Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 5 months ago

The Gracious Father (Pt. 1)


Christian Macarthur

Would ask you to remain standing forone more moment as we open up to the gospel of St Luke. Willbe looking at chapter fifteen together as we continue, and the parables of JesusLuke. Chapter Fifteen, beginning in verse eleven. This is God's word,and he said there was a man who had two sons. The younger ofthem said to his father, father, give me the share of property thatis coming to me, and he divided his property between them. Not manydays later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey intoa far country, and there he squandered his property and reckless living. Andwhen he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country and hebegan to be in need. So we went and hired himself out to oneof the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feedpigs, and he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigseight 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 tomy father and I will say to him, father, I have sinned against heavenand 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 hisfather, but while he was still a long way off, his fathersaw him and felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him, andthe son said to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and beforeyou I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the fathersaid 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, andbring 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 andis found, and they began to celebrate. Now is older son was in thefield and as he came and drew near to the house, he heardmusic and dancing and he called one of the servants and asked what these thingsmeant, and he said to him, your brother has come and your fatherhas 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 outand entreated him, but he answered his father. Look, these many yearsI have served you, I've never disobeyed your command. Yet you never gaveme a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends, but with thisson of yours came who is devoured your property with prostitutes. You killed thefat and calf for him and he said to him, son, you arealways with me and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting tocelebrate 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 beseated. 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 specificallyhow Americans consider death, and he says this. He says the notion ofone day disappearing is contrary to many of...

...our defining cultural values, with deathand dying viewed as profoundly on American the rise of the self has made itincreasingly 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 thisevening I would like to consider our text, the prodigal son, or, asI would suggest, that the parable of the gracious father. I wouldlike to consider this parable in the context of death. Now, some ofyou might be thinking Christian, why would you ruin my favorite parable by makingit about death? Well, I'm sorry, but bear with me. I dowant to consider this. Give me a moment and what we'll see whatwe can come up with. But I want to consider this parable in thelight of death, certainly the death of Christ, but also our own deathalong 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 onetonight in Lord Willing, will take part two next week. And this weeq will specifically be considering the younger brother, the Prodigal son, if you will, and will consider this passage under three headings. One, the deathof the father too, the death of the son and three Baptismal resurrection.That last one seems out of place. Bear with me. So, ifyou'll recall from last week we considered the parables of the lost chief and thelost coin and when we mentioned that, Luke's introduction and Chapter Fifteen, verseone 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 thisman receives sinners and eats with them. So that certainly sets up last week'sparables, 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 anallegory, and most commentators through history would agree. The the younger son representssinners and tax collectors, the older son represents Pharisees and scribes, and thefather of represents God, the father who is in heaven, who rejoices everytime a sinner repents, as we learned about last this week. And soright off the bat the parable introduces these characters, doesn't it a man whohad two sons, and then it zooms in on the relationship with the youngerson. The younger son comes to his father and he says, Father,give me a share of the property that is coming to me. So thisis a common thing, that that happens. In fact, it's mentioned in thelevitical law that that a father was to give an inheritance to his son'stwo thirds of it would be given to an older one third would be givento a younger assuming that there are two sons. But what's different about thissituation is what the levitical law talks about... as that this is to begiven as a last will and testament. In other words, the sons haveclaim 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 theshare of the property or inheritance is some translation say is is the Greek wordfor life. And that's exactly what happens, isn't it? At the end ofone's life they give what is left of their life to their children,those who come after them, as an inheritance. Well, as we considerthis, we we think about what the son is actually asking. It's farmore 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 yougive me what's coming to me? I mean, that's exactly what would beviewed in this culture. For a son to say, Dad, I wantmy inheritance. would be a son wishing his father dead, no longer caringabout 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 hisson, and yet he does. Okay, son, I'm dead to you andthis cash proves it. I mean, culturally we can't even fathom the shamethat would be occurring here, both from the son's behavior but also fromthe father willing to allow his son to get away with this. This isthe kind of actions that would cause the neighbors to whisper. Did you hearabout so and so? And it's good for nothing son, and you canbelieve? Can you believe that that fool just gave him the cash and lethim go? I mean, this would be looked on very poorly in thistime and as these scribes and Pharisees are listening to Jesus tell this parable nodoubt that they are having some of these thoughts. So the son wishes hisfather dead and his father allows it. And I want to take the allegorytoo 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. Heis sovereign over all things, and yet he so often, at least fora time, will allow us to and away spit in his face, takewhat 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 thetruth about who God is for a lie? In this case, this father hasshown himself, at least in the parable to be nothing but a loving, compassionate father, and yet this son trades that truth for the lie thathis 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 sonwho considers his father dead. And if that's true, next we find thedeath of a son. The passage goes on. It tells us that notmany days later, the younger son gathered all that he had and took ajourney 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 ofhis family in a Jewish context, leaving his homeland to go to a landof gentiles, right, going to a foreign land, away from the landof his father, away from the land of his God. I think thiswould be something like someone from Arizona moving to California. The older brother wouldlater claim that he describes what the what the younger brother did. He sayshe 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 abusiness deal gone bad, but on loud living, loose women. Not onlyhas he considered his father dead, but he is shaming the good name ofhis family by leaving all that God has promised to him, going to afar away land and living in a way that certainly does not withhold the honorablename of his father. Again, considering his father, his heritage, tobe dead. Well, in the case of sin, as we know,all that glitters is sure to fade, and that's exactly what happens. Hespends all of his dad's money on drink and debauchery, and as soon asthe cash runs out, the text tells us that famine comes. He comesto 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 RSVsays that he joins himself to one of the citizens of the country. Nowagain, thinking about this and the cultural context, this Jewish boy has goneto 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 ownand servitude to a people that is not his own. And in the caseof 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 islike, and it is disgusting. At least how he frames it and ourgroup thread but that's not what's going on here. Particularly we're finding this youngJewish man in a far away gentile country now giving his life to unclean animalsand their care. And not only that, but the text would tell us thatthe 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 fedto them. Me This would be a truly disgusting picture for scribes andPharisees to hear about. Wouldn't it deplorable, the shame to send the disrespect,the uncleanliness and their eyes? And rightly so. This kid is asgood 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 theparable, 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 fathersee his son as dead, as he summarizes at the end of thestory, but the son realizes it himself. Verse Seventeen says that he comes toHimselfie, he comes to his senses, realizing that even the servants on hisfather's farm have bread to eat. But what does he say about himself? But I perish, I die here with hunger. He begins to recognizehis 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 deadand 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 leadsto death. Well, in the dying breath of this son, he comesup with a plan. He will go back to his dad, he willbeg him to take him as a slave, and he begins to write a speech. Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I amno longer worthy to be called your son, it says. Treat me as oneof your hired servants. Here he seeks to hang onto that last bitof life by saying, you know what, I'll just go work for the oldman, not as a son but as a slave. So he goes, a dead man walking. So what would you do. If you arethe 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 evenstep 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 hecould again earn your trust, get back into good graces. I mean hisown 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 earnhis 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 ofa hard day's work, the value of a dollar? It would be graciousof you, after a child treated you with such shame and disrespect, togive him or her a second shot at earning trust. And that's what apretty gracious parent would look like, right a second chance. Certainly, thescribes and the Pharisees listening to the story or maybe thinking about this, whatwould we do in this case? Kidneys discipline. He needs to prove thathe can get his life together so that...

...he can be trusted again. Well, for the Pharisees here amongst us, myself included. What do we dowhen horrible, rebellious sinners enter into God's house? What is our attitude tothose 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 webe 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'slook at what he does do. This corpse is coming down the driveway coveredand 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 shamehimself. 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 likethis. But the father sees him, that son that had wished him dead. And what does it say? Says he feels compassion for him, heruns to him, he embraces him, he kisses him and the son startsthe 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 thespeech stops there. He never gets to finish it. He leaves off thatline about working in the father's fields. Some have suggests that here that thefather interrupts him, and that could well be true. Others have suggested thatin this very moment the son gets it that he has nothing to give tohis 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 thatwhat Paul says, that it's God's kindness who draws us to repentance. Andwhat an incredible picture of repentance this is coming to a play as not wherewe say I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make it up toyou, 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 lastfigurative breath, his dying words are, I am no longer worthy to becalled your son. Lifeless, nothing left to give, not even to scrapeby working in his father's fields. The son gets it, the father getsit. What does he say? My son was dead. He later reflects. Death is always the end to the... of Sin. God's answer tosin is not a reformed life, not a second chance at getting it right. Grace is not a Mulligan. His answer to sin is death, certainlythe death of his son, but also our death along with Jesus. Paulsays it like this in Romans. He he's answering the question should we goon sinning that grace may abound? And he says by no means. Howcan 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 stilllive and sin? Paul's answer to a life of sin, life and theold Adam is not reform, but death. Death to the old man, Paulgoes on. Do you not know that all of us who have beenbaptized into Christ Jesus, where baptized into his death. We were buried withhim 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 parableto the son's repentance, to his recognition of death, that he hasnothing 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 onthe boy. Get My signet ring, the one that says he can actin my name, that he can now speak as a true member of myfamily and executor of my estate, and don't let him walk another step withoutshoes. Get them some sandals. And then he says, I'm not I'mnot done yet. Bring the choicest fatten calf, yes, the one we'vebeen 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. Heis a father, so gracious, so loving, so extravagant that he doesn'tcall us to spit shine, are sinful existence, but in his grace hebaptizes us into death, the death of his own son. He doesn't waitfor us to reform, but he puts our old life in the grave andhe resurrects us to new life. He clothes us in the best robe,the very robes of righteousness, from his son. He gives us a signand seal of sonship. In the case of the par terrible, this thisring that he puts on him. In our case, he gives us baptismthat shows forth and reminds us that we belong to God's family. He givesus this weekly reminder that will partake of in a few moments, or reminderthat Christ has died and risen for us. And as we taken eat, weconfess that we have died along with him, but are also resurrected tonewness of life. Paul says, as...

...he continues in Romans six, hesays, for we have been unified with him. In a death like this, we shall certainly be united with him. And a resurrection like this, asthis 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 andmy son, you are now raised to new life. My son was dead, but now alive. As we conclude this evening, for some of youhere, you can so resonate with the prodigal son. You have wandered,you have treated God as dead. You have given yourself to a life ofsin, trading in the truth about God for a lie, squandering the lifethat 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 isno sin that is a match for God's grace. There is no sin thatyou have committed that is a match for his forgiveness, and he offers itfreely. receive it. To Day is the day of salvation. For someof you here this evening, God's word to you, in the kindest way, is drop dead, stop resting in your own final breath, stop tryingto be a servant in the father's field and Erdre in order to earn yourkeep. Will have more to say about that next week, but as apreview, his word is drop dead and fall into the loving arms of afather who runs to you, not with a to do list, but witha 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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