Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passages is found in verses eleven through thirty-five or the fifteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the continuation of a line of thought which Jesus was speaking unto the Pharisees and those who were gathered together unto Him on this particular occasion. I am convinced that in order to truly understand that which is written and that which was spoken in this passage of scripture it is first necessary to understand how the passage began and opened up. As you begin reading the words which are contained within this passage of scripture you will find the beloved physician Luke writing and recording how many of the publicans and sinners came unto Jesus—and not only did the publicans sinners come unto Jesus, be Jesus also received the publicans sinners when they came unto Him. It is absolutely critical and necessary that we recognize and understand this reality, for it is impossible to understand the parables which Jesus spoke within it. There are within this chapter three distinct parables—parables which confront them reality of an item being lost. Upon reading this passage you will find the first of the three parables describing a sheep which was lost, and how the owners of one hundred sheep would leave the ninety and nine in order that they might go after and recover that one lost sheep. The second parable found within this passage describes a woman who had ten coins and how she by chance lost one of the coins. Upon noticing that one of the coins was lost, the woman frantically cleaned her entire house and swept it until she found that single coin which had been lost. The third and final parable does not describe a coin which was lost, nor even a sheep that was lost, but rather describes the reality of a person being lost. The third and final parable found within this passage of scripture is actually quite remarkable when you consider it, for not only does it express the reality of someone being lost, but it also speaks to the reality of someone being dead. These three parables combine to form one singular line of thought woven through the chapter, and that concept is the reality of what was lost being searched for until it is found.
Without getting ahead of myself I have to admit that what I find to be so incredibly different about these three parables is that the first two parables describe something that was lost, and the owner of that thing which was lost going after and searching for that which was lost. What is unique about the third parable is that despite the fact that the younger son of this father was lost, there is no indication of the father running after the son. There is no indication of the father leaving his eldest son in order that he might go after and search for his youngest son. This father did not leave the servants and all those within the household in order that he might chase after and search for the son. If you read this parable you will read how not only did the father give his youngest son his portion of the inheritance, but the father also let the son go. Essentially this parable begins with this youngest son not only being given his portion of the inheritance, but also being allowed to leave and go where he chose. The father made absolutely no demands on the son when giving him his inheritance, and the father did not try and dictate and control the actions of the son. We will revisit this later, however, suffice it to say that when the son left the father, when the son left the estate, when the son left his eldest brother, when the son left the servants and all he had known, the father did not chase him down upon his leaving. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many sleepless nights this father had while thinking about his son, and where he was and how he was doing. This particular parable strikes home to every parent who has found themselves parenting a child who while they may be home have emotionally and even physically distanced themselves from them. This passage strikes at the very heart of those parents who have in fact experienced a son or a daughter who has in fact left and run away from home in order that they might live their life the way they want to. Perhaps this is why this youngest son sought to lay hold of his inheritance, for he wanted to live life on his terms. There is not a doubt in my mind that this son desired his inheritance in order that he might engage himself in life the way he wanted to, and perhaps even felt as though he could not do it while still under the roof of his father. This son knew that he had a portion of the fathers estate as an inheritance for him, and not only did he ask for his portion of the inheritance, but he also asked for the freedom and space to be able to leave bis fathers house in order that he might live life his way and on his terms.
While still not attempting to get ahead of myself, it is absolutely necessary to think about and consider the fact that this younger son not only asked for his portion of the inheritance, but he also asked for permission and room to leave his fathers house and to live his life the way he wanted to. We dare not miss this concept of leaving and living, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous reality of that which is found and contained within this parable. The more I sit here and the more I consider the parables which are found within this chapter, the more I can’t help but be directly confronted with and by the fact that Jesus places a great deal of emphasis on that which was lost—and not only the tremendous importance of that which was lost, but also on the diligent search for that which was lost. Only in the case of the father and his two sons do we not find Jesus describing the search for that which was lost, for although the father had no clue or idea where his son was, or even what his son was doing, he deliberately and intentionally chose not to pursue his son. There is not indication within this passage of Scripture that the father rose from his place—perhaps shortly after his son left home, or even one night from his bed as he couldn’t sleep—in order that he might chase after and pursue his son. There is no indication within this parable that the father made any decision to follow after his son in order that he might bring him home. I think this is what so amazes me about this particular parable, for within the parable Jesus seems to give the indication that the father wasn’t going to force himself on the youngest son, and the father wasn’t going to allow himself to chase after the son in order to bring him home. The father placed absolutely no expectations or demands on the younger son, nor did the father give the son instructions on where he should go, nor what he should do once he had his portion of the inheritance. What so intrigues and amazes me about this passage of Scripture is that the father was actually willing to let the son go, and was willing to let the son live the way the son desired to live without getting in the way, and without interfering. The father was unwilling to chase after his son after allow him to leave, in order that he might somehow bring his son back, or even prevent him from leaving. Oh, please don’t miss this incredible reality, for when you read this parable you will find that the father neither tried to prevent his son from leaving in the first place, nor did the father try and bring the son back after the son had left. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the father when he not only gave this son his portion of the inheritance, but also allow his son to leave in the first place.
Now, there would be some who would read this particular parable and would cast blame and shade on the father—not only for giving his youngest son his inheritance too soon, but also for letting him go in the first place. There would be those who would read this parable who would look upon the actions of the father, and perhaps even blame the father for the actions of the son. There would be those who would look upon the father and consider that if he had just said no to the sons demands for his inheritance, the son would not have been able to leave his father’s house. I am completely and utterly convinced that there are those who would read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and find fault with and cast blame upon the father, for it was not only the father who gave his son the portion of the inheritance, but also allowed the son to leave. If the father had just stood his ground and declared unto the son that he would and could not give him his inheritance, the son would not have left the father’s house, and would have remained. I have to admit that there is not a doubt in my mind that there are individuals who would in fact read this passage of Scripture and find fault with the father, for after all—it was the father who made the decision to give his youngest son his portion of the inheritance, and even allowed his son to leave home. Any committed and concerned parent or father would surely not have allowed their son to have their inheritance early—and not only have their inheritance early, but also leave home with their portion of the inheritance. What’s more, is that there is not a doubt in my mind that the father had some sort of inclination as to where the son would go, and what the son would do with his particular portion of the inheritance. I can’t help but get the strong sense that the father knew his son, knew his sons habits, knew his sons desires, knew his sons desires, and know what his son was like, and therefore knew exactly what his son would do with his portion of the inheritance. Without hesitation and without reservation the father gave his son the portion of his inheritance, and even allowed him to go knowing full well what that would mean for his son. One thing the parable does not reveal is whether or not the father had any clue or any idea whether or not he would ever see his son again. There is no indication within this parable that the father ever expected to see his son again, and wasn’t sure if he would or even could see his son again. The father gave his youngest son the portion of his inheritance, and allowed the son to depart from his house without even knowing whether or not he would ever see his son again. The father had absolutely no clue what would or could have happened to the son after he received his portion of the inheritance, and after he departed from his house, or even if the son would or could be safe. We dare not miss and/or lose sight of this, for despite the concerns the father might have had for this youngest son, the father still let the son go, and let the son go with his portion of the inheritance.
What I find to be so incredibly unique and challenging about this parable is that concern alone wasn’t enough to keep the father from giving unto his youngest son his portion of the inheritance. Oh, there is not a doubt in my mind that the father knew his son, and knew his son’s habits and desires, and had genuine concern for the actions of his son. Undoubtedly the father knew the son and knew the desires and passions of the son, and yet the father was still willing to allow his son to depart from the house with his portion of the inheritance. I do not doubt for one minute the father felt deep concern within his heart for the well being of his son, and what would and could become of the son once he departed and left the house. There is not a doubt in my mind this father did not look upon his son after giving him his inheritance, and after allowing him to leave, and genuinely wondered what would and what could happen to him. I am thoroughly convinced that the father wondered where the son would go, and/or even what the son would do once he departed from the house. Despite the father’s concerns—even if those concerns were many—the father still permitted and allowed his son to depart from the house, and to go and attempt to live life his way and on his terms. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women are just like this youngest son—those who want and those who desire to live life on their terms, and those who desire to live life the way they want to without any oversight and without any borders or boundaries. Essentially, there seems to be an indication within this parable that not only did the son desire his portion of the inheritance, and not only did the son desire to leave his father’s house, but the son also desired to live life independent borders and boundaries. This youngest son sought and desired to live life without and apart from limitations and restrictions and wanted to essentially be in control of where he went, what he did, how he spent his money, and how he lived. Perhaps the son felt handicapped or crippled while living under the roof of his father, or perhaps he even grew tired of feeling like he was living in the shadow of his older brother. Whatever the reason might be as to why this youngest son not only desired his portion of the inheritance, but also desired that he would leave his father’s house, we can be sure that the son had his own reasons for wanting to do so. We dare not and must not lose sight of this particular reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the tremendous significance of what is found within this parable. Although the parable does not explicitly state the youngest son’s reasons for desiring his portion of the inheritance, nor even his reason for wanting to leave the father’s house, we can be absolutely certain the son had his reasons for wanting to leave. Undoubtedly the son wanted to live life on his terms and be the maker of his own decisions without oversight and without borders and boundaries. Without a doubt this youngest son perhaps grew tired of living at home under the roof of his father’s house, and desired freedom and independence from his father, and perhaps even from his father’s rules, demands, and the like.
It’s interesting to read this particular parable and to see how closely it is connected to the reality that not only did publicans and sinners come unto Jesus in order that they might hear Him, but undoubtedly Jesus received them. When the Pharisees and scribes saw and beheld Jesus entertaining publicans and sinners freely and openly, they murmured and complained against Him, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. In speaking directly to the thoughts and complaining of the Pharisees and scribes Jesus told three parables in order to speak to the reality of that which was lost, and yet was found. Jesus begins his first of three parables by speaking of one who has one hundred sheep, and by chance finds one of those sheep lost and removed from the remainder of the flock. The owner of these sheep would in fact leave the ninety and nine in order that they might chase after and pursue that single lost sheep in order that they might find it and bring it home. The second of the three parables is around the concept of a woman having ten pieces of silver, and losing one of those pieces of silver, and doing anything and everything she could to not only search for, but also recover that single lost piece. In both the case of the lost coin, as well as the lost sheep—both were found after the owner gave themselves to diligently seeking after and searching for what was lost. What’s more, is that not only did those who lost that which belonged to them give themselves to searching for it, but once they found it, they emphatically rejoiced within themselves, and called others to rejoice with them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality and concept, for it stands as part of the foundation for what we read and what we find in this particular passage of Scripture. We must understand that these parables weren’t really meant for the publicans and sinners per se, but were instead meant for the Pharisees and scribes who murmured and complained against Jesus for entertaining publicans and sinners. There is not a doubt in my mind that the parables which were told within this passage of Scripture were intended to teach a lesson and speak to the scribes and Pharisees and their complaining against Jesus for entertaining and receiving sinners and publicans unto Himself. When speaking unto the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus clearly speaks concerning those things which were lost, and not only those things which were lost, but also those things which were sought after until they were found. What’s more, is Jesus would go on to describe the great rejoicing that took place when that which was once lost was found, and when that which was once lost was safely in the arms and care of the one who lost it. With this being said, it is necessary to journey back to the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for it is within this particular chapter where we encounter Jesus once more entertaining publicans and sinners, and it absolutely infuriating the scribes and Pharisees when seeing and looking upon it. Consider if you will the words which are found within the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the ninth verse:
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him; And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).
What we find within this particular passage of Scripture is the first account of a Jesus who was not intimidated by, nor was he scared away by publicans and sinners. The passage we find in the New Testament gospel of Matthew clearly points to the tremendous reality of Jesus the Christ not only being willing to receive publicans and sinners unto Himself, but also eating and dining with them. You will notice within this passage of Scripture that the Pharisees murmured, grumbled and complained against Jesus because He chose to eat with publicans and sinners. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for by doing so we come face to face with a Jesus who is not afraid of our sin, nor with the dirt and dust we find ourselves in. Within this passage of Scripture we find ourselves directly confronted with the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus is not intimidated by our sin, nor even the guilt, shame and condemnation we find ourselves experiencing. The words we read, and the words we find in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke are not the first mention of Jesus entertaining and receiving publicans and sinners unto Himself. It is imperative that we recognize and understand this tremendous reality, for it brings us face to face with the awesome thought that Jesus is not intimidated by our sin, nor is He intimidated by or with our struggle. Jesus never once turned away publicans and sinners, and in all reality, He even declared at one point that publicans and sinners would enter into the kingdom of heaven before others who prided themselves on their piety and their religiosity. Pause for a moment and think about and consider the fact that Jesus actually dared declare unto the scribes and the Pharisees that the publicans and sinners would enter into the kingdom of heaven before those who boasted of their piety, boasted of their obedience, boasted of their faithfulness, and boasted of their religiosity. Jesus actually emphatically declared unto those who were present during those days that it would be the publicans and sinners who would receive the promise of the kingdom before, ahead of, and perhaps even in some cases—instead of those who thought and believed they should receive it. If you read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, you will find that Jesus emphatically declared unto those who were present during those days and at that time that the publicans and sinners would enter into the kingdom of heaven before, ahead of, and instead of many who counted and considered themselves righteous, pious, and even religious. Oh that we would recognize and understand this, for Jesus placed a great amount of emphasis on the publicans and sinners and their willingness to receive Him joyfully, and to hear and listen to Him with great intent, purpose and desire.
When you come to the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke—and specifically to the parable of what we have known to be “the prodigal son”—you will find this parable deviating from the previous two, for within this parable spoken unto those who were present, we do not find the father chasing after his son in order that he might recover and bring him back. Within this parable we do not find the father trying to plead with his son not to leave, nor even trying to discourage his son from taking his portion of the inheritance. In this parable we do not find the father trying to reason with his son as to why he felt he should not take his portion of the inheritance, nor even why he should not leave his house. Despite the possible concerns within the father’s heart, and perhaps even the father’s knowledge of where the son would go, and what the son might do, the father did not make any attempt to plead with the son in order to somehow persuade him to remain under his roof. If you read the words which are found and contained within this parable, you will find Jesus describing how a certain man had two sons, and how the younger of the two sons spoke unto his father and demanded of his father to give him the portion of goods which fell to him. What you read next is actually quite astounding and remarkable, for Jesus describes how the father divided between his two sons his living. What’s more, is Jesus goes on to declare that not many days after receiving his portion of his inheritance, the younger son gathered all his possessions, and his portion of the inheritance, and took his journey into a far country. As the parable continues and progresses, we find Jesus describing how the youngest son wasted all his substance with riotous living and eventually spending it all. There is not a doubt in my mind that the father had an idea of what his son would do with his portion of the inheritance, and perhaps even felt as though his son wasn’t ready for his portion of the inheritance. Perhaps the father even felt that his son wasn’t yet ready to leave his house, and knew that if his son left his house, he would find himself engaged in that which perhaps would and could endanger him. As I sit here and read this parable, I can’t help but think to myself and consider that this son spending all his living on riotous living should not come as a shock to us, for there were perhaps red flags and warning signs within the heart of this young man, and perhaps even within the heart of the father. Undoubtedly the father was aware of his son’s behavior, his habits, his desires, his pleasures, and how he spent his days, and yet the father was still willing to allow his son to live life his way and on his terms. The father would not stand in the way of his son living life the way he desired, and perhaps even the way he saw fit. The father never stood in the way of his son leaving his house, and never stood in between the son and his endeavors. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for to fail to understand and recognize this would be to miss the entire point of the parable.
Sitting here this morning and considering this parable, I can’t help but think to myself and consider the tremendous fact and reality that the father would not stand in the way of his son and his portion of the inheritance. The father would not make any attempt to persuade the son from laying hold of his inheritance, nor even from leaving out from under his roof. What is so interesting and unique about this parable is that the father would not try and prevent the son from leaving the house, nor would the father attempt to persuade his son from living his life the way he wanted to. Oh that we would recognize and understand this, for it reveals something about our Heavenly Father and how the eternal Father is not afraid of allowing us to live our lives the way we want to live, nor even leaving out from under the safety and shelter of His house. Throughout history the Father has never been afraid to allow His children to attempt to live their lives the way they wanted to, and to even give them the means to do so. If you read this parable you will notice that not only did the father allow the son to leave his house, but the father also allowed the son to leave with his portion of his inheritance, and with the means to live his life the way he saw fit, and the way he desired. Please don’t miss, and please don’t lose sight of this, for it demonstrates and reveals something about the Father of lights and His willingness to allow us to attempt to live our lives the way we desire and the way we see fit. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Heavenly Father has allowed His children space and room to live their lives the way they desire, and the way they want, and even gives them the means to do so. If the father in this parable is a picture of the Heavenly Father, then I am convinced that just as surely and just as certainly as this earthly father gave his sons the means to live his life the way he wanted to, and just as this earthly father gave his sons the means to take his journey, and to essentially do whatever he wanted, so also the Father may allow us to have that which we need to live our lives our way and on our terms. In all reality, I would dare say that the Father is not afraid of giving us the space to live our lives the way we want, nor is the Father afraid to give us the room we need to try and live life the way we see fit, and perhaps even the way we feel as though it should be lived. The Father is not afraid to allow His children to leave His house, and to leave His care and protection, in order that they might live their lives the way they want to, and the way they feel they deserve to live. What’s more, is that the Father isn’t even afraid of allowing us to engage in our sense of entitlement just as this youngest son did. If you read this parable you will undoubtedly get the strong sense that this youngest son felt entitled to his portion of the inheritance, and demanded that which belonged to him. Without hesitation and without reservation the father divided up his living and gave unto his youngest son in order that he might not only leave, but also live the way he wanted to.
LEAVING AND LIVING! THE FATHER IS NOT AFRAID TO LET US LEAVE! THE FATHER IS NOT AFRAID TO LET US LIVE! We would like to think that the Father sits upon His throne in heaven, and does whatever is necessary to keep and prevent us from leaving and from living our lives the way we desire, and yet I am convinced that this could not and is not further from the truth. I do not believe for one minute the Heavenly Father sits upon His throne in heaven and seeks to dominate and control His children from ever leaving His house, and even from living their lives the way they want to. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Father has never been afraid to give His children room and space to live their lives the way they desire and the way they see fit in order that they might be brought to the place where they realize what they had, and also what they need within their lives. If you continue reading this parable you will find that after this younger son had spent all his living on riotous living, there came a mighty famine upon the land, and he began to be in want. In and from that place of want this youngest son joined himself to a citizen of that country, and was sent into the fields to feed the swine. Jesus goes on to describe in this parable how this youngest son would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat, and how no man would give unto him. Eventually the son came to himself and said within and unto himself how many hired servants within his father’s house have bread enough and to spare, and he perished with hunger. This younger son then made the decision to return to his father’s house, and declare unto him how he sinned against heaven and before him, and am no more worthy to be called his son. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for as surely and as much as the father was not afraid to allow the son to leave and to live his life the way he wanted to, the father was not afraid, nor was he intimidated by the stench and smell of the son when he returned to the house. Undoubtedly when the younger son returned home, and when the father ran unto him to embrace him, the son smelled like the swine whom he fed, and was perhaps covered in dirt, and dust, and perhaps looked absolutely disgusting. There is a parable in the New Testament gospel of John where Jesus got down in the dirt and dust of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery, and through this parable we have a tremendous picture of how Jesus is not afraid to get down in our dirt and dust. With that being said, I would also dare state that just as much as Jesus is not afraid to get down into our dirt and our dust, so the Father is willing and not afraid of our being covered in filth, of the stench we might have upon returning unto Him, and even of our appearance. As certainly and as surely as the Father is not afraid to allow us to leave and to live the way we desire and want to, so also the Father is not afraid, nor is He intimidated by our filth, by our stench, and by our appearance when we return home to Him.
Oh that we would see the tremendous significance and importance of this parable, and that we would come face to face with a God who is not afraid to allow us to leave and to live the way we desire and the way we want. Oh that we would read the words found and contained within this parable, and that we would come to the knowledge and understanding that the Father in heaven is not willing to give us the space—and perhaps even the time—we need to try and live our lives the way we desire, and the way we want to, in order that we might be brought to that place of desperation and need. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Father knows what is best for us, and while it might shock some of you who read what I’m about to write—I am convinced that this might even include the Father giving us space and room to live our lives the way we want, and to give us the time and space to do so. I fully realize and recognize that that might come as a shock to you, and might even surprise you, however, upon reading this parable, I am convinced that the Father—even in knowing what’s best for us—is not afraid to allow us to live our lives the way we desire, and the way we think is fit, in order that we might be brought to the place of desperation and need, and to the place where we are willing to come and return home. What’s more, is that as surely as I am convinced the Father is wiling to allow us time and space to live our lives the way we desire, and the way we want to, so also the Father is willing to thrust us into a place of desperation and need by causing a famine to come into our lives—a famine that brings us to the place of desperation, which propels and draws us back to the Father. The parable of the prodigal son—while it is in fact a parable about a son who left home and wasted his inheritance—is as much a parable about the father of this son, and the father’s willingness to allow the son to leave his house and live his life the way he wanted to. What’s more, is this parable is not only about a father who was willing to allow his son to leave and live the way he wanted to and saw fit, but it was also about a famine which struck the land—a famine which caused this son to be found in a place of desperation and need. Although it was the father who allowed the son to leave and to live the way he wanted to, and on his terms, it was the famine that ultimately helped draw the son back, for it was the famine which produced the desperation within the heart and mind of this son. Ultimately, when the father saw the son from a distance, the father ran to meet his son, fell on his neck, embraced him, and even gave him a ring, a robe, and threw a feast for his homecoming. Oh that we would recognize the tremendous importance of the father and the famine within this parable, and how the father not only allowed his son to leave and to live, but it was also the father who received his son back from the dead upon his return. Let us read this parable and understand the mercy of the famine, and the grace of the famine which may strike our lives, for it is in the divine mercy and grace of the Father that the famine is allowed to bring us to the place where we recognize our utter need and dependence upon Him, and make our journey back to Him, and back to His house, and back to His arms, and back under His protection, shelter and safety.