Lent 0419 – “Family Matters.” Luke 15:1-3,11-32

Lent 0419 – “Family Matters.” Luke 15:1-3,11-32
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke the 15th Chapter.

1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”3So he told them this parable: 11And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12And 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.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are in the throes of Lent. The season of penitence and reflection upon our sin and our separation from God because of that sin. This parable is a wonderful encouragement for sinners the world over to trust that the Triune God is truly merciful to those who struggle under the weight of their sin. We hear the words God would have all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Yet, how difficult it is for us to believe this truth of Scripture. Should we doubt God’s grace, we have only to read this parable and the fullness of God’s grace is poured out upon or hearts and minds.

Jesus wants his hearers to see themselves in this parable. Jesus wants his hearers to see our heavenly Father in this parable. Jesus wants his hearers to see the kingdom of heaven in this parable. He hides these truths under the wrappings of life upon this earth. Yet, he gives eyes to see and ears to hear the gracious invitation of God for sinners to turn to their Creator in repentance and faith and receive His mercy and forgiveness now, for all time and for eternity.

The parable of the prodigal sons and their merciful Father is the third parable of three speaking to the joy in heaven over the one sinner who repents. This parable reveals the unchangeable and forgiving love the Father has for sinners who repent, even for sinners who find it hard to forgive others. For, as we read this parable, we often put the elder son out of the picture and pay little attention to him. Yet, this elder son has an important part in the parable. He must be included.

How important is context in a conversation? When you try to join a conversation in the middle of the discussion you have little to no idea what was said beforehand. Make a comment without knowing the context and what response do you get? Puzzled looks, snickers of disbelief, looks of indulgence or comments revealing your ignorance. You realize you missed the point. How long would a doctor be able to meet the needs of his or her patients if they only half-heartedly listened? What kind of diagnosis could they give? They would soon be out of people to treat.

So it is with parables. Context is important for understanding the point Jesus makes. Jesus is diagnosing a sin problem and prescribing the proper medicine for that sin problem. Which son are you in this parable? What need in your life is presented in this parable? You cannot answer these questions until you read the whole parable in context and apply it to your life. The foundation of Jesus’ teaching is heard in these words.

“1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.””

In these words you first see your life portrayed in the parable. In these words you are led to understand the truth about your life, your motives, your sins, your faith, your repentance if any, and the mercy of God upon the penitent sinner. If you hear with your ears and understand, if you see with your eyes and repent of your sins, if you turn to your heavenly Father in faith, you receive His mercy and gain eternal life.

We call Jesus the Great Physician. Jesus does not use a scalpel, nor does he use medicine to heal lives. No, Jesus uses the very Word of God to bring about healing. Jesus diagnoses hearts on the verge of destruction without using a stethoscope or heart monitor. To those who see no need of repentance, Jesus gives a word of warning. To those who are struggling under the weight of their sin he gives a word of forgiveness and mercy. To all Jesus asks which son are you?

Consider the people who clamor to hear Jesus. Luke records they are tax-collectors and sinners. Look at the ones who raise an eyebrow or their lip turns up in a sneer. Luke records they are Pharisees and scribes. Luke also says these Pharisees and scribes lump Jesus with the first group because he spends time with the unclean and evens eats with them.

In the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo” a wrongly imprisoned man escapes his captivity and plans revenge upon his enemies. Working out his plan he establishes himself as a wealthy count. Unknowingly, his enemies invite him to their homes for feasts, but he never ate their food. Do you know why he never ate their food? It is the same reason why the Pharisees looked down on Jesus for his eating with tax collector and sinners. Such eating is an intimate level of fellowship. Neither the Count nor the Pharisees would do such a thing with those they considered unworthy. Which son are you?

The Pharisees and scribes grumble because Jesus is in deep fellowship with these unworthy sinners. These people are the outcasts of society. Tax-collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish community because they served their bellies and the Roman government. They were legal thieves who stole from their brothers. Such men were not allowed to testify in court. Their money was not accepted as offering in the Temple because it is unclean their social status was lonely because they were shunned. Along with these people were the sinners; the prostitutes, thieves, and others who did not keep the law perfectly.

Do you see these people portrayed in the parable? Which son represents the repentant sinner? Which son represents the Pharisees and scribes? Which son are you?

The prodigal son represents the sinners. They have lived life according to their sinful desires. They lived in an unsaved manner. They wasted their lives seeking the pleasures and glory of this world to gain everything but ending up having nothing.

That is what prodigal means. Living in an unsaved and wasteful manner. It describes the younger son quite well. He had everything he wanted but truly had nothing. He lived for the moment, the pleasure, and the fun things. He gave no thought about the future. Jesus shows how empty and all-consuming this manner of life is. When all was sent the son had nothing. He had no money, friends, or hope. Even the man who hired him did not want him for the young man attached himself to the pig farmer, not the other way around. Here he is in the degradation of his sinfulness hungering for a little mercy, a little hope. He did not find it in the world.

What have you attached yourself to with your actions and desires? How have you taken the blessings of God and used them to feed your selfish and empty desires? How generous are you in thanksgiving to God for His blessings to you? What areas of your life do you live in an unsaved manner? How much time do you devote to yourself compared to the God who redeemed you? Which son are you?

We cannot sit in self-righteousness. We have no means of justifying our lives before God in any way. Jesus makes this point when he introduces the elder son. This was his sin problem. On the outside the elder son lived in obedience and never deviated from the will of his father. Yet, do you see that this elder son was equally unsaved? Why? His life was mere lip-service, eye-service, self-righteous service, works service, empty service.

Such living also begrudges God’s mercy and grace. Such living also speaks of spiritual want and emptiness. Such living seeks to glorify self rather than give glory to God. Such living says, “Look what I have done! I deserve your attention and praise. I live a better life than all the others.” Such living declares others to be unworthy, looks at others in jealousy, envy and casts sinful judgment on their lives. Such living is equally separated from God. Which son are you? Take your pick. We all need to live in repentance and turn to the Father.

Listen to the voice of the Father. Heed the actions of the Father. Watch the response of the Father to His sons. He does not raise a hand against either son. To the younger son he gives what is needed to bring him to repentance and salvation. The journey taken by this son led away from his Father, but in time he returned. The Father always waited in expectation for this son to come home. No matter how far away we go away from God the moment we live in repentance His arms are open to welcome us back into fellowship.

To the elder son who remained in the Father’s house all things needed were still provided. The opportunity for repentance is there and will be there until the Father withdraws his grace and mercy. Like the fig tree from last week we do not hear what happens to the elder son. Does he repent or continue in his resistance? The desire of the Father is that the elder son would likewise bear the fruit of repentance.

Such mercy is upon all who are baptized into Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ is hidden in this parable as are the means of God’s grace. The robe, ring, and shoes are the righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ. The feast prepared is the feast of salvation offered in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Our Lord desires to fellowship with us in that feast.

The Lord keep you in repentance and faith unto life eternal. Amen