Today I want us to look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. As we journey through this passage we will see that this is our testimony, this is our story, yours, mine; anyone’s who has ever lived! At one time we were all prodigal which means wasteful, reckless, out of control. At one time we have been Church members but have not felt as if it was home. As we go through this parable we will see the characteristics of those who are outside of Christ and the misery that they experience. And we will also see those who merely play the game and have the outward appearance of religiosity but who inwardly are ravenous wolves.
There are three main characters in our text: the father and his two sons. One is full of himself and his own schemes and plans, and the other is has the attitude of entitlement and resentment for supposed wrongs that have been done to him. We will see the first younger son come to the end of himself; he will be broken and will suddenly see that there is only one thing to do: he will go home. And the greatest thing of all his that he will be received by his father who is indeed waiting for him. And here we will see the truth of the; Joh 6:37 where Jesus said: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
We will also see the elder son who will spit venom toward his brother with a self righteous attitude much like the Pharisees. And finally we will see the father who always remains constant; he is full of mercy and compassion.
So let’s get into the text and listen to what our Heavenly Father would have us learn today. Jesus is speaking in Lu 15:11-32 “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.’ Now let’s stop here for a moment. What is this boy asking for? He is asking for his part of the family inheritance. Usually the inheritance is divided upon the death of the father. The firstborn receives his share first and then the rest of the inheritance is divided up.
But the younger boy doesn’t want to wait…he wants his stuff now! You can almost hear him say “All I want is what’s coming to me…All I want is my fair share!” What he is really saying here is ‘Hey dad, its taking you way too long to die! I need stuff. I need things. I need to get on with my life and living here just ain’t cutting it. I need space. I need my freedom. I need to be free to live my own life without your rules and regulations. You’re stifling me! You’re cramping my style.”
Now it is interesting that we think this is something new; that it has only occurred in our modern day and age, a day of Generation X and Post-Modernism and all of the other isms that are being propagated by our public schools and colleges: which have indoctrinated children with selfish, me-centeredness. Because we have engaged in historical revisionism, because we have failed to learn from the past, we think all of these problems are brand new; that they have never been seen before.
But Jesus is showing us that these same problems were around 2000 years ago. There is nothing new under the sun. What we see happening today is the result of the removal of God from the public square. And you can trace all the troubles of mankind back to sin! Just look at the nation of Israel. Every time they rejected God and went their own way, they reaped a whirlwind of misery, slavery, death; all the things God promised would happen if they forsook Him for idols. Any time a people takes their eyes off of Jesus and looks to the world and to things for their answers and for fulfillment in life these same problems come to pass. They trade infinite grace for a handful of ashes and the peace that passes all understanding for dark, dismal misery.
We can boil the sons request down to this: he wants to be free to engage in sin. He wants to go someplace where nobody knows him so that he can act the way he wants without condemnation.
Now it is interesting that the father, who is an illustration of our Heavenly Father, is gracious beyond our capacity to comprehend. He actually grants the younger sons request. But as we will see, this son will receive leanness in his soul. And this leanness is not for no profit for our Father is ever teaching us to lean upon Him, to trust in Him, to rely upon Him for our happiness. This younger son will soon learn that stuff will not fulfill his inmost desire. He won’t find what he’s looking for at the end of the road he is about to travel on.
Let’s follow along now. We read in the second half of verse 12 “So he (the father) divided his wealth between them. (the two sons.) This too is interesting for we will see the older son later on complaining about his lack and many times we pass over the fact that the inheritance was divided. Each received the share falling to them.
Now I want you to see something here that applies to us as believers. We have been given new life in Jesus Christ. We have an inheritance that is undefiled and will not fade away; reserved for us in heaven. We are heir of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. And as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Do you see the blessed state that we find ourselves in? We are above all people most blessed indeed! And yet many times we act as if we have not received anything. Many times we take our eyes off of Jesus and look to the wind and the waves. We are distracted by the sin that so easily besets. It attaches itself to us like a parasite, like a leach and it begins to drain us. Now what have we done? We have yielded our members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin and suddenly we find ourselves in trouble. There is only one thing to do; we must return to our first love. We must repent and return to Jesus. We must forsake the broad road and follow Jesus. We will see this illustration borne out in our text. But first; to the pigsty!
13 “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, Isn’t it interesting how people always think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. “We’ll find what we’re looking for somewhere over the rainbow!” If we just move to another town, we’ll find happiness.” If we just do this or that…The younger son thought he would find what he was looking for someplace else and so he took his money and headed off to find the end of the rainbow.
Notice again that the first thing he wanted to do was get away. He wanted to get as far away from dad and home as he possibly could and for what? So that he ‘could be free to live his own life.’
But where do you find the place of perfect fulfillment? How far do you have to go? And can you outrun your troubles; indeed, is it even possible for you to outrun your troubles? Can you buy your way out of troubles? Let’s go further, what indeed, what are your troubles? I can tell you exactly what our main trouble: IT IS SIN! Sin is the pestilence that plagues our live from the cradle to the grave! We are born, dead in trespasses and sins and we live out our sin-nature each and every day.
But when we are borne again we are set free from bondage to sin. Satan is no longer our master and as believers we are not to be ruled by sin any longer. But isn’t it interesting that that which we don’t want to do, is exactly what we seem to be drawn to. We have been given a new heart and a new spirit and a new life in Jesus Christ but we have the strange and nasty habit of wanting to return to the vomit of old our pet sins. Our old nature cries out; “Think of the pleasure!” And if we give it any attention suddenly we begin to think of the ‘good ole days’ when we had fun. We suddenly begin to entertain thoughts about how we could just maybe dabble a little bit; just get our toe in the water. We figure that just a little dabbling won’t hurt anything and God won’t mind.
But consider these words from the Apostle Paul; 1Co 6:15 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” We must not entertain such thoughts for even a moment but rather we are to take every thought captive to the word of God. We are to be Christ’s men from head to foot and give no chances to the flesh to have its fling. This path only leads to misery and regret.
Sin does not equal happiness or fulfillment in any way shape or form. I don’t care how much money you spend, it will not buy you happiness. It may buy you things that give you pleasure for a season but eventually your new toy will lose its luster and will end up in the ever growing pile of other things that you have lost interest in. The younger son went to a ‘distant country’ where he could be away from the prying eyes of his father and where he could be ‘free’ to do what he wanted. And we read that and there he squandered his estate with loose living. He began to wallow in sin up to his eyeballs. He quite literally threw his money away on sin.
Follow along in verse 14 “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. Isn’t it interesting that the very place where he just knew he would find happiness and freedom and joy suddenly turned to dust before his eyes. His money was gone and his ‘perfect place’ of freedom was gone too! Suddenly, rather than living it up, he was suffering. He was in great misery. His dream had come to nothing.
Now, how low can you go? It is interesting to me that even though he was now destitute, the boy did not think about leaving just yet. He had not come to the place where he had abandoned his dream. “Perhaps things will turn around and I’ll be on top of the world again.” 15 “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. To the Jew there was no more horrifying thing than to feed pigs. It was forbidden for a Jew to eat pork and it was against Jewish tradition to raise pigs as well. Notice that this boy suddenly found himself in the lowest place he could get. He thought he had hit rock bottom, but now he had begun to dig.
Digging is hard, hungry work 16 “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. So not only has he spent every last penny he owned, not only is he in a famine ravaged country, not only has he stooped to feed pigs, but now the food that the pigs are eating looks good and no one will give him anything to eat. He is suffering. He has come to the end of himself. He cannot get any lower than he is now. He seems to be a lot like the rich man doesn’t he. Remember the rich man in hell wished that Lazarus would just dip his finger in water and cool his burning tongue. This boy is wishing that he could just get a finger full of pig slop to stem his burning hunger.
And then, somewhere in the mists of his mind a distant memory begins make its way into view; it begins to grow clearer and clearer. Suddenly he remembers a place called HOME! And suddenly home doesn’t look so bad. Suddenly all those rules and regulations don’t seem so harsh, especially when you’re hanging out with pigs and wishing that you could just get a little bit of their slop. Suddenly he wants to be with dad.
We read in verse 17 “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! What has he discovered? He has discovered that freedom isn’t all its cracked up to be! Indeed he has discovered that what he thought was freedom was really slavery in just another form. He had been a slave of his lusts; a slave to his inheritance and in the end had hired himself out to be a slave just to get by. Isn’t this the pattern of a drug addict? First he gets a taste, then he needs more, then it gets expensive. Then he starts to sell the stuff. For the woman usually prostitution is the last resort. Now do you think that these people ever thought they would get to this place? Do you think that anyone would really want to be a prostitute or a pusher?
I don’t think the boy in our story ever thought he would end up feeding pigs. He had probably figured that he would always be high on the hog, not wallowing in the sty. And as I said, suddenly he saw that home was really a wonderful place. Even the servants were taken care of. He said “My father’s servants have more than enough food. I want to be where my father is.” 18 ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’
Now I want you to see something. When this boy, this prodigal son decided to go home, he was committed 100%. He didn’t care whether he was received as a son or as a servant. I remember something that a pastor had said to me one time; “When Jesus is calling a sinner to himself, you had better get out of the way because he will run over you to get to Him!” I remember the night in which I was born again. I was at a church service and had been under conviction for weeks. When the Pastor asked if there was anyone who wanted to know how to be saved, I began to make my way out of the pew. A friend to mine wanted to know what I was doing and I said, get out of my way; I’ve got to get up there to find out what I must do to be saved.
Here we have this same determination. This boy was ready to go. We read in verse 20 “So he got up and came to his father.” He set his face as flint to go which is an illustration of rock hard determination. He threw himself into his commitment and would not be turned from his purpose. He was going home!
Let me ask you; are you easily put off your course by what other people say or by what you think other people might think? Search your hearts and ask yourselves, “How committed am I to anything?” We are celebrating the Lord’s Supper this day and let me tell you that Jesus was unswervingly committed to accomplishing the Father’s will. He said in Joh 12:27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” And we read in Heb 12:2 that we are to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Will you this day set your face as flint to serve the living God with all of your heart? Will you dedicate yourself to the glory of God even now? No matter what the outcome? No matter what others might think of you? We have the example set before us today in the person of this prodigal son who was determined to return to his father with all of his heart…no matter what the outcome!
But what would he find! Would he find an angry father? Would he hear “I told you so”? Let’s see.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him” Now I have to break in here and ask; how did his father see him. This boy is still a long way off. He probably doesn’t look like the boy who left home full of himself. He probably looks like a broken young man. But further still, the implication is that his father was looking for him. He had probably been looking for his son ever since the boy had gone away; each day going out and scanning the horizon for a glimpse of the son he loves.
Now how can we apply this to God our Father? First, God is not helpless. His arm is not so short that it cannot save, nor is His ear to dull so that He cannot hear. Furthermore, we understand that everything that comes into our lives has been brought to us by our loving Heavenly Father. Some people would say, “God doesn’t bring bad things into our lives.” Oh? I only ask you to look to the life of Job. This godly man uttered a statement that makes people cringe when in Job 2:10 we read, “But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Please consider these two verses as well.
Ro 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Php 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Our Father is at work in our lives to mold us into instruments that are usable for His glory and His purposes. He is ever watchful of us and is always calling us into a deeper relationship with Himself. Many times we, like the prodigal, wander away. We take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to look at the world and we plug our ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit and start to dabble in worldliness. And we must understand that if we are believers, these things are being brought about by God for the purpose of bringing about growth in grace and a deeper level of consecration and devotion to Himself. These trials are His way of weaning us from the world.
I want you to consider something else with me; the version of Christianity that is being passed off as such by many so called ‘christians’ is in reality a lie. There was a statement made in the movie “Fireproof” and I think it bears repeating because it is a statement of what the normal Christian life is. The statement was, if you are a true Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ, then “You’re either all in or you’re not.” In other words, you can’t be half in and half out!” You can’t be saved and still be a slave to sin, self and satan. Why? Because when we are saved, we are called out of the world and into a new relationship with Jesus Christ. We are transformed from sinner to saint, a child of darkness into a child of light, from condemned to pardoned. Now we still have that old nature dwelling within which pulls and tugs at us and tries to get us to go back. And the weaning process that God works in our lives is designed to purge out the remaining dross, the scum that remains and to refine us so that we are reflections of the Son!
Consider this illustration of the work of a goldsmith. When the goldsmith heats up the crucible, the gold becomes liquid and the scum, the impurities rise to the top in the form of dross. The smith removes the dross and heats it up again. And again he removes the dross. This is done until no more dross rises to the top. Do you know how the goldsmith knows when the gold is pure? It is when he can see his reflection in the gold like a mirror. And this is the purpose of trials and tribulations. Our lives are melted down during trials and the dross rises to the top and the heavenly goldsmith removes it. And the purpose of these trials is so that eventually, we will reflect the glory of God!
And when we wander away He is ever watching for the appointed day of our return. Notice how we are received when we return. The father of the prodigal saw the boy a long way off and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Do you feel the love here? We’re talking about a love that is beyond anything that we can comprehend because we are talking about an infinite love of an infinite God.
Now also notice the broken heart of the son. He is a broken man with a humble heart. The leanness to his soul has accomplished its purpose. The scriptures speak of those who fall upon the Rock, Jesus Christ, and are broken. What that means is that we are broken of our old selves. This is why Paul said in 2Co 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” And we are daily being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ who is gentle and humble in heart.
I also want to point out something else; there is no sense of self worth in this boy. He has no self esteem and indeed self and God are eternal opposites. He hasn’t been made to feel good about himself by means of the trial that he has undergone. He has been broken of self. This is what Paul means in Ga 2:20 when he said “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Not I but Christ! This truth is reflected so clearly in verse 21 “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.’ We are not worthy of anything but the wrath of God. We are worthy of nothing but eternal death.
We have nothing to offer; nothing to curry the favor of the Father, nothing to bring us into his good graces. But God!
Eph 2:4-10 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
This boy knows that he has no claim to anything and indeed he is broken of all ambition for anything. Now in his practiced speech he was going to say “make me as one of your hired men.”’ Please let me be one of your servants.
But he doesn’t get a chance.
The father didn’t seem to hear what he said. The boy was full of repentance. It was written over every line of his being. And the father is full of love and compassion. He didn’t greet this boy with a punch in the nose. It says that the father ran to him, embraced him and kissed him. This is a response of deep, heartfelt love. And the father has just begun in his demonstration of love. We read in verse 22 “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, His command is for the finest robe in the house and the illustration is that of the robe of a king, the kind that comes down to the feet.
When we were saved our shabby, worn out clothes of sin were removed and we were clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We were made joint heirs with the Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Note further the command of the father; and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; the contrast between a slave and a free man is clear here. Slaves were barefoot while sons wore shoes. This boy was received as a son! And the Father was not done yet. He commanded his servants further saying; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; the fatted calf was brought out when something special had happened. And indeed something special had occurred for listen to the words of the father: 24 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. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Lu 15:7
But then the older son gets wind of what’s happening. We read in verse 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26“And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 “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.’ 28 “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; He is looking down on his brother and thinks he is better than this prodigal. “I ain’t eatin with that jerk. No way!” …and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 “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; Now we return to what we saw at the first. When the father divided the inheritance, the older boy received his share too. He could have done what he wanted. But instead he is bitter.
He then boasts about his years of service saying that he deserved something in return. He was entitled! He had perfectly obeyed his father. This sounds like the Pharisees. They boasted about their perfect law keeping and their attitude was that they were doing God a favor by letting Him be associated with them.
And then he says; 30 but when this son of yours (not my brother, but this son of yours) came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ He is accusing his father of rewarding sin. But the younger boy is a broken man. He is not the same son who left. He has been 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 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.’” The conversion of any soul ought to be an occasion of joy to all who see it. Our Lord shows us this by putting the following words into the mouth of the prodigal’s father “We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!”
The older son had given an accurate description of the sins of his younger brother but had not taken into account that he might actually have been repentant. You see, the younger son had come home! He was a new creation. Old things had passed away and all things had become new. The dross had been removed and the gold refined.
The older son was filled with bitterness, self exaltation and a spirit of judgmentalism. There are two kinds of people in the visible church of Jesus Christ today; those who truly love Jesus and know that He is all and they are nothing and those who are full of themselves and the spirit of the Pharisees. And their lives reflect what is in their hearts. Mt 15:11, 18 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican gives us a clear picture of the two heart attitudes that are reflected in our lesson this morning.
Let me close with this passage. Lu 18:10-13 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Which one best reflects your heart? Do you have a tender heart of love for the God who had mercy on you? And does this love for God spill over into love for your neighbor? Or do you look down on people as the Pharisees did and think “I’m better than they are!” The pharisaical heart attitude declares that you are wandering down the broad road that leads to destruction and the other reveals to the world that you have come home.