We are starting a series of lessons called Hope For Facing Storms. We are going to spend the next few weeks looking at various scriptures that speak to how to handle trials and difficulties as well as how to just look at life during these kinds of days. We are going to begin by looking at the inexplicable love of God. One of the things we need most during dark days and hard times is the knowledge of God’s love for each of us. The place I want us to look at the inexplicable love of God is in Luke 15, where Jesus tells a well-known parable. The setting of the parable is important and is explained in the first two verses of Luke 15. Tax collectors and sinners are coming to Jesus to hear him. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law are complaining about this. They cannot understand why Jesus would spend time with such terrible people. Jesus welcomed these terrible people to him and even ate with them. So Jesus needs to tell a parable to explain why he is doing this. Jesus begins his parable by talking about a lost sheep and a lost coin. I will come back to that point later in the lesson. I want us to begin today in Luke 15:11.
Demands and Failure (15:11-16)
Jesus tells a story about a father who has two sons. The younger son comes to the father and demands that the father give him the share of his inheritance. This is a horrible beginning to the story. In ancient times, the father would divide up his property and inheritance to his children upon his death. In this story, two-thirds of the property would have gone to the older son and one-third of the property would go to the younger son. But the younger son wants his portion now. The father would have to sell a third of his property and possessions to be able to give the younger son what he demands. This son is demanding from the father what would come to him later. Please think about what this younger son is saying to his father. He is saying to him, “I do not want you. I just want your stuff!” He does not want to be with his father or around his father. He just wants what he has. He does not want him. This son is completely rejecting his father’s love. It is insulting and it is shocking. It would have been particularly shocking in the ears of that culture who heard Jesus start the story like this. Now what would you tell your son if he made this demand of you? Notice what the father does. He divides up his property. The father gives this insolent younger son what he asks for.
The younger son takes his belongings and goes far away. He just wants to get away from this father so he travels to a far country. But notice what he does. He squanders his wealth in wild, reckless living. He takes the significant wealth that his father has given to him and absolutely blows it. He throws it away. Verse 14 tells us that he spent everything. He wastes all of that wealth that was given to him. Then look at what happens. The prosperous times turn to desperate times. A severe famine arises and he has nothing. Good times turned to dark times. Party time turned to a painful time. Things are so bad and he is so poor that he has to work for a man who sends him into his fields to feed pigs. Now, it is not just that pigs may be gross to you. Pigs were unclean and an abomination in the Jewish mind. Not only has this younger son insulted his father, taken a third of his father’s wealth, and blown it on worthless, reckless living, he now has defiled himself by working with pigs. He is unclean and defiled. His situation is so dire and he is so desperate that he wishes he could eat what the pigs were eating. Think about that. He has become so destitute and so impoverished that he wishes he could eat the food being given to the pigs. But listen to the end of verse 16. No one gave him anything. This son has gone from the riches of the father to complete poverty. He has made a complete mess of his life with his father’s wealth.
A Necessary Understanding (15:17-19)
Verse 17 begins by stating that he came to his senses. I want us to think about something. All of this difficulty and loss happened and it causes this younger son to come to his senses. It is what he needed. He was living a life of rebellion to the father and wasting everything his father gave him. Now that there is nothing left and he is trouble, the circumstances bring him to his senses. We need bad times to get us to come to our senses. Difficulties in life are to waken us from the foolishness of our living. God uses hard times to give us clarity in our thinking.
Notice the first thing that this younger son realizes. He realizes that the hired servants in his father’s house are doing better than him (15:17). It is better to be a servant of his father than be out on his own. It is better to be in the father’s house than outside of the father’s house. The second thing he realizes is that he is not worthy to be called the father’s son (15:19). He is not worthy to be considered a child of the father because of what he said and did. He did not care about his father. He only cared about his father’s stuff. Then he took his father’s wealth and wasted it. He has not acted like a son but a wretched rebel. You will notice that he makes no excuses for himself. He is going to return to his father and confess. He will return to his father and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as on of your hired servants” (15:18-19). This son sees life clearer than he ever has before. He understands that he was wrong. He understands that he sinned. He understands that he is not worthy of the status, relationship, or proximity to his father that comes from being called his son.
The Father’s Response (15:20-24)
So the son travels from this far country back to his father. The emphasis of this story shifts to the father. We are supposed look at the father carefully at this moment. First, you will see that the father sees his lost son while he was still a long way off. Clearly, the father has been waiting and hoping for his son to return. He’s looking out to the road repeatedly each day hoping that at some point he will see his son return. This one day he looks up and he does see his son coming back. Notice when the father sees his son, what does he feel? Does he feel anger? No. Does he feel upset about all that he wretched son has done against him? No. Does he feel spite or bitterness? No. The father is filled with compassion. He feels compassion even after all that his son has done against him. Not only is he filled with compassion for his son but he runs to him, throws his arms around him, and kisses him. Those two words at this point are amazing: “he ran.” This older father is running down the road to meet his rebellious son who is coming back home.
The younger son attempts to give his speech that he has prepared. He tells father that he has sinned against heaven and him and is not worthy to be called his son. The son makes his confession. But notice the response of the father. The father is not going to treat his lost son like a hired servant. No, he is going to treat him like his son. Kill the expensive fat calf, give my son the best robe, put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. We are going to celebrate. The father is overjoyed and is celebrating. In fact, this is a primary thread in this parable. When Jesus started telling this story, he first spoke about a lost sheep. Notice in verse 6 that when the lost sheep is found, he calls his friends and neighbors to rejoice because the lost sheep has been found. In verse 9 Jesus said that when a lost coin is found the same rejoicing with friends and neighbors occurs. Now we see the father calling for his house to rejoice and celebrate for finding his lost son. Listen to the picture in verse 24. My son was dead and is alive again. My son was lost and now he is found.
This is the Father in heaven that we have. Notice in verse 7 and in verse 10 that the point is that there is great rejoicing in heaven when one person returns to God in repentance. The point is that the picture that Jesus tells of his father is God. This is the Father that we have. Our God looks at us with love and compassion. Jesus exemplified this repeatedly as he would look at the crowds and be moved with compassion. I want us to see that the love of God is inexplicable and incomprehensible. We are the lost son in the story today. We are the ones who have taken the blessings and riches of God and have just thrown them away. We have wasted what God has given us. We have taken the good that God has done toward us and used them on selfish and evil things. We are the ones who have told God that we want his stuff and not him. We have told him to just give us prosperity, comfort, and health and at the same time told God that we do not want him. We told God that we do not want a relationship with him.
Then I want us to see that in spite of all that we have done against our Father in heaven, he is still looking down the road wanting us to return. The love of God is so amazing that in spite of how we have turned against him, he still looks longing down the road hoping to see you return to him. God is our Father who welcomes us back. He seeks us. He wants us back. He runs to us. Think about what Jesus said in this parable three times. God rejoices over you when you come back to him. He is celebrating. He has joy in you when you come to him. Our Father made that road of return possible through the sacrifice and the resurrection of Jesus. You can come to the Father because he so compassionately desired you to come to him that he gave his Son as sacrifice and raised him from the dead three days later so that you would come back to the Father as his child, not a servant or a slave. This is how we can be made alive to a new life and a new hope.
Jesus’ answer as to why he is eat with terrible people like tax collectors is because that is how much he loves people. It does not matter how terrible you have lived your life, God looks at you with compassion and wants you to return to him. He wants you to see that life with him is far better than life without him. This is the love and the hope we need as we walk through this difficult time in our country and in the world. God wants every person to come to his senses. God wants us in this moment to see that life is far more than money, health, and possessions. God wants us to stop looking at all the good he gives and see him who gave us all the good we have enjoyed. We must stop making demands of the father and taking his blessings. Instead, we need to come to him not for his blessings, but for him. Look at his love and want him. Look at the sacrifice of Jesus and want him. The world cannot understand why want to worship in the conditions of this virus. What the world does not understand is that we see this inexplicable love of our Father and we have to worship him. We can’t stop because he has changed our lives and given us hope. We can’t stop because we need him now more than ever. If you do not see his love, then you will never understand. So I want you to see his amazing love as Jesus tells a story about a lost son that a father desperately and amazingly loves. Let God’s amazing love lead you through this time of darkness and give you hope for what God has in store for you.