Luke 15:11-12, 20-28
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons…..20 he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. 22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him.
When confronted with the contentious and condemning Pharisees Jesus uses three parables and three people to point to the problem of how pride and ritual righteousness blind us to our real calling. The first parable points the Pharisees to the position of a second class citizen, as Jesus calls them to become caring shepherds. Next Jesus challenges them further as he gives worth to a woman, they would have consider to be a third class citizen, as he points to her persistent search for what is precious. Lastly He focuses on a Jewish Father which would have been a much more comfortable comparison. One that would have appealed to their picture of piety and righteousness until it was ruined by a Father who hikes up his robe to run. For them no respectable father would ruin his reputation over a riotous son. It is here that we see not only who is lost but how and what they have lost.
For the prodigal he became preoccupied and lost in pleasure. This was more than curiosity, for he chase after the culture until he was covered in its carnal clothes. Sin didn’t just seduce him with sweet words it welcomed him with a smile. His passion became the promiscuous life, where he drank in the darkness, preferring its pungent perfume and endless parties. Sin has a stench but it’s hard to smell when your swimming in the sewer. At first sin called and even cater to his conscience but it didn’t care for him it only consumed him. What seemed like a journey of joy turned into a highway of hurt. Instead of blessing there was baggage, instead of intimacy there was illness, instead of emotional significance there were scars, instead of belonging there was brokenness. He ran toward riotous living and straight into ruin, it robbed him of true relationship, it didn’t satisfy it suffocated. He traded the Father and his family for the far away, a feel good from the next fix. He traded love for lust, truth for the temporary, security for stench, joy for junk. We will always loose our joy when we trade the Savior for self-satisfaction. Pleasure is found in pursuing our real purpose; we were created for God’s pleasure not our own. Self-pleasure always leads to the pig pen not the palace. All he could see was the satisfaction of sin and it took the pig pen to see the seriousness of sin. Sin didn’t lead to satisfaction it led to sorrow. There stained with the stench of sin he came to his senses and left. The journey to joy starts when we leave the place of sin and turn back to the Savior. The prodigal didn’t stay in the pig pen, he belonged to his Father not the filth. Imagine that a sheep and a pig are walking together and they both fall into a mud hole. The pig will wallow in it because that’s his nature. The sheep on the other hand will want out and will want to avoid it the next time. Are you more like the mud lover or the mud leaver? You don’t have to wallow in the world, and if you claim to be a Christian then come home. But if you care only for the carnal and still claim to be a believer know that your behavior begs to differ. Repentance isn’t just turning from sin its returning to the Savior, it’s a radical redirection. Its more than just saying sorry for sin its saying I’m sick of sin. Its where our love for sin is replaced with a longing for the Savior. You don’t have to live in the garbage you can live with God. Here is the reminder that we don’t have to live ruined lives, we can return if we take the road of repentance. At the start of his journey all he wanted from God was the gold by the end all that mattered was grace. There are painful consequences to sin but fruit of forgiveness frees us, he lost the gold but he gained God. Today many are consumed with chasing comfort, God is concerned with conforming character. We crave happiness He calls us to holiness.
The older brother represents another side of sin, he became lost in pride and pouting. What at first seemed like a model son turned out to be a mess of sin. He had the gold but he missed the grace, he had the land but not the love. He became bound by his bitterness instead of being free to forgive. When his brother ran toward riotous living he remained loyal. When his brother forsook the Father he remained faithful. He looked good on the outside until his hidden heart was revealed. His decision to stay dedicated was based on self-benefit not the Savior. He did what the Father wanted while it fit his way and wants. He conformed as long as it catered to his cares. But the moment the Father invited him to partake in a plan contrary to his own, he protested and pouted. The danger with pride is that it is good at masquerading behind a mask of piety. But God’s agenda will reveal your hidden heart attitude. Actions of righteousness or rebellion always get revealed in our attitudes. The older brother wasn’t burdened by his brother’s brokenness but rather by the fact that his brother was back! He became lost in His emotions, a follower of feelings. Where the prodigal son cared more about a feel good that the Father, the older brother cared more about his feelings than the Father. He became more caught up in his rights than in what was right. Today many of us feel like we have a right to be angry, we believe in our bitterness, we hold on and hole up in our hurts. Our disappointments and disagreements dictate our direction more than our dad. We become engage in our emotions more than the eternal. We don’t just justify our feelings they become the jury that hands out our verdict of vengeance. We miss the party because of our pouting and we justify our poor attitude and lack of praise as pious behavior. But there is just one problem with this, messengers of God are not miserable. They live a life of joy not jealousy, instead of holding a grudge they hand out grace, they are filled with mercy not meanness. When we follow these feelings they fester and our lives produce puss. We become prisoners of pride instead of proclaimers of peace. Like the Older brother we have all allowed our emotions to get the best of us. Getting angry because we were slighted and overlooked, disgusted because someone offended our sensibility. But as long as we hate we will never be whole. Proverbs 15:17 says “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred” The sad reality is that the Father offered both forgiveness and the fattened calf, love and laughter. But the older son refused to rejoice, he chose to fast from the Father and forsaking family. He chose to feast on pride instead of praise, letting pain festered instead of forgiveness. Many today are lost not in the far country not because of foolish lusts but because they follow their feelings.