Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 11 The Father Heart of God :- Series 2 . The parable of a Loving Father - Part 4

. The parable of a Loving Father - Part 4

THE PARABLE OF A LOVING FATHER (PART 4)

 

Introduction.

We have been busy now for three sermons looking at the parable of a loving father from Luke 15. We don’t have time to repeat things every time, but simply to remind you that this section which is commonly called the Story of the prodigal son, is actually more about the Loving Father who desires to restore sinners. Those sinners will be the irreligious who are represented in the time of Christ as the Tax Collectors and prostitutes, but it also includes the religious who are represented by the Pharisees and Scribes. Both groups are engaged by a Christ who is willing to eat with them now and eternally. Sadly, the most difficult ones to move are the religious.

There is an overlap of emphasis on the characters in the story. But in a logical order it moves from the lost son, to the father and then to the son at home. However what we have seen so far, is that the father is central in the text. The story does not for no reason start with the words: “11 “There was a man who had two sons.” “Luke 15:11 (ESV).  It is this man that I want to show you throughout as this man represents our Father in heaven. In reality, the emphasis of the three stories, namely the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son, is really about the joy of our Father God. The Father Heart of God is a joyful heart especially when sinners come home. We tend to think of our Father God as composed, without emotion, angry and spending His time preparing judgment to execute wrath. But yet in this section God the Father is presented to us as exuberantly glad, and gracious. There is no sin too hard for Him to forgive, unlike so many Christians I know. If Christians would just act like their Father this world would be a much better place. Oh, aren’t we glad that the older brother in this story who represents so many believers today, will not be on the throne one day. We often sing that song that highlights this truth: “there is no higher throne.” Church family, I am so glad that Abba Father is on the throne and nobody else. And it is this Father that we see portrayed in this story.

We started with the younger of the sons, and we firstly saw his ‘shameless demand’ and then we saw his ‘shameless revolt’ as he went off to gentile land.  This young man who had everything a person could wish for in his father’s home, wished that his father was actually dead, and he demanded his part of the estate. He turned it into cash, and then squandered that cash in Gentile Land even amongst the prostitutes. But his money came to an end and so did his friends. He then not only suffered the consequence of his own revolt, but he became the victim of an act of God as severe famine hit gentile land. He was detached from his father but he attached or glued himself to a citizen of gentile land, who sent him to look after pigs. This young man fell so low that he was eventually competing with the pigs for food, and he got nothing. In the eyes of the Pharisees and Scribes, you could go no lower than this. This Jew boy dropped to a level that was unthinkable and he became like a pig that was no longer welcome in his own land.

Let’s read part of this story again. Luke 15:12-18 (ESV) 12 And 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. 13 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 in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

So far the father was in the story, throughout, even though in the background, but now he re-enters the story, at least in the mind of the younger son.  We now get to our next point.

1.3 The shameful repentance.

17 “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! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”

Here is a sad picture on the story. This is shameful even though there is change. Verse 17 says that “he came to himself”, some translations say that “he came to his senses”. So, up till now, life in Gentile land was without any consideration of his father. No guilt about what he did to the family back at home by taking the ‘bios’ the ‘livelihood’ of the family to squander upon himself.

This is the mark of a typical sinner. They have no concern for their creator while they enjoy Gentile Land. How their creator views their life is of no consequence to them. It normally requires them coming to their senses. It is at that moment when the tyre bursts, that we consider the spare wheel, right? And sadly people do that with God.

I am sure this guy had one more party in Gentile land and that was a big pity party, but sadly nobody joined him at it, and now he has to face a few facts regarding life. Finally he comes to a point where he faces his condition. He should have faced it while he was still in his father’s home, because that is where the condition of his heart started. Look at his evaluation of his situation in verse 17. “‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!” His father’s ‘hired servants’ have more than enough bread and he does not even qualify for pig food in Gentile land. If he was honest with himself he would realise that he is destitute, helpless, with no resources and if he continued down this path it would cost him his life.

All repentance should begin with an honest assessment of one’s condition, and then an honest assessment of who our Father is and His plan for us. I said this many times before from this pulpit, that I was saved on account of ‘my good looks’. I took one good look at my condition, and realised I am a sinner, helplessly lost, destitute, and with no answer to my condition. And then I took a second look and I saw a loving Father, righteous, Holy and ready to save those that are lost. And after these two good looks, I turned to the saving grace that was poured out on Calvary, I accepted His salvation plan, I responded in faith to the inner working of the Holy Spirit who had now birthed me from above, and I saw the Kingdom for what it is, and I entered. Finally, this young man is also now taking two good looks.

And now, he thinks about his father, and he thinks about his father’s servants. Here he attached himself to a gentile in Gentile Land and he has zippo, but his father’s hired men have more than enough bread. Now what was a hired man? It was not a slave or a servant in a household that was attached to that household and enjoyed the benefits of that household. We know hired men well in our culture. They sit next to the street all day begging for work. It is called a  misthios {mis'-thee-os}. It is a day labourer. They are the poor, and willing to work. If somebody will just take them for the day. If they could just earn some money. They were actually below slaves, because slaves were cared for in the household on a daily basis.

Now the story does not say that the father gave them enough bread. He paid them enough so that they had ‘more than enough bread’. He was not even allowed to eat Carob pods which was fed to the pigs. His father was loving, his father was kind, his father was good, his father was generous, and even the day labourers were blessed. These people were protected by law. Leviticus 19:13 (ESV) 13 “You shall not oppress your neighbour or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.” Simply, if you hire him for the day, you pay him on that day. He needed to eat.

By the way, the one who hired the labourer could pay him what he wanted to. He employed them by grace. Remember the story that Jesus told of the master who needed ‘day labourers’ for the harvest. He hired some at 6 in the morning, others at 9, others at noon and others at 3 in the afternoon, and he paid them all one denarius. Those who started early found this to be unfair, upon which the master reminded them that it was his denarii and he could pay whatever he wished to who he wished. This again is a picture of Father God and demonstrated the generosity of our heavenly Father. They were not in a position to negotiate as day workers weren't. They took what they could get to survive.

Now, the father of the young man went beyond the law. He gave them more than enough. The very fact that this young man is willing to go back to his father says to me that he knew that his father was not an indifferent man. He knew that his father was kind, generous, forgiving and merciful. He is the kind of father that would not chase you away. This was a generous man. So, we would expect this father to be like the man who paid equal wages, why, because both are stories of our Father.

But he's ready to go back to this man that he knows to be merciful and generous and compassionate and kind. He is ready now because he doesn't have an alternative. There's nowhere left to go. All he can do is humble himself, face his shame, and admit his terrible sin and disgrace. The only option left to him was to go back and hope he is treated with the same kind of mercy and compassion and kindness that he knows his father treats poor people. And maybe if he can work long enough and hard enough as a ‘day labourer’ he can earn back what he lost and make restitution back to the family and then have a reconciliation with his father.

Now, let me try and explain what the Pharisees and Scribes are probably thinking. I mentioned in the first week that the issue of the honour of the father was great in their culture. That is probably why we have no mother represented in this story, but also because Christ is using this father as an illustration of our heavenly Father. Then also with honour comes the shame of those who would dishonour the father. Remember the slap in the face that they would expect, that the villagers would be told about it, that this son could be driven away with stones thrown at him, and that a funeral could be held. So far the Father did none of that. He was just not their kind of Father, as much as God is so often so unlike many Christians’ God.

So, hopefully now, for the Pharisees and Scribes justice will prevail. In their minds after Jesus had absolutely destroyed any credibility of this young man in this story, if he was now truly repentant, he’ll go back to his father, he will confess, repent, be humbled, be humiliated, be scorned, and shamed. The father had every right to punish him, even upon his return.

In their minds, for forgiveness to be enacted by the father, there will have to be restitution. This is what they do in Catholicism right? “Forgive me father, it has been 2 months since my last confession. You are forgiven son, now you must make penance. Do the following works, and the Heavenly Father will forgive you.”  It was in the newspapers years ago where a priest had two ladies in South America somewhere crawl for 20 km to make penance for the sins of their sons, who were supposedly in purgatory. For the Pharisees and Scribes, if there was any hope for coming back, he would have to come back, receive mercy and forgiveness and do some work to earn back his reconciliation.

Don’t we often think like that? We know we are saved by grace, but we then believe we are justified by works. And if there was any hope for coming back, he would have to come back, receive mercy and forgiveness and do the work to earn back his reconciliation.

Well, he's ready, he's broken, he's alone, he's sad, he's penitent and he has nowhere to go except to his father. And he believes in his father. This is a picture of one whose repentance leads to salvation because, you see, not only repentance here but faith in his father. He trusts in his father's goodness, compassion, generosity and mercy. Repentance is linked to faith. He knows the kind of man his father is and in spite of the horrible way he has blasphemed his father, dishonoured his father, shamed his father, the horrible way he has treated his father, the terrible way he has lived his life, coming to the very bottom he knows his father is a forgiving man and penitently he trusts to go back and receive forgiveness and do whatever works he needs to do to make restitution and be reconciled.

This brings us to verse 18 & 19 where we see his resolve. Luke 15:18-19 (ESV) 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

The Pharisees and Scribes would love this. That’s the right thing to do. He is a wicked sinner, surely Christ will not eat with this kind. Because Jesus Himself, took the young man on a downward spiral in the story. So the right place for this young man to start is right at the bottom again. A day servant is just the place for that, because then he is at the mercy of the father, who could treat him any which way he would. We all struggle with this don’t we? Somebody sins against you and we want God to start at the bottom with that person again. He must work himself up in God’s books again. Where do we get such rubbish? Takes us back to the story of the Master who paid each servant exactly the same no matter where they ranked on the totem pole. That’s God, and these Pharisees would soon discover that. He would now according to his own expressed desire be lower than the slaves who were attached to the household of the Father, enjoying the ‘bios bios’, the livelihood of the Father. Surely this is where Jesus must now go with the story and He seems to be doing that, as He makes the son speak the minds of the Pharisees and Scribes. This is exactly what they would have him say.

His sensible thinking then moves his will.

This is how repentance works.

First of all the sinner comes to himself, comes to his senses, begins to really look and assess where he is and where he's headed to the inevitable death and destruction and eternal damnation. The sinner says I can't keep going this direction, there's only one to whom I can turn, that's the Father whom I have flaunted and dishonoured. I have to go back to Him. I have to go back bearing my shame and full responsibility for my sin. I have to cast myself on His mercy, forgiveness and love. And I have to tell Him that I'm willing to work or to do whatever I need to do to earn my way back. Everybody would have understood that.

It's very humbling and it is very embarrassing and very shameful, but he says I'm going to do it. And listen to how severe he is about his own self-indictment. "“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Against heaven is actually ‘eis {eis} and ouranos {oo-ran-os'} which literally means “I have sinned into heaven”. And it may well be that what he means by that is my sins pile up as high as heaven. This may be a reflection of Ezra 9:6 (ESV) “6 saying: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.” The Pharisees and Scribes would know this verse.

He's not holding anything back. He's genuinely penitent. He is denying himself fully. This is the stuff of real repentance. He is saying, "My life has been a total disaster. I am facing death and there's no one to blame but myself. I rebelled, I disobeyed, I wasted my life, I dishonoured my father, I stacked my sins into heaven. My sins rise to the very presence of God they stack so high." This is true repentance, holding back nothing, no excuses, no blame anywhere but himself. An unrepentant sinner, always blames others for his conduct. And so true penitence matched with true trust in a father's love and forgiveness starts the sinner back.

He has to go back to save himself from his sin. Empty, alienated, headed for eternal destruction, every sinner whoever repents starts with powerful conviction of his own or her own condition, destitute, empty, headed for eternal death.

Every sinner who comes back takes full responsibility for that sin and sees it as an offense that rises as high as heaven.

Every sinner who comes back sets his course or her course toward God to come back.

And the Pharisees and scribes would have understood that when you come back, God will accept you if you do the work. He had no rights, forfeited them all when he took his part of the estate and liquidated it and squandered it, no rights, and no worthiness. There never will be a son again, at least that's his view and their view; “I am no longer worthy to be called your son, Treat me as one of your hired servants.” I have no rights, he says, I have no privileges, I lay no claim, I don't ever expect you to receive me on my terms. Remember now, he's dead, they had a ceremony when he left, a funeral. That's why he's referred to twice by the father as my son who was dead. I don't expect to live in the home. I don't expect to be a slave. I don't even expect a relationship with you, father, I just want to work and I'll earn my way back. Make me as one of your hired men.

This part of the story the Pharisees would love. They would like the idea that he came to his senses, they would like the idea that he's coming back. And they know there's no instant reconciliation, that's not how it's done. He's penitent and he trusts his father but he's going to have to earn his way back, he must pay penance. That's pure Pharisaic theology, along with every other religion in the world. He comes back and says I'll take my punishment, I'll take the exclusion from fellowship in the family. I'll take the distance from my father. I'll endure the humiliation of lowly work. I'll take the pain of hard labour for years to restore what I lost. I'll work my way back until I can be reconciled.

Oh he's filled with remorse for the past. He's filled with pain in the present. And he's looking forward to even more pain in the future as he works for years to earn his way back.  Everybody would get it because that was the way they thought it had to be done. All the glitter is off the gold in the far country now, right? All the freewheeling lifestyle has turned to a terrible crushing bondage. All the dreams are nightmares, all the pleasure is pain, and all the fun is sorrow, all the self-fulfilment is self-deprivation. The party is over for good. The laughs are silenced, the friends are gone. It's as bad as it can get and he's about to die. There's nowhere to go.

Well this is not to say that every sinner who repents gets this bad. That's not the point. Not every sinner does get that bad. Not every sinner is that wretched. Not every sinner spends his money on harlots. That's not the point.

The real point is that we want to know what this father is going to do to a sinner who is as bad as it can get because if he acts in grace toward the one who is as bad as possible, then there's hope for those who aren't this bad, right. In the end Jesus wants the Pharisees and Scribes to know with just what kind of sinner He is willing to eat, just what kind of sinner, the angels in heaven throw a party for, just what kind of sinner brings joy to the Father heart of God. So the case has to be extreme to make the point. He's ready to humbly come to his father. He's ready to confess his sin without excuse. He's ready to do whatever work he needs to do to come back. At this point Jesus presents a man who believes that it is through works that he will make all things well. And the Pharisees are okay with that. But, should they be?

Next week we will look at a shameful reception.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 30 November 2014