Upside Down Kingdom Parables: The Lavish Love of God

Exemple

Upside Down Kingdom Parables: The Lavish Love of God

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Notes:

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”…And He said, “A man had two sons. “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'” Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Today we continue our series on the parables of Jesus, and in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we will see the Father’s unrelenting love and grace.

The context of this parable is found in verses 1-2: Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

There were two groups, the tax collectors and sinners and the scribes and Pharisees. Sinners were those who had rejected Jewish traditions, lived dishonoring lifestyles, and were disobedient to God. At that time, sinner was often used as a euphemism for prostitute. Tax collectors were sinners, but they were hated so much that they were singled out.

Typically Jewish, tax collectors worked for the despised Roman government. They not only collected money that helped pay Roman soldiers to enforce their oppression, but they extorted money from fellow Jews for payment. Sinners and tax collectors were considered morally inferior people by the Pharisees and Scribes. The Scribes and Pharisees were both morally outstanding and committed to keeping the law and traditions in every way.

Understanding the hearts of the both of these groups, Jesus told a parable about a man with two sons. The younger son chose to leave his father, family, and faith for an alternate lifestyle – he represented the tax collectors and sinners. The older and more mature son was a hard worker who followed family traditions and did all he was asked and kept a record of his deeds – he represented the Scribes and the Pharisees.

This parable was for them but will certainly draw application to our hearts today. This parable is about the father and his consistent love and grace toward his selfish, rebellious son and the self-righteous son. As we’ll see, both sons dishonored their father and caused harm to the family.

Dishonoring of The Father (The Younger Son – Rebellion)

And He said, “A man had two sons. “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. Luke 15:11-12

That statement alone set the crowd on edge. It was customary that when the father passed away, the inheritance would be divided among the sons. The eldest son would receive a double portion. In this case, the younger son would be entitled one-third of the inheritance at the death of his father, and the older son would be entitled to a double portion, two-thirds of the inheritance.

But typically the wealth of the father was in land and livestock, not cash holdings and certainly not easily accessible, but still he divided his wealth between them. The Greek word used for wealth there is bios, where we get our word life. In this context, it would mean the accumulation of life’s work, literally meaning it was a process of tearing the father’s life apart. Essentially the son was saying, “I do not want a relationship with you but I do want your stuff.”

It was the ultimate act of disrespect, but the father did as he was asked. The younger son left and went on a journey where he squandered his money with loose living. Squandered is the same word used to describe a piece of grain being thrown up in the air to be separated from the chaff, or outside skin, which is easily blown away by the breeze. The separation of the younger brother and his money was done through loose living. After he lost all his money, a severe famine came upon the land. With limited options, he went to work feeding pigs, an undesirable job for any young Jewish man, even a rebellious one. But he came to his senses, meaning that when he thought about his situation and compared himself to his father’s laborers, he realized he could do better at home. He rehearsed a speech and went back home.

Grace of The Father

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24

The younger brother did not even have time to give his complete rehearsed speech. While he was far off, his father saw him and felt compassion. Is it not like our Heavenly Father to do that? In Romans we read:

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

God leads us to Himself through His compassion and kindness, demonstrated on the cross. As the son began his speech, the father yelled out orders to the servants to put the best robe on him to show honor, to put a ring on his finger to signify authority, and to place shoes on his feet as a symbol of freedom. The father’s love was not based on his son’s performance or motivation but based on his character. This scene is similar to the vision Zechariah had of the high priest Joshua:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him…Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Zechariah 3:1, 3-4

The word filthy here means soiled as with excrement. Paul described all of his deeds as filth apart from Jesus. The younger brother was physically and spiritually unclean, a representation of his life, deeds, and heart. His gracious father was filled with compassion and commanded for the finest robe to be placed on his son, and off they went to feast. In scripture, a feast often represents a homecoming into the kingdom of God. Enter the second son, the older brother and a second dishonoring of the father.

Dishonoring The Father (The Older Son – Self Righteousness)

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ “But he became angry and was not willing to go in, and his father came out and began pleading with him. “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ Luke 15:25-30

The elder brother was instantly angry and he refused to honor his father by going to the celebration. His heart was revealed in his response to his father – he served his father for years and kept his commands, but all that he did was not for the pleasure of his father or for the relationship with his father, but for himself and what he would earn.

In his book The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller recounts a story taken from one of the Apocrypha books about Jesus and his disciples. A paraphrased version of the account goes like this:

Jesus was walking with his disciples one day and asked them each to pick up a rock and carry it for Him. All the disciples picked up rocks of varying sizes and put them in their knapsacks. Peter, thinking that Jesus did not specify what size rock, picks a smaller stone to carry. They walk for a period of time and it is time to stop. Jesus asks them to take out their rocks and Jesus turns each rock into a loaf of bread the size of the rock and says, “Lunch.” Peter had a small lunch. Before they departed for the next portion of the trip, Jesus once again says, “I would like each of you to pick out a rock and carry it for me.” Peter is a quick learner and picks one of the biggest rocks he thinks he could carry for a distance and thinks to himself, “I can’t wait for dinner.” After traveling for a period, they stop once again and Jesus asks them to get their stones out. They throw their stones in the river and then continue to walk. Jesus could see the perplexed look on Peter’s face and asked him one question, “For whom were you carrying the rock?”

This is a great picture of the elder brother who also wanted what the younger brother wanted: his father’s stuff. The younger brother asked for it, rudely and obnoxiously. The elder brother was working for it, not out of a desire to please his father, but was performing just to get. This is religion, the Pharisees, and us today if we are not careful. How do we know if we have become the elder brother? Here are six indications:

1. Joyless – The joy of the father did not bring him any joy.

2. Anger – Anger at spiritual success or any success of others whom you deem less worthy. Do you get angry when others succeed and have not worked as hard as you have?

3. Record keeping – Do you keep track of all you have done for the kingdom? “Look at what I have done. I have kept all your commandments!”

4. Spirit of ungratefulness – Refusal to see what God has done – the elder brother implied that his father had never given him anything.

5. Judgmental, critical, jealous“This son of yours has spent his money on prostitutes. Why does he get the good stuff when he is so bad, much worse than me? I kept the rules.”

6. The burden of obedience instead of the joy of pleasing – “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). God gives us commandments because it glorifies Him.

Grace of The Father

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found. Luke 15:31-32

“You have always been with me and what is mine is yours.” This was an address to the Pharisees and Israel, but they did not recognize it because of their own self-righteousness. The father tells him that it is not just about him, but about the kingdom and that it would be wrong not to rejoice. God calls all people into the kingdom for His glory.

A prodigal is one who spends all he has lavishly and foolishly. We have traditionally put that title on the younger brother. But as we looked at this parable today, we see that it is God the Father who pours out His love and lavishes His grace upon us, the undeserving.

Who are you in this in this story? Are you the younger brother, walking away from family, tradition, and God with a rebellious in heart? Or are you the older brother, and you’ve lost your joy? Is obedience a burden or something you seek? Do you find yourself judging others? If you were in the crowd, how would it end?

Wherever you are, you don’t have to be stuck there. God’s love and grace extends out to you to come home in repentance and to receive all that He has for you.

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