s because there’s an unmentioned third son in this parable.

He’s the Son who bore the punishment deserved for the rebellion of the first son.  He’s the Son who suffered for the ingratitude of the older son.  He’s their brother, who was like them in every way except one, for he was always obedient and always grateful.  Truly, he never once disobeyed his Father’s orders and always submitted to the work his Father had for him.

He’s my Brother and yours.  He’s the one who took on human flesh to take your place and mine.  As we’ll read in just over two weeks: Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.  And the result of what he endured?  The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).

So, do you see your Father’s love?  It’s a love he graciously extends to you, a grace and mercy he freely offers you – all for the sake of his other Son – our Brother – Jesus Christ.

Let us rejoice in that love!  Let us be grateful for that love extended to us, and to others!  And let’s reflect that love in our everyday lives.  Amen.

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Comments
  1. […] See Your Father’s Love! (Luke 15:11-31) (pastorpaulvoss.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Ruduski says:

    Hi there, I just wanted to write and let you know that I very much enjoyed your post. I have linked to it in my blog at bezalelblog.com. I spent some time with my dad this friday, and the experience was very important to me. I found it to be a metaphor for how Christ would spend time with use if we gave him the chance.

    Thank you for posting, I found it to be a big encouragement in my walk.

  3. […] See Your Father’s Love! (Luke 15:11-31) (pastorpaulvoss.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] See Your Father’s Love! (Luke 15:11-31) […]

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