The Book of Luke, The Tale of The Two Sons - Lesson 182
Luke 15:11-32, And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my fatherís have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. 29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
This parable is peculiar to the Gospel of Luke.
The parable of the lost sheep which we studied last week appears in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, while the parable of the lost coin is also peculiar to Luke.
The parable that we have read this morning is commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son but I think that when something is so well known by such a title it gives a bias to the reader that sometimes distorts his interpretation and emphasis.
I believe that in the context of chapter 15 that there is a need to place more emphasis on the actions and attitudes of the elder son and not simply concentrate on the prodigalís departure and return to a loving father.
Remember that Jesus Christ is telling this story in response to the reactions of the Pharisees and scribes to the receiving by Jesus Christ of publicans and sinners even to the extreme of eating with them.
So this story is not just about a father who receives a repentant son.
It is also about a father who has a son with the same attitude toward sinners and a sense of self righteousness that is prevalent in the Pharisees and the scribes.
The aim and purpose of Jesus Christ in telling this story is to bring this truth out to the Pharisees and scribes and to us who so many times are prone to have a Pharisaical spirit.
You recall that the first two parables, the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin showed that the Pharisees and scribes did indeed care about lost things, but the lost things they cared about always seemed to fit into the category of possessions.
They were concerned about lost things that contributed to their personal welfare, not the welfare of others.
The first two parables were given by Jesus Christ to reveal to them that they were careful about lost things but they were not careful about lost people.
This third parable focuses on the same message but gives us a better understanding of that which prevented the Pharisees and scribes from being concerned about lost men and lost women.
What keeps us from being concerned about the lost?
What is it in you and in me that projects a careless attitude about participating in what Jesus Christ came to do, that is to seek and to save the lost?
To learn about this I am not going to concentrate on the actions of the younger son, the prodigal, nor of the father.
But I believe it important to concentrate on the elder son whom I believe represents the Pharisees and the scribes who murmur and complain about Jesusí reception of sinners.
We first meet the elder son while he is working in his fatherís field.
He is there upon the occasion of his brotherís return and we can assume that he has been in the field most every day since his brotherís departure.
He has been a faithful son doing what his father expected of him.
He learns of his brotherís return when he hears the sounds of celebration coming from his house and he inquires from a servant as to what is taking place.
He learns that his brother has returned, that the father has received him, and that a celebration has been called.
He learns of the killing of the fatted calf and this seems to strike him deep in his heart in such as way as to bring him to an extremely angry state.
We wonder if he was the one who had raised this calf and had made this calf so fat?
Was his work being so carelessly used up for the sake of his brother who had forsaken the family?
Whatever welled up in his heart was of such strength as to keep him from rejoicing that his long lost brother had returned and he therefore refused to attend the celebration.
No doubt the servant reported the elder brotherís anger to the father and the father came to the field to entreat his son to join the celebration.
Now the conversation of this son with the father reveals to us his attitude concerning that which brought approval from his father.
This son thought he already had an understanding of what it took to be approved by his father but as we shall see by his and his fatherís word his understanding was in error.
His first response to the fatherís appeal was his complaint that his work has not resulted in a banquet.
Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
Here we see clearly that this son thought that the basis for getting his fatherís favor was his works.
He thought it necessary to buy his fatherís favor with the fruit of his hands.
This should remind us of Cainís attitude, for he too brought the fruit of his hands to God expecting his favor.
He too expected his works to please the father.
The fatherís answer belies the sonís response.
A son does not have to buy the favor of the father.
A son is always a son and many works or few works or even no works will change that fact!
As a son, the older brother possessed all that his father had.
He did not need to work to win his fatherís approval or blessing, he need only be a son.
This emphasis on works is the error of the Pharisees also.
They were ďhard at workĒ with respect to keeping the law, as they interpreted it, supposing that this was what would win Godís approval and blessing.
And in addition to his claim of faithful work he also compares himself to his brother who has wasted himself in riotous living.
30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
You have given your other son a banquet when all he did was to waste himself in riotous living.
This is always the conclusion of those who expect to be rewarded for their much work.
If this is your expectation, then it is natural to suppose that those who sin should be turned out and not gathered in.
Reward for good works and punishment for sin.
This is the older brothers mantra.
Do good, get rewarded, do bad, get punished.
The thing that the older brother missed was his younger brotherís repentance and the fatherís grace.
The older brother did not allow for the grace that comes upon repentance but he actually resented his fatherís grace extended toward his brother.
He compares himself with his brother thinking that this comparison justifies a banquet for him in lieu of his brother the sinner.
Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment:
Certainly this should merit his fatherís blessing.
But notice his own evaluation of himself as outside of the category of sinner.
He thinks of sinners as them.
He thinks of sinners as those who fit into a certain group, the socially unacceptable people who commit obvious socially unacceptable sins.
He thinks of the murderers, the thieves, the harlots, the adulterers, the liars and the cheats.
He makes sure that he does not commit those types of sins so that he does not fit into the category of sinner.
If you are smart enough you can define yourself out of anything and he is smart enough.
But God is the one who defines sin and He says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, there is none righteous, no not ONE!
This boy has conveniently forgotten his own rebellion to his fatherís request to join the celebration of his brotherís return.
And this rebellion which appeared as a result of his brotherís return, does not count as a transgression apparently!
The Pharisees, also were careful in their definition of sin as they too thought of themselves as having perfectly kept Godís commandments.
The problem of the older brother, then, is self‑righteousness.
Self-righteousness always causes a comparison with others and demands that those who do not measure up always get less than those who do measure up.
Self righteousness and grace are opposing parties.
It takes a lot of work to be self righteous but in grace, work is not valued for any mix of work and grace destroys grace.
The Pharisees and scribes had invested their lives in establishing themselves as righteous.
They had spent their lives in learning all the nuances of the law and their own oral law in order to impress God and this man Jesus comes along and teaches grace and distains their works of self righteousness.
He not only condemns their reliance upon their works but receives and welcomes those who have not invested their lives in such works, the likes of publicans and sinners.
Jesus told us how grace operates in the kingdom of heaven when he told us the parable of the 11th hour laborers in the vineyard who were paid the same penny as the 1st hour laborers.
It was not because of the laborers that that happened, but because of the householder who was the grace giver.
The laborer does not set the terms but the householder sets the terms.
This is the battle that religion desires to fight.
Religion desires to set its own terms as far as relationships with God.
But God sets the terms and his terms are that only by His grace can any man be saved then be enabled to walk in truth.
But this elder son desired to be the one who set the terms that would please his father.
But the terms of the father was that he simply be his son and enjoy all the benefits of son ship.
And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
This father set the terms and the terms were to repent of sin and to turn to the father.
So repentance was lacking in the Pharisees for they wrongly believed that it was good works which merited Godís favor, rather than His grace extended toward sinners.
The older brother was angry with the father because he felt he did not get what he deserved, while the younger brother got what he didnít deserve.
That is what grace is, the getting of what you do not deserve!
The older brotherís works didnít work, but the younger brotherís repentance did.
That is the way Godís grace works ó it is bestowed on unworthy people, sinners, who do not trust in their good works, but in Godís grace.
But the attitude of both the Pharisees and the elder brother was influenced by all the work that they had done that was now being rejected as insufficient to please the father.
The message is clear. A man cannot work for salvation for salvation is a gift of God and God receives no payment for His gifts.
This statement flies in the face of the Pharisees and scribeís whole way of life for they failed to see themselves as unworthy sinners, and therefore they not only rejected Godís grace, they had contempt for Godís grace.
They choose to be separate from sinners thinking that that kind of separation brings holiness and purity.
They choose to believe that some were worthy of Godís condemnation but they defined themselves out of that group.
They choose to believe that holiness is measured by the distance that a man keeps from sinners.
And yet Jesus Christ belied that belief by showing them that the holiest of holies, Jesus Christ himself, received publicans and sinners and sat down to eat with them.
The reality of holiness is not how far we keep ourselves from sinners but how close we keep ourselves to Christ that we might be partakers of His holiness, not a holiness of our own making.
Remember that we are simply a branch, not the vine!
John 15:4, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Many Christians think that they can establish their own holiness by how far they stay away from whom they categorize as sinners.
This would be the same thinking that would lead a branch to think it could bear fruit by being apart from the vine.
This is Pharisaical thinking and this is what motivated the Pharisees and the scribes.
They were establishing their own holiness and God couldnít care less for such man made purity for the only purity that God will accept is the purity of His Son.
The only purity that God looks for is the purity that he brings by His Spirit when he conforms his own to the image of His Son.
Many Christians are afraid they may become tainted or dirty by rubbing shoulders with sinners or having any relationship with sinners forgetting that they too are of the same ilk, with the only difference in their life being Godís grace.
Those of us who are saved are called to have a heart for the lost for we were once lost.
That is what we are to keep in our minds as we regulate our contact and relationships with sinners.
We are to be biblically separated, we are not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers but that does not mean we are to have nothing to do with them.
We are to remember that Godís grace is sufficient to sustain in efforts to reach the lost and that holiness comes only from the Holy Spirit through our abiding relationship with Christ not our distance from sinners.
I Cor. 5:9-13, I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person