Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2021 Sermons . No Greater Love . No greater love (Part 1)

. No greater love (Part 1)




We all know this is commonly called the “parable of the prodigal son”. I prefer to call it the “parable of a loving father”, as in this parable we really see the ‘centrality of the Father’ as he relates to his two sons and his servants. I believe to focus purely on the prodigal son is disingenuous. This is without doubt one of the most glorious parables. On one level the story is extremely complicated and on another it is extremely childlike, so that every child can understand it. During the Corona Virus trials we are facing; it is so easy to miss what the Kingdom of God is all about. It is so easy to forget that we have a Father, and that we are His sons, and He has a house filled with His glory. Sadly we lose focus in these kinds of trials and miss the Father Heart of God.

Remember that Scripture must always be understood in context. Context is king. A text out of context always becomes pretext. All verses must be understood in the context of surrounding verses, it must be understood in the context of broader Biblical theology, but it must also be understood in the context of the world in which it is written. That is why theologians talk about the grammatical/historical context of Scripture. You cannot take this Middle Eastern story and simply try and understand it in the light of our modern world. The Bible is not written for South Africans or Americans or anybody else in their contextual language. We will see nuances, subtleties and cultural attitudes that can only be understood in its time. We must always remember that the message for today can only be derived on the back of the message for the day in which it was written. I have heard too many sermons where context is totally ignored when it comes to this story. We must hear it in the way the original hearers would have understood it. Christ’s audience would have had ingrained ideas, ingrained cultural attitudes, ingrained patterns, unspoken feelings and spoken feelings that existed in the Middle Eastern peasant village life. And these are the things that illuminate the story. These are the things that make it live, and these are the things that will allow us to live in it. We can never loosen this story or any of the others for that matter from the Middle Eastern peasant people and how they saw things, understood things, and experienced things.

Now, before we can even get into the text, there is background that we cannot ignore. Our section starts at Luke 15:1-3 (ESV) “1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.3 So he told them this parable….”

Jesus Christ is on His way to Jerusalem to eventually die on the cross. For three years He has been drawing sinners to Himself, and this has caused the Pharisees to grumble. Christ was not this Holy Joe hanging around the righteous all the time. Instead, He was accused of eating with the prostitutes and the tax collectors. During His ministry He made great enemies in the form of the Pharisees and the scribes. They were very influential people, but they were the biggest hypocrites under the sun, and very few of them made their way to the Son. There was Nicodemus, Paul and a few more, but most others kept on hating the one who invited them to the bridal feast. He would eat with them as well in eternity if they would just receive Him.


Their hatred of and resentment towards Christ is because Jesus directly confronted them on their hypocrisy. He identified them as self-righteous and not truly righteous. He identified them as not truly understanding the Scripture or the will of God. He told them they did not know God. They did not know the true way of salvation. He told them they were excluded from the Kingdom of God because they were inwardly corrupt, and they were headed to divine judgment. This is not what they wanted to hear.


Now, why did they make an issue about Him eating with the sinners? This was the best way they could slander Him. Remember their accusation that He does what He does by the power of Satan? So how do you prove that? Quite simple. You just focus on the company He keeps. The reason why He was reaching out to sinners was of no consequence to them, because if you want to discredit somebody, the best way to do it is to focus on truths but not all of it and to turn it into wickedness. Yes, He did eat with sinners, but we all know His greater purpose behind it. The greater purpose meant nothing to them.


So, whenever they had an opportunity to identify Jesus as associating with sinners, they did that to discredit Him, to affirm that He was comfortable with Satan's people and uncomfortable with the people of God, whom they believed themselves to be. They forgot Christ’s real purpose which is recorded in Luke 19:10 (ESV) 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” They also missed the essence of the last statement of Jesus in the previous paragraph in Luke 14:35 (ESV) “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” They only heard what they wanted to; they did not hear the invitation. Jesus ate with sinners, which made Him from the Devil. They would not eat with ‘sinners’, and therefore they were more righteous than Christ. They had another thing coming to them in this parable. Their true hearts would be revealed. Their own imagined purity meant nothing to Christ.

This little bit of information forms an incredible backdrop to the parables that are to follow.


So, Christ is now going to answer them. He does this through quite a few parables of which 3 are recorded here in Luke 15. In the first one Christ drives the message home short and sweet and tells them of the shepherd who left the 99 sheep to go and find the one. The main point of that parable is in Luke 15:7 (ESV) 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Then he tells them the parable of the woman who lost her coin and swept till she found it, and this culminates with the great verse in Luke 15:10 (ESV)10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” In essence Christ is using sarcasm towards the Pharisees. You guys think you are righteous, but the great Shepherd will simply ignore you all to go and find one sinner. He came for the sick and not the healthy, and if they think they are the righteous and healthy ones, well they will be ignored. You Pharisees and Scribes think you are so grand but the angels in heaven are oblivious to you. They are throwing a party for the sinners that are found, and this is all of God in heaven, it is all of our Abba Father, it is all because of the Father that we will now encounter in the third parable. The salvation of one sinner makes the Father Heart of God glad. All the pomp and ceremony of the self-righteous Pharisees is and abomination before God, and there is no rejoicing in heaven in celebration of self-righteousness.


We need to come to grips early in this sermon with the fact that what makes God content, satisfied and joyful is either the salvation of a sinner, or the recovery of one of his own from sin, that is why those who are spiritual are commanded in Galatians 6:1-2 to “restore the sinner gently.”

As we unpack this story over the next few weeks, we will see Christ move them from the recovery of the lost sheep, to the recovery of the lost coin, to the recovery of the lost son. So far, they might even love this story, but then in a dramatic way He will show them a picture of themselves in the story. We will see them in their ugliness in their self-righteousness and their ungodly impatience with those who they deem to be sinners. We will suddenly see how the Word of Christ will like a double-edged sword pierce their innermost being with the truth. The sad reality is seen in their eventual response. After the three stories Christ turns His attention to His disciples and tells them another story and then we see the response of the Pharisees in Luke 16:14 (ESV) 14 The Pharisees, …., heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.”

Now the story does not contain everything that needs to be said about salvation. It is not the whole of salvation theology. But it does lead us to the cross which is yet to happen because it is a story of reconciliation and there is no reconciliation apart from the death of Christ who having paid the penalty in full for the sinner provides reconciliation. But the cross is not in the story, it is yet to come. And so, this is not a full theology of salvation, but it deals with some of the essential elements of sin and recovery and rejoicing and rejection.


I would have loved to have dived into this story from three perspectives, first looking at the prodigal son, then at the father and then at the older son. My fear is if I do that, we will not walk with the text and we might just miss out on something. We might just change course as far as the points are concerned, as there is definite overlap. Maybe we just deal with the centrality of the Father as he pops up in the story and simply have two points over many weeks, namely the prodigal son and the self-righteous son. So, let us begin with the young son and we will make it our first point and see where we go.


Point 1. The prodigal son.

We are introduced to the two sons in Luke 15:11 (ESV) 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.” So really, the emphasis here is not on the prodigal son, but on a loving father who had two sons. In the end the greater emphasis is really on the older son than the younger, while my emphasis in this series, maybe in quality even though not quantity is upon the father as a picture of our heavenly Father.


What does the word prodigal mean? It has various meanings, but the core issue here is somebody who is a wasteful, a person who is senselessly extravagantly and self-indulgent. The Old English word means spendthrift. But it is the earlier meanings that are applied to this son. I want to first focus this morning on:


1.1 His shameless demand.

Luke 15:12 (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.”

The young man is the classic illustration of wasting your life, of extravagant self-indulgence. And that is why he is called the prodigal son. The young man is a classic example of somebody who wastes his life. Look at his demand: ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’


Now think of the response the Pharisees and Scribes would have so far in this story. Aha, typical teenager or young adult. No respect for the older generation, all he wants to do is to jol (have fun). He simply has no gratitude for all the years the dad provided for him by grace, and now he takes it for granted and after his dad has reached a finger out to him, all his life, he now grabs the whole hand. Where is his response to his father’s heart of love? Sadly, his behaviour is no display of any love towards his father.  He does not seem to display an ounce of gratitude, for that what his father has, which is supposed to be a legacy for him in the future, was earned by sweat and toil by his father and previous generations. Jesus is now actually making their point as far as they are concerned. You do not eat with such a guy, do you? And yet Christ does. Has Christ forgotten the commandment; “children - honour thy parents”.


Church family. Do you realise what is going on here? If you understood Middle Eastern context, you would know that what he is saying to his father is this: “Father I cannot wait till you die, so let’s just face the facts, you are already dead to me, so I want to get out of this family now.” His father was standing in his way for his life and plans, but he could not execute his life and plans without the provision of his father. Is this not how many people treat God the Father? We love His graces, but we do not love Him. Like the prodigal, God the Father can so easily stand in the way of our own plans for our lives, and we would rather wish Him dead. Atheists say that God is dead, but many children of God, treat Him as dead. I have seen this in the context of the family home many times, where a rebellious teenager will tell his or her parents: “I just cannot wait to get out from under this roof, because then I do not have to obey you.” It is bad in a family context, but it is worse when it comes to God our Father.


I am going to jump ahead in the story just to help you to understand their culture a little better. Based on the 10 commandments you had to honour your parents. Based on Jewish tradition honouring your father was of the highest order. It is interesting but of no major importance that there is no mother in this story. Now if a son in any way expressed that he wishes his father were dead and that he could now get his inheritance, the norm would be for him according to their culture to be slapped in the face by the father and to treat him as somebody who has committed suicide. So, not only is the father dead to him, but he becomes dead to the family. In this case a young person like this will be taken outside the village, they would throw stones at him as a symbolic picture of killing him, and he would leave the village to fend for himself. The stoning of children at this time was not an actual physical stoning event. So, the son who desires his dad to be dead would be treated as dead in this case and he would leave the family. That is why the father can say to his servants in Luke 15:24 (ESV) 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” That is why he can say to the older son in Luke 15:32 (ESV) 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

It was even customary in that time and place to hold an official ceremony, a funeral, if you will, for such insolence. And you were done, and you were out of the family and you were dead. And the only way back in was some restitution, some way to earn your place back in the graces of the family for the dishonour you had brought. The system was noticeably clear to everybody. The father was at the head of the honour list, then came the older brother, who was normally the heir, then came the younger. This is shameless at its highest level. The lowest in the family, the lowest in the line of honour expressing aggravation and irritation and hatred about his father that he is even still alive and standing in the way of him getting what he wants is the highest degree of shame imaginable. There was no way that Jesus could portray greater shame upon a person than that act. In the social structure of Israel, that was the supreme act of shame. This was a clear dishonouring of your father.


The Pharisees and Scribes would understand this.

I want to stop here for today. I wish I could go on, but we will move on with the story tomorrow during our devotions.


But let me ask you this morning. As this drama starts unfolding and you can see where it is going. Are you starting to identify yourself spiritually with the young man? Are you maybe a sinner who has never turned to God? Or are you a child of God who has turned to a life of sin? Either way, you are treating God the Father as dead. On both counts, the angels in heaven rejoice when you come to the Father or back to the Father.


We have not said anything about the older brother yet, but we can see where that is going as well, as he represents the self-righteous Pharisees? But let me ask this. How does our Heavenly Father factor in your life? The question is not whether you like Logos, or me, or our services or worship or anything else. The question is simply this. Is your life sold out to the Father and that you honour Him fully, or do you while in the Kingdom wish your Heavenly Father were dead, as He stands in the way of you and your life desires?


Or maybe you treat your heavenly Father as dead, as he just has no authority in your life. But let us all think for a moment about our Father. He is innocent in it all, He has provided, He owns the house, the whole universe is His, how does it not break God’s heart to realise that the creature has no need of the creator? Oh, may we all return to the Father Heart of God.


May the Lord Himself challenge our hearts this morning to consider ourselves, but also to consider Him? We will continue with this exciting series in our devotions.


Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 10 January 2021