. The parable of a Loving Father - Part 6

The Father Heart of God (Series 2)



It has been a long time since we have been back in this series due to the December holidays, but today we have the privilege of returning to this glorious section that reveals to us the love of the Father and the purposes of Christ.

Jesus was criticised by the Pharisees and Scribes that His works are of Satan. Proof thereof is based on the company He keeps. He eats with the prostitutes and tax-collectors, He eats with the sinners. However they did not understand that Christ came to seek and to save the lost. They did not understand that they are as much lost as what the prostitutes and tax-collectors were lost. And none of them were lost simply because they were tax-collectors, prostitutes, scribes or Pharisees. They were all lost because their hearts were far from God.

So, Christ has to defend His position and He does this by telling them three parables. Firstly, He tells them the parable of the Lost Sheep, and shows how there is rejoicing when the lost sheep is found. Then, He tells them the parable of the lost coin and shows how there is rejoicing when the lost coin is found. This is the Father Heart of God. There is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner is saved. Then Christ tells them a third parable, which is commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son. We have approached it as the parable of The Loving Father. In this parable Christ shocks his audience in the way the story is told. Everything goes against their belief system and against their theology. We see one paradox after another in the Father’s behaviour as far as the Hebrew mind is concerned. The Father in this story, simply does not abide by their traditions and their rules and regulations. Oh if they just understood the essence of this story, it would have made all the difference in their lives.

So, what have we see in this story so far? So far we have looked at the shameless demand where the son claimed his inheritance, or his part of his father’s living, which was only due to him when his father died. But for him, his father was already dead in his heart. He was basically saying to his dad: “Father you are dead to me.” This was followed up with an immediate shameless revolt as he left his father’s home to gentile land, where he squandered his inheritance. He went so low that he became like a pig in gentile land, except that the pigs had more privileges than he had. He longed to eat their food but couldn’t. This ultimately led him to a shameful repentance that started in his heart. He realised that even the day servants in his father’s house had more than enough bread while he was competing for pig food. Now, he is willing to return, and he is willing to return not as a son, but as a day servant, desperately in need of the grace of his father. He is willing to work as long as needed to just get back somewhere in his father’s favour. The Pharisees and Scribes would be happy with such a solution to the problem. He must work for grace.

Then in the last sermon we looked at the shameful reception, where the father did everything in a way the Pharisees would not have expected. We saw in verse where he rose and went back to his father, and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. The Pharisees would expect that the father would allow him to walk through the crowds and face humiliation, then the father would let him stay outside for a while so that everybody would mock him, then the father would lay down the rules and make him work in a process of restoration. He could just as well be a day servant working like the rest to earn the favour of the Father.

But the Father did everything contrary to the thinking of the Pharisees and Scribes. He took the shame upon himself, he suffered the humiliation by hiking up that robe, running through the streets in full view of everybody to his son who was still far off. Instead of slapping him, he embraced him and kissed him. Right there and then this son knew that he would not be a day servant in his father’s house but that he was accepted back as a son. This father acted in paradoxes, totally against Jewish thinking, because this Father was willing to endure the agony of rejected love. Now he demonstrates his Father Heart, and in this story this father represents how God the Father reaches out to us as fallen sinners through His Son Jesus Christ. And this brings us to our fifth point in this series and this is a shameless reunion.

1.5. A shameless reunion.

Let’s look at the broad picture of this shameless reunion and then we will unpack it. Luke 15:22-24 (ESV) 22 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. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

I believe that as Jesus tells this parable to the Pharisees and Scribes they are having stroke after stroke, or rolling around on the ground in frustration. Nothing in this story is going their way. ‘Okay, Jesus, we accept, the father shamed himself, took upon Himself the son’s humiliation and accepted him back as a son and not a day servant, but now, please send this naughty sinful Jewboy to his bedroom for the next 10 years, he deserves it. Just no more goodness, as that will destroy all our traditions, theology and expectations of God and His dealing with sinners.’

But Jesus now rubs it in, He turns up the temperature. Verse 22 starts with the most glorious word ‘but’. Now remember verse 21 21 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.’” “22 But the father said to his servants, ….” Oh, I love this word ‘but’. Isn’t that the very word that impacted our lives? Isn’t that how we experienced our father? Look at what we were. Ephesians 2:1-4 (ESV) 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (dead) 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world (deviant), following the prince of the power of the air (demonised), the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (disobedient)3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind (deranged) , and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (damned). 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,…” We were not worthy to be anything more than day servants BUT GOD……

We can apply these very verses to this son. He was dead, deviant, demonised, disobedient, deranged and damned, BUT HIS FATHER, rich in mercy and great love, loved him as a son.

So instead of punishment his dad gives him privileges. There are three privileges he bestows upon the son, and the implications of these privileges are understood by the Pharisees.

1.5.1 He gives him a robe.

Now, in the eyes of the Pharisees and Scribes, this is shocking. Has this father got no shame? He already did a shameful think by running to the son with his robe hiked up, he did a shameful thing by embracing him, and he did a shameful thing by kissing him, but now to crown it all they now observe a shameless reunion. Look again at verse 22. 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him…’

How many times haven’t we had people standing at our gate looking for a job as a day servant? And when we have no work for them, they will ask for a hand out or some old clothes. Well, this son did not get any old clothes. That pig farm soiled stinking clothes of his was replaced not just with a robe but the best robe.

This father has no shame. It is just absolutely mind boggling that a father wouldn't be more protective of his own honour. But, I love this about the Father. There is this immediacy to forgive, to reconcile, and to unite. Now, I imagine the servants ran with the Father as he turns to them and tells them to quickly fetch the best robe.  Imagine this. The father had just hugged his stinking son, the servants are possibly still huffing and puffing, ‘okay, let’s get home settle in and see where we are going, but right out there, still far off, the father’s immediate concern is the best robe’. The Greek word here for immediate is "tachu” which means “immediately, hastily, speedily with no delay”. Get that best robe now. They are not going home yet. The son will not walk through the streets in drags and be humiliated, so the servants go back to fetch the best robe before they go home.

By the way, this robe, the best robe belonged to the father, it was the robe that belonged to the most prominent member of the family to wear in the most prominent setting at the most prominent event. The father is about to call for the greatest celebration that's ever occurred in that family and in that village and he's giving away the garment that he would normally wear. This is a way of saying to the son, "Everything I have is yours, the best I have is yours, and you represent my honour." It's even more than that, you now have become fully restored as a son. It's as if the king passes his robe to the prince, another self-emptying act by the father, clothing the son in his own glorious garment.

No normal father would ever do that. Again, this father just seems not to be at all concerned about his own honour.

But this is how God the Father operates. God's honour comes to us in his loving grace and forgiveness. Try and imagine ourselves as spiritual prodigals. Is this not how we came to the Father? We came just like the son, stinking, in rags and unclean. We have nothing to offer, we do not even desire son-ship. But the Father has an urgency with forgiveness. This son was probably clothed with that robe before anybody from the village saw him walking through. God saves from the ‘gutter most’ to the ‘uttermost’ immediately.  That’s how God justifies the ungodly and sinners who come home. Romans 4:5 (ESV) “5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,”

This is exactly what the Pharisees and Scribes struggled with. Surely the prostitutes and tax-collectors and vile sinners had to clean up their act first and earn the robe of righteousness. However on the cross Christ as part of the Godhead clothed Himself with our sin, He took our shame, and He clothed us with His righteousness. Church family, may we never forget that it is the work of God to give everything He has to the penitent sinner immediately, not after some time gap but immediately. Even when a Christian falls and repents, God forgives immediately. It is man who has the problem with forgiveness, not God. God forgives immediately and restores immediately. Pharasaical Christians, have added the T’s & C’s that go beyond Scripture.  1 John 1:9 (ESV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Why? Because He has clothed us in righteousness. The only ones who struggle to forgive is man. Man wants to lay down rules, man wants to see punishment for a period, man wants to see works that shows that your act is cleaned up before they restore. I quoted Mahatma Ghandi last week who said ‘Christians are so unlike their Christ’, and sadly I need to say that when it comes to forgiveness Christians are so unlike our Father. We will see more of this when we look at the other brother.

Now, I do not have time to put all the evidence on the table, so for this morning you must take my word for it. Did you know that the best robe that belonged to the Father would for the first time ever be worn by the elder brother, the first born at his wedding? This would show his place in the lineage and also his right to his inheritance. Now, here is a shocker for the Pharisees and Scribes. The father now treats the younger son, the prodigal son again as an heir of all things. There is a fancy word for this. The father had what was called the ‘right of usufruct’ where he could as Patriarch take that which was irrevocably given to the older son, and divide it again at his own discretion. The older son was to be the first to wear that robe, but now the younger son is wearing it. Is this not grace people? The Pharisees are filled with aghast at this point. Does the Father not get it? The older son needs to be rewarded for staying home, and now instead of punishment the younger son seems to score on the deal.

And so the servants clothe him, nobody will see him in rags. He who should be treated as a day servant is now treated like a prince. The message is clear, full reconciliation, full rights, privileges, authority, honour, respect, responsibility as a son. Praise God, this is the Father Heart of God.

So the father is literally saying to his servants that they must give the son who dishonoured the father all the family honour. This son that demanded his father’s livelihood and squandered it, is now again clothed in honour. Church family this is the Father Heart of God.

1.5.2 He have him a ring.

Then according to verse 22 we read further: “Luke 15:22 (ESV) “and put a ring on his hand …”

The signet ring that would be in mind here was symbolic of family bonds no failure could break. The signet ring was also used as an official family seal to stamp and seal official documents. This means that the son now had the freedom to act legally and authoritatively on behalf of the family with all the family resources. Surely this is the role of the older son. Think about this, this son who could not be trusted before, who was willing to sell off his part of the estate, and to squander his money in Gentile Land, now once again has full authority over the family resources. He can act on behalf of the father with the riches of the family. This again is the Father Heart of God. Just think about it, we saw just how lost we were earlier in Ephesians 2, but now we are joint heirs with Christ Jesus and heirs of the father, and we will reign with Christ.

1.5.3 He gave him shoes for his feet.

But there was more in this reunifying. Verse 22 continuous: “Luke 15:22 (ESV) “… and shoes on his feet.

This son ten to one now was barefoot as slaves were barefoot. Even servants were barefoot and hired men were barefoot, but masters and rulers and their sons wore shoes. This is all a sign of the Father giving him full son-ship which will include full power, full authority and full honour of that son-ship.

This is a picture of salvation. When the sinner comes bankrupt with absolutely nothing, casts himself on his father's mercy, saying, "I've wasted everything, my sin is stacked as high as the heaven. I've sinned against the heavens and against you. I've sinned against you, God, I can offer you nothing. I'm willing to work, even as a day servant." Then the father embraces him in love and says, " You don't need to work, I give you full son-ship with all rights and privileges, all honours, all authority. That's salvation. But people, that is more than salvation, once again it is the Father Heart of God.

These poor Pharisees and Scribes by now are gasping for air. Why will the father do that? Because it gives him joy. I think at this point they are finally asking, what will he do next? This we see under our next point which is:

1.6 A shameful celebration.

Now, the father is going too far in their books. Look at Luke 15:23 (ESV) 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.”

Not only is this prodigal welcomed back as a son by giving him a robe, a ring and shoes for his feet. This son who caused great sorrow, who stole the joy of the house by squandering his father’s livelihood gets a party. And not only any party, this is a party to end all parties as it demands the fattened calf. By the way the Greek word for fattened simply means ‘grain fed’ calf. Remember that these people did not eat much beef. It was mostly reserved for special occasions like weddings etc.

So, this fattened calf will be used for a monumental event, and church family, based on the Father heart of God, it is a monumental event when a sinner comes home. That is the Father's greatest joy. Look at verse 24 and try and understand the joy of the Father. 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.”

The son by his own declaration and actions said that His father was dead to him and him to his father, but his father rejoices in the fact that the son who was dead to him is now alive. It is time to party. Now remember that this is the third party in the chapter. There was a party when the sheep was found. There was a party when the coin was found. And now there is a huge party thrown when the son that was lost is found.

That's the whole point. That which makes the Father Heart of God glad, that which makes heaven rejoice is the salvation of sinners and that's why God sent His Son into the world. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost, not just for the joy of the sinner, not just for the joy of Christ, but for the joy of God and the joy of the Holy Spirit and for the joy of the whole Kingdom of God. And when we get to heaven it's going to be one long everlasting celebration. People, we are going to party. I love the way verse 24 ends: “And they began to celebrate.” This celebration never ends.

In closing:

What's the message here? Grace, triumphs over sin at its worse. The story isn't saying that every sinner reaches the level he did, but when sinners do, grace still triumphs. God does not have categories of sin, neither for unbelievers or believers. Sin is sin before God.

The Pharisees and Scribes of that day and all the modern Pharisees and Scribes in a spiritual sense don’t understand this. I trust you do. If you are in gentile land at this moment, either you are not born again, and have never cast yourself upon the Father as a sinner, or you are born again and you have walked away from the house of the Father squandering what you have in Christ, the invitation is to come home. And I promise you, the Father will run to you, He will embrace you and kiss you, He will clothe you in the righteousness of His son, He will give you a ring for your finger showing that you are rightfully part of the family of God, and He will give you shoes for your feet as He has given you not only undeserved forgiveness, but He also gives you undeserved son-ship. Everything is undeserved. Undeserved forgiveness, undeserved son-ship, undeserved salvation, undeserved honour, undeserved respect, undeserved responsibility, fully entrusted son without any restitution, without any works.

This kind of lavish love, this kind of grace bestowed upon a penitent trusting sinner is a bizarre idea in a legalistic mind, but I present to you the Father heart of God which is so different.

One of the greatest songs to end this service with is ‘and can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviours blood?’ Everything underserved, yet we experienced mercy and amazing love and we can shout it from the roof tops: “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free”.


Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 25 January 2015