Sermon – March 6

Text: Luke 15:11-32
Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ 20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. 25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ 28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

Reactions to Repentance in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ:

Even the secular world concedes that Jesus is an expert teacher. This is perhaps most evident in the Parables that He taught. Some of the most memorable sections of Scripture are The Good Samaritan, The Parable of the Mustard Seed, and today’s text The Prodigal Son. We are able to remember the essence of the point that Jesus is getting across because we can relate to the point of comparison. The emphasis in this parable is repentance. We will look at the three main characters and their reaction to it. May God’s Holy Spirit open our hearts to receive His message.

1. The younger brother: Returned

When the son left home with his share of the inheritance, he was not necessarily doing anything wrong. This was a legitimate request. However, what followed showed him to be not only foolish, but also arrogant. Rather than taking his money and investing it or asking his father’s advice as to how the money could be best spent, he did what was right in his own eyes. No doubt he found a lot of friends as he was the life of the party. He made a lot of female “friends” who were with him as long as he gave them money.

It took losing it all to give him a change of heart. Verse 17: But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!’ At this point he recognized his father for who he was – one who loved him and was concerned about him. He saw his goodness. In his situation he didn’t blame his father, and hold him responsible for giving him the inheritance. He didn’t defend or try to rationalize or excuse his actions. In a spirit of humility he said in verse 21, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son. This is how one who is repentant returns to God. It is not on your terms. It is not in arrogance or defiance. It is in humility, knowing that we have done wrong.

In this return to the father we see in the son a love-repentance not a fear-repentance. Fear-repentance doesn’t involve faith, you’re just sorry for what you’ve done and you’re afraid of the consequences. Think of Martin Luther when he was caught in the thunderstorm and in his fright made a promise to become a monk. That was out of fear. Many have this kind of sorrow. A conscience works up guilt and unless a person knows of the forgiveness that is found in Christ, then there is no true repentance just sorrow over sin.

True repentance includes faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. We approach him in sorrow over sin, but are confident that He will forgive us and have a positive reaction. In the parable, if the son had not known the love and mercy of his father, he would never have returned. This is how our Father wants us to react when we “come to ourselves,” when we come to realization of what we have done. He wants us to come to Him. The devil would prefer if we would wallow in fear and despair thinking that there’s no way out. The Father reminds us of the shed blood of Christ which cleanses us of all sin, and in Him there is nothing to fear for the Christian.

2. The father: Rejoiced

Repentance is something that the Father greatly desires. The Scriptures tell us in numerous places that He does not want people to go to hell, but rather to be saved. To this end, He will cause repentance. Sometimes the cause of repentance is directly in His Word that is heard or read. Other times it might be a friend or family member who intervenes and points out where a person is going wrong. Still other times, He will let the fruit of your wrongdoing adversely affect you, as was the case in this parable. Let’s say that this young man didn’t use up all of his money and things were going smoothly. Say some buddy bailed him out and he could continue in his sinful lifestyle. The chances of him repenting go down to almost nothing. It was when he was broke and feeding pigs (which was about as low as one could go as a Jew) that he realized what he had done. So even today the Lord has us feel the consequences of sin and puts up roadblocks so that we cannot continue in our spiritual stupidity. He constantly seeks us out and calls us back on a daily basis.

The father in our parable celebrated the return of his son not because of all of his stupid actions. He said in verse 32, It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again and was lost and is found. This is what it boils down to. His son that he thought was long gone was now back home. Two other parables in Luke 15 stress this same point – there is joy when the lost is found. We have that joy in simply finding possessions. God finds that joy, as should we, when a soul is recovered.

Lost souls are in danger of nothing less than hellfire. Once a lost soul hits death/Judgment Day it is the point of no return. It is too late to come to your senses. The father could overlook the wrong things his son did because his joy overwhelmed any anger. So also when a soul is found and rescued from the torments of hell, this delights our God and His angels. God is not overlooking the wrong that anybody has done, but when there is repentance that involves faith in Christ that sin is paid for. The Father doesn’t even consider it. He sees the righteousness of Christ, and in that He greatly rejoices.

3. The older brother: Resented

Now to the older brother. Can you sympathize even just a little with him? From his perspective he had done all the right things. He didn’t blow his inheritance. He says in verse 29: Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time. Not a party for him, though. His brother does all the wrong things and his father gets out the fatted calf reserved for special occasions. He never even was given a goat by his dad.

The problem was that there were two different situations going on that couldn’t be compared. He had been enjoying day after day with his father. The younger brother had been missing out on the safety and security that the father gave out daily. The older brother’s celebration was little by little rather than all at once. The celebration was for a return.

It’s easy to become the older brother. The thought being, if there’s that much hoopla over repentance maybe I’ll get some decent sinning in. Maybe I’ll become lost for a while, and God and my fellow Christians will be happy when I return. But look at what the lost miss out on. What wonderful opportunities we have to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father in His Word. What a gift to commune with His Son. Better never to have the reason to repent, but to constantly be in contact with God.

But we are all sinners so we can learn from the mistakes of each brother: 1) When you are lost, recognize your Father’s call to come home. It’s easy to wander away, but it can be hard to return. Come back in humility and in a repentance of love and not fear. Know that Jesus came to save sinners and His death covers all. 2) Remember that just as the Father rejoices in repentance, so ought we. It’s a great day when the lost are found. Know that your neighbor is forgiven in Christ just as you are.

And whichever son you relate to – lost sinner or pharisee, remember the unchanging love of the Father. Amen,