Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 9 months ago

The Gracious Father (Pt. 1)


Christian Macarthur

Would ask you to remain standing for one more moment as we open up to the gospel of St Luke. Will be looking at chapter fifteen together as we continue, and the parables of Jesus Luke. Chapter Fifteen, beginning in verse eleven. This is God's word, and he said there was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, father, give me the share of property that is coming to me, and he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property and reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country and he began to be in need. So we went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed pigs, and he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs eight and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, how many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger. I will arrive eyes and go to my father and I will say to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father, but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him, and the son said to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before you I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet, and bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found, and they began to celebrate. Now is older son was in the field and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing and he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant, 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 was angry and he refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father. Look, these many years I have served you, I've never disobeyed your command. Yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends, but with this son of yours came who is devoured your property with prostitutes. You killed the fat and calf for him and he said to him, son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad for this. Your brother was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found. This is God's word. You may be seated. So I want to begin this evening with a quote from psychology today, from a doctor, Lawrence Samwell, and he's speaking about death and specifically how Americans consider death, and he says this. He says the notion of one day disappearing is contrary to many of...

...our defining cultural values, with death and dying viewed as profoundly on American the rise of the self has made it increasingly difficult to acknowledge the fact that our individual selves will no longer exist. What is interesting how repulsed we are by death. I mean it's it's understandable, isn't it? It is a topic that is not overly popular to discuss. And yet for the Christian, for us who professed faith in Christ, death is actually the remedy for our human condition, isn't it? And this evening I would like to consider our text, the prodigal son, or, as I would suggest, that the parable of the gracious father. I would like to consider this parable in the context of death. Now, some of you might be thinking Christian, why would you ruin my favorite parable by making it about death? Well, I'm sorry, but bear with me. I do want to consider this. Give me a moment and what we'll see what we can come up with. But I want to consider this parable in the light of death, certainly the death of Christ, but also our own death along with Christ. So let's let's consider this this evening. This this evening, will actually be taking the parable in two parts. Will take part one tonight in Lord Willing, will take part two next week. And this we eq will specifically be considering the younger brother, the Prodigal son, if you will, and will consider this passage under three headings. One, the death of the father too, the death of the son and three Baptismal resurrection. That last one seems out of place. Bear with me. So, if you'll recall from last week we considered the parables of the lost chief and the lost coin and when we mentioned that, Luke's introduction and Chapter Fifteen, verse one is an introduction to all three parables, ours tonight included. He says this. He says now the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to him, him being Jesus, and the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying this man receives sinners and eats with them. So that certainly sets up last week's parables, but I would argue that it also sets up this evening's parable. And with that I think we can see the parable as a bit of an allegory, and most commentators through history would agree. The the younger son represents sinners and tax collectors, the older son represents Pharisees and scribes, and the father of represents God, the father who is in heaven, who rejoices every time a sinner repents, as we learned about last this week. And so right off the bat the parable introduces these characters, doesn't it a man who had two sons, and then it zooms in on the relationship with the younger son. The younger son comes to his father and he says, Father, give me a share of the property that is coming to me. So this is a common thing, that that happens. In fact, it's mentioned in the levitical law that that a father was to give an inheritance to his son's two thirds of it would be given to an older one third would be given to a younger assuming that there are two sons. But what's different about this situation is what the levitical law talks about... as that this is to be given as a last will and testament. In other words, the sons have claim to this possession, but they don't get it until the father dies. It's interesting that the property here, that the word uses that give me the share of the property or inheritance is some translation say is is the Greek word for life. And that's exactly what happens, isn't it? At the end of one's life they give what is left of their life to their children, those who come after them, as an inheritance. Well, as we consider this, we we think about what the son is actually asking. It's far more than just an advance on his allowance, isn't it? He's essentially saying Hey, dad, as far as I'm concerned, you're dead. Could you give me what's coming to me? I mean, that's exactly what would be viewed in this culture. For a son to say, Dad, I want my inheritance. would be a son wishing his father dead, no longer caring about the father, only the possessions that he can give him. Now, the father in this case has no legal requirement to hand this over to his son, and yet he does. Okay, son, I'm dead to you and this cash proves it. I mean, culturally we can't even fathom the shame that would be occurring here, both from the son's behavior but also from the father willing to allow his son to get away with this. This is the kind of actions that would cause the neighbors to whisper. Did you hear about so and so? And it's good for nothing son, and you can believe? Can you believe that that fool just gave him the cash and let him go? I mean, this would be looked on very poorly in this time and as these scribes and Pharisees are listening to Jesus tell this parable no doubt that they are having some of these thoughts. So the son wishes his father dead and his father allows it. And I want to take the allegory too far, but isn't this a picture of how God so often works? He is under no obligation to allow us to do what we want. He is sovereign over all things, and yet he so often, at least for a time, will allow us to and away spit in his face, take what he has given us our very breath and life and go squander it away. Isn't that kind of the picture from Romans, one that people trade the truth about who God is for a lie? In this case, this father has shown himself, at least in the parable to be nothing but a loving, compassionate father, and yet this son trades that truth for the lie that his dad is nothing but a trust fund to be spent however he sees fit, all while pretending that his dad is dead. So we have a son who considers his father dead. And if that's true, next we find the death of a son. The passage goes on. It tells us that not many days later, the younger son gathered all that he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property on reckless living. I like how the King James Renders... says they're wasted his substance, his very life, with riotous living. This young man leaves the country of his family in a Jewish context, leaving his homeland to go to a land of gentiles, right, going to a foreign land, away from the land of his father, away from the land of his God. I think this would be something like someone from Arizona moving to California. The older brother would later claim that he describes what the what the younger brother did. He says he devoured the father's wealth with what prostitutes? I mean, whatever the particulars, we can assume that this young man did not lose this money on a business deal gone bad, but on loud living, loose women. Not only has he considered his father dead, but he is shaming the good name of his family by leaving all that God has promised to him, going to a far away land and living in a way that certainly does not withhold the honorable name of his father. Again, considering his father, his heritage, to be dead. Well, in the case of sin, as we know, all that glitters is sure to fade, and that's exactly what happens. He spends all of his dad's money on drink and debauchery, and as soon as the cash runs out, the text tells us that famine comes. He comes to the land where he has set up shop and the sun finds himself needy. And here he has to devise a plan, doesn't he? The RSV says that he joins himself to one of the citizens of the country. Now again, thinking about this and the cultural context, this Jewish boy has gone to a faraway land. He is now end injured himself to a gentile. He is literally put himself into exile and a land that is not his own and servitude to a people that is not his own. And in the case of this particular gentile, he is now working on a pig farm, which, in a Jewish context against would make the whole picture far, far worse. I've got a good friend who is a farmer, a pig farmer, in Minnesota, and he is constantly sending me pictures of what pig farming is like, and it is disgusting. At least how he frames it and our group thread but that's not what's going on here. Particularly we're finding this young Jewish man in a far away gentile country now giving his life to unclean animals and their care. And not only that, but the text would tell us that the animals themselves seem to have more worth than the young boy did. He they're getting fed and he's going hungry, longing for the slop that is fed to them. Me This would be a truly disgusting picture for scribes and Pharisees to hear about. Wouldn't it deplorable, the shame to send the disrespect, the uncleanliness and their eyes? And rightly so. This kid is as good as dead. Everything that is true...

...about him has been put to death. In fact, that's exactly what the father surmises at the end of the parable, isn't it? My son was dead. He says it twice. Isn't this a start picture of sin, of a life given over to sin, the reality of being dead and sin? Well, not only does the father see his son as dead, as he summarizes at the end of the story, but the son realizes it himself. Verse Seventeen says that he comes to Himselfie, he comes to his senses, realizing that even the servants on his father's farm have bread to eat. But what does he say about himself? But I perish, I die here with hunger. He begins to recognize his position, which is near to death. The wages of sin is always death. We know that to be true in our own lives, don't we? We can look back and perhaps think of time times where we were dead and sin it looks pretty at first, but it doesn't end that way. Doesn't matter how shiny it looks or how attractive its form, it always leads to death. Well, in the dying breath of this son, he comes up with a plan. He will go back to his dad, he will beg him to take him as a slave, and he begins to write a speech. Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son, it says. Treat me as one of your hired servants. Here he seeks to hang onto that last bit of life by saying, you know what, I'll just go work for the old man, not as a son but as a slave. So he goes, a dead man walking. So what would you do. If you are the father, think of good parenting advice you would give at this point. What would you tell the father to do? Would you allow the son to even step foot on your property? Maybe not. If you're really gracious parent, perhaps you would give him a list of hoops to jump through that he could again earn your trust, get back into good graces. I mean his own plan to work as your servant. Wouldn't be that bad, would it? He's that's that's not too bad. He could calm, he could earn his way back into living with the family. How would we counsel this father? Would we tell him that this son really needs to learn the value of a hard day's work, the value of a dollar? It would be gracious of you, after a child treated you with such shame and disrespect, to give him or her a second shot at earning trust. And that's what a pretty gracious parent would look like, right a second chance. Certainly, the scribes and the Pharisees listening to the story or maybe thinking about this, what would we do in this case? Kidneys discipline. He needs to prove that he can get his life together so that...

...he can be trusted again. Well, for the Pharisees here amongst us, myself included. What do we do when horrible, rebellious sinners enter into God's house? What is our attitude to those who have given themselves to public shame? Do we put them on probation, making sure they can improve a bit? We don't want to be too gracious, right or on the flip side, for those here that are prodigals, myself included, do we consider this to be what God does for us, giving us a second chance so that we can try our best again, maybe try to get it right this time now? I'm not suggesting that we be on wise in our relationships or parenting. I'm not necessarily giving parenting advice, but part of thinking through these things makes this parable all the more striking, doesn't it? As we think about what this father should do, let's look at what he does do. This corpse is coming down the driveway covered and pig dung and the father gets off the rocking chair and begins to run. As if his son had not shamed him enough, he begins to shame himself. Running was not something a respectable man would do in this culture, certainly not one who is decent, and certainly not running for a kid like this. But the father sees him, that son that had wished him dead. And what does it say? Says he feels compassion for him, he runs to him, he embraces him, he kisses him and the son starts the speech. He says, Father, I've sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son. You'll notice the speech stops there. He never gets to finish it. He leaves off that line about working in the father's fields. Some have suggests that here that the father interrupts him, and that could well be true. Others have suggested that in this very moment the son gets it that he has nothing to give to his father, not even his servitude. Perhaps it's a little bit of both, that it's in the father's kindness that the kid understands this. Isn't that what Paul says, that it's God's kindness who draws us to repentance. And what an incredible picture of repentance this is coming to a play as not where we say I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you, becoming to a place where we realize that we are indeed dead. Did we have nothing to give. And as this son finally breathes his last figurative breath, his dying words are, I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Lifeless, nothing left to give, not even to scrape by working in his father's fields. The son gets it, the father gets it. What does he say? My son was dead. He later reflects. Death is always the end to the... of Sin. God's answer to sin is not a reformed life, not a second chance at getting it right. Grace is not a Mulligan. His answer to sin is death, certainly the death of his son, but also our death along with Jesus. Paul says it like this in Romans. He he's answering the question should we go on sinning that grace may abound? And he says by no means. How can we who have gotten our life together on our own, continue to sin? That's actually not what it says. How can we who have died still live and sin? Paul's answer to a life of sin, life and the old Adam is not reform, but death. Death to the old man, Paul goes on. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, where baptized into his death. We were buried with him and baptism, but not just a baptismal death, a Baptismal resurrection, which is our final point for this evening. The father's response, and this parable to the son's repentance, to his recognition of death, that he has nothing left to give, is to further kill him with kindness, isn't it? But also to raise him to new life. He calls his servants. He says, bring quickly the best robe in the closet and put it on the boy. Get My signet ring, the one that says he can act in my name, that he can now speak as a true member of my family and executor of my estate, and don't let him walk another step without shoes. Get them some sandals. And then he says, I'm not I'm not done yet. Bring the choicest fatten calf, yes, the one we've been saving, and slaughter it. Let us eat and celebrate. Why? Verse Twenty Four? For this. My son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found, and they began to celebrate. He is a father, so gracious, so loving, so extravagant that he doesn't call us to spit shine, are sinful existence, but in his grace he baptizes us into death, the death of his own son. He doesn't wait for us to reform, but he puts our old life in the grave and he resurrects us to new life. He clothes us in the best robe, the very robes of righteousness, from his son. He gives us a sign and seal of sonship. In the case of the par terrible, this this ring that he puts on him. In our case, he gives us baptism that shows forth and reminds us that we belong to God's family. He gives us this weekly reminder that will partake of in a few moments, or reminder that Christ has died and risen for us. And as we taken eat, we confess that we have died along with him, but are also resurrected to newness of life. Paul says, as...

...he continues in Romans six, he says, for we have been unified with him. In a death like this, we shall certainly be united with him. And a resurrection like this, as this good father places robes and a ring on his son, he says. All that was once true of you is now dead, it's buried and my son, you are now raised to new life. My son was dead, but now alive. As we conclude this evening, for some of you here, you can so resonate with the prodigal son. You have wandered, you have treated God as dead. You have given yourself to a life of sin, trading in the truth about God for a lie, squandering the life that he has given to you. Oh, God's Word for you to day is, no matter who you are or what you have done, there is no sin that is a match for God's grace. There is no sin that you have committed that is a match for his forgiveness, and he offers it freely. receive it. To Day is the day of salvation. For some of you here this evening, God's word to you, in the kindest way, is drop dead, stop resting in your own final breath, stop trying to be a servant in the father's field and Erdre in order to earn your keep. Will have more to say about that next week, but as a preview, his word is drop dead and fall into the loving arms of a father who runs to you, not with a to do list, but with a robe and with a ring and an announcement that all I have is yours. Come in and enjoy the party. Let's pray together.

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