OUR FATHER’S LOVE
Luke 15:1-32 (Key verse: 15:31,32)
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
This passage contains three parables: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son. These parables teach us that God is seeking to save and restore lost sinners. May God help us to open our hearts and accept our father’s love for us.
Look at verse 1. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” What made these people come to Jesus to hear him? They came to Jesus because Jesus didn’t condemn them but welcomed them and loved them. He taught them how much God loved them. Then they accepted Jesus’ message, repented of their sins and received God’s forgiveness. Out of great joy they held a party and celebrated. It was like a heavenly banquet. But there were some people who didn’t like this celebration. They were the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They muttered that Jesus welcomed the tax collectors and sinners and ate with them. Out of their self-righteous and condemning heart they couldn’t see the tax collector’s and sinner’s repentance and turning back to God. Their eyes were blinded to see the heart of God who welcomed them and accepted them. For these Pharisees and the teachers of the law, Jesus told them three parables to teach them how much God loves lost sinners and seeks to find them and rejoices when they are found.
First, the parable of the lost sheep
Look at verses 4-6. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ It is not easy to understand this shepherd’s action because the ninety-nine-sheep left in the open field became vulnerable to wild animal’s attack and some of the 99 sheep could have gone astray while the shepherd was searching for one lost sheep. But if we think about a relationship between a pet dog and its owner we can better understand. Shepherd David told us what he did when his dog disappeared. He searched for the dog but couldn’t find her. Then he prayed to God and the dog appeared.
One Sunday evening I was attending a group bible study in this church. During the study, my wife called me and told me that she couldn’t find my youngest son David at home. At that time, he was very young probably 7. I came home immediately and searched the whole house to find him but he wasn’t there. My wife told me that the door was open when I left home. I thought David came after me when I left home and someone must have taken him. I imagined my little boy crying in the back seat of the kidnapper’s car. I momentarily panicked not knowing how in the world I could find him. But luckily, I found him in my house. He was not hiding. He was sleeping on my bed under a blanket. At that time, he was very small and I and my wife couldn’t imagine he was sleeping there. Likewise, the shepherd didn’t give up searching for his lost sheep until he found it. Then he shared his joy with his friends and neighbors. This parable teaches us that God never gives up one lost sheep. To God, each sheep is very precious and he searches until he finds them.
Isaiah 53:6 says “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” This verse tells us that we were like the sheep who was lost. We had gone astray and took some dangerous paths. But our good shepherd Jesus came after us, found us and brought us back to him so that we can live under his care and love. Jesus found one lost sheep Zacchaeus and declared that the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus sought and saved many lost sinners including the Samaritan woman passing through Samaria and the demon possessed man going to the region of Garasene. Missionary Caleb told us how his shepherd sought him. He said that his shepherd had visited him more than a hundred times when he was a sheep because he kept running away from his shepherd. His shepherd visited him when he was in a classroom. His shepherd waited for him outside of the door. But he ran away through the other door. When he went to military service he thought his shepherd couldn’t come to him anymore. But he was wrong. Once he ran away from his shepherd and played a volleyball game. Then he was hit by the volleyball on the face. He thought God was punishing him because he ran away from his shepherd. Though this way and his shepherd’s visiting God brought him back and he is here today. It’s not just his story. This is our story too. Because of Jesus’ unceasing search we all are here today. Look at verse 7 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” When a sinner repents and turns to God we all rejoice. But there is more rejoicing in heaven over the sinner who repents.
Second, the Parable of the Lost Coin
This parable is similar to the first one in that God searches for lost sinners until they are found. Look at verses 8-10. “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” In Jewish society, a man gave ten silver coins as a dowry to a woman he was going to marry. In some regions, even today, the bridegroom’s family presents the bride with a headdress decorated with gold coins. This becomes the bride’s personal property and forms a financial support for the new family, as it can be changed into money in time of need. If the bride used the money without the husband’s knowledge and approval, it reflects badly on her and the husband can choose to divorce her. It is like a woman who sold her wedding ring without her husband’s knowledge. Imagine, if you were the woman who lost one of your “treasured” possessions such as a wedding ring. How would you really feel… while you search for the lost item and when you finally find it?
We are God’s “precious” possession like the lost coin was precious to the woman. He looks for us, with the same concern and urgency, as the woman with the coin. And when God finds one lost sinner there is a great rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God. Through these two parables Jesus teaches us the importance of one lost sinner. It is easy to ignore one lost sheep and one lost coin thinking it is just 1 out of 100 or 1 out of 10. It is easy to give up on them when they are lost. But through these parables we learn how much God values them and searches for them when they are lost.
Third, The Parable of the Lost Son
Look at verse 11. There was a man who had two sons. Among us M. Philip has two sons. He loved them very much. His sons were the source of his joy. But like most siblings his two sons had different characters. When they grew up the first son worked in his father’s farm. But the second son liked to hang out with his friends and play with them. He felt bored and restricted in his father’s house and wanted to experience the outside world. So, one day he went to his father and said, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ In Jewish society, a father would never give his inheritance to his children before he died. So, this son’s request was very disrespectful. The son’s request sounds “I can’t wait for you die.” Give me my money right now.” If you received the same request from your son you would be offended. You would tell him, “I am still alive.” To such a disrespectful request no father wants to give his inheritance to his son especially when the father knows how his son is going to spend his money. No father wants their children to mess up their life by giving them lots of money. But this father did something unusual. He divided his property between his two sons.
Why did the father give what his son asked for? Probably the father knew that his son’s decision was firm and his son wouldn’t change his mind. Probably the father knew how his son was going to spend his money. Still, the father gave him what his son asked so that somehow his son might learn a lesson and come back to him later. Even if the father would lose his money he didn’t want to hurt his relationship with his son. When God created us, he gave us free will. He gave us freedom to choose either to obey him or disobey him. Romans chapter 1:28 says, “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” When people don’t see a value of retaining the knowledge of God and stubbornly follow their desires God gives them over meaning God allows them to go their own way and do what they want.
What did the son do after he received his inheritance? Look at verse 12. The younger son got together all he had, went abroad and there squandered his wealth in wild living. I don’t know how he spent all his money. But if I guess his wild living in modern day terms he may have bought an expensive sports car and stayed in a five-star hotel with a Jacuzzi in his room. He ate gourmet food and drank and danced in night clubs. He gambled in casinos. He made many friends and threw extravagant parties almost every night. His older brother’s comment on his life gives us a little more detail about how he lived. He squandered his wealth with prostitutes. He lost control of himself and lived a very immoral and sinful life. Many people like to have this kind of life style. They don’t see the value in studying God’s word and serving God’s mission. Instead they yearn for the outside world where they can enjoy their life freely. They have a rosy dream thinking that if they go out and live on their own they will be happy. But they regret it at the end.
Look at verse 14. “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.” This young man thought he could enjoy his life forever with lots of fun. But he was wrong. When he lived recklessly, all his money ran out. His checking account balance became negative and all his credit card balances reached the limit. He became broke. He couldn’t stay in the hotel and got kicked out. All the friends left him. To make matters worse there was a severe famine in that whole country. There was an economic recession. Many people lost their jobs and he began to be in need. When he had lots of money he didn’t have to work. But now he had to find a job to make money and survive. But he couldn’t find a job in the city. So he went to the countryside and persuaded a farmer to hire him for a place to stay and a little bit amount of food. And what was his job? It was a pig feeding job. Feeding many pigs and cleaning the pig pens is hard and dirty work. For his many hours of hard work, he seemed to receive very little amount of food. So he was always very hungry. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating. He was so hungry that even the pig’s food looked delicious to him like a combo or supreme pizza. But no one gave him anything. No one had sympathy for him nor paid attention to him. The pigs were better off than this young man. He was literally dying of hunger in a foreign country and no one knew.
Why did this young man’s life become so miserable? Was it because he didn’t prepare for the disaster? Or was it because he had many bad friends? Those could be some of the reasons. But the most fundamental reason was that he left his father’s house. When he left his father, he lost his father’s protection and love. Many people think that they can live well without God. They want to go out and enjoy the world. But when they separate themselves from God they eventually lose control of themselves and indulge in many kinds of harmful addictions and sins and then suffer the consequences. The second son wanted to enjoy freedom. But after enjoying some fun he became bankrupt and became someone’s slave.
Look at verse 17. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! What does it mean “He came to his senses?” It means he came to his right mind. One version of the Bible says “He came to himself”. Another version says, “He began to think about what he had done.” This tells us that he had been out of himself. But now he came to himself and saw things clearly. He began to look back on what he had done. When he came to his senses he realized how abundant his father’s house had been. Before realizing this, he had taken everything for granted. Our Youth mission team went to Belize and served many children through a VBS, they served the elderly people and attended the Belize UBF Summer Bible Conference. But there was no AC and some of them suffered from heat rash including my son. When they came back they became thankful for AC. Likewise, when this man was starving to death he realized how well he had been provided for and taken care of in his father’s house. He also realized how he had broken his father’s heart and how much he had grieved God by sinning against him. But in spite of all his mistakes and sins he realized how patiently his father had been enduring and waiting for him to repent and come back to him. When he realized his father’s long enduring and deep love for him he wanted to go back to his father and confess his sins. Look at verses 18-20 “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.” When the son realized how much he had sinned against God and his father he became truly repentant. Then he made a decision to go back to his father.
Look at verses 20b. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” It must have taken many days to go back to his father. He could barely walk because he was starving. His clothes were torn and he was barefooted. But while the son was still far away, his father recognized his son and was filled with compassion for him. What does the father’s recognizing his son while he was far away from his son tell us? Every day this father had been anxiously waiting for his son to return. The father worried about his son and missed him very much. This shows us how God is eagerly waiting for us to come back to him when we go far away from him.
When the son returned the father told his servants to bring the fattened calf and kill it. The father had chosen a calf and fattened it so that they could celebrate when his son returned. This means the father believed that someday his son would return to him. This shows us that our father God believes that we will come back to him even if we go astray. Parents always believe that their children will come back to God even if they go astray. There was a teenager who was 17 years old. He was very rebellious and caused many troubles in the family. One day his mom and dad and all his siblings rebuked him. The teenager got mad at them and wanted to leave the house. Then he met his grandma in the hallway. The teenager poured out his anger and frustration on his grandma. The grandma only listened to him and said, “John, I believe you.” That one sentence changed this young man’s life. Later this young man became an evangelist.
What did the father do when he saw his son? He ran to his son. When he arrived, he threw his arms around his son and kissed him repeatedly. Though the son was smelly and dirty the father didn’t care. The son said to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Moved by his father’s love who welcomed him the son confessed the sins he had committed against God and against his father. The son truly repented and asked of his father’s forgiveness. When we look at how the father accepted his son it is truly amazing. His son had broken his father’s heart, taken the money, left home, squandered all his money in wild living with prostitutes and then came home. But the father mentioned none of the bad things his son had done. The father didn’t hold any hatred or a grudge against his son in his heart. He even didn’t ask his son for an apology as a condition to receive him. The father was filled with compassion for his son even before he met his son. This teaches us how much our father God loves sinners unconditionally. It reminds me of a part of the new covenant that God doesn’t remember our sins anymore. God’s love is truly amazing and wonderful!
The son told his father that he was not worthy to be called his son. He wanted to ask his father to make him like one of his temp workers. His son said this to his father because he remembered all his wrongdoings and sin. But what did his father do? His father told his servants to put the best robe on him and a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. The father reinstated his position as his son and heir. Not only did the father forgive his son unconditionally but restored him as his son and heir again. Though I meditated on the confession, “I am not worthy to be called your son” it didn’t click my heart until 1 hour before I stand here. But God helped me to accept God’s reaffirming of sonship through the son’s confession and what the father did for his son. Though we are saved when we look at our sins and mistakes and shortcomings we don’t feel deserved to his sons and daughers. Whenever I am appointed to deliver Sunday message one of my prayers is “Lord. I don’t deserve to stand and speak your word because of my many sins and mistakes. How can I stand and speak? But God says, “You are my sons still.” 1 John 3:1 says, “How much God has lavished his love for us that we are called children of God!” (1 John 3:1) Romans 8:17 reads, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17)
What’s the reason the father celebrated? Let’s read verse 24 “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ These words of the father are repeated at the end. This is the reason why the father was so happy and wanted to celebrate. His son had been dead and was alive again. He had been lost and was found. Ephesians chapter 2 says that we were dead in our transgressions and sins when we followed the ways of the world gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ. Even though we were physically alive we were spiritually dead when we lived in sin. But God made us alive through Jesus Christ. Once we were lost but now we are found.
Like this prodigal son we have gone astray from God our father and fell into many harmful and reckless sins. But our heavenly father God welcomed us and forgave all our sins. We see how much God loves sinners and wants them to come to him and live in his love. God’s love is deeper than the oceans and higher than the mountains. I pray that we may fathom our father’s love and live in it.
Look at verses 25 through 30. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard loud music and dancing. So, he asked one of the servants what was going on. The servant told him that his brother had returned and that his father had killed the fattened calf to celebrate. The older brother should have gone inside and hugged his younger brother. Instead the older brother became angry and refused to go in. So, his father went out and pleaded with him. But the older son answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ Why couldn’t the older brother accept his younger brother? The older brother thought he was a good son while his younger brother messed up his life. He said that he had worked hard for his father and never disobeyed his father while his younger brother squandered his father’s properties with prostitutes. It is true that the first son worked hard and obeyed his father well. But because of his hard work for his father and obeying he became self-righteous and couldn’t accept his younger brother. Because of his self-righteous and proud heart, he couldn’t understand his father’s heart for his younger brother. In a sense, the older son was a prodigal son too because even though he lived with his father for a long time he didn’t know his father’s heart. It is easy for us to become like this first son when we think we’ve worked hard for God and obeyed him. When we think this way, it is easy to condemn and criticize those who don’t. Then we will hurt our father’s heart who accepts all kinds of sinners. The father told him that he was always with his father and all his father had was his. Then he told him why they had to celebrate and be glad. It was because his younger brother had been dead and was alive. He had been lost and was found. Through this story Jesus taught the Pharisees and the teachers of the law why they should welcome and accept the tax collectors and sinners and celebrate with them.
Through this parable we learn that God values one lost sinner and seeks him until he is found. We also learned about our father’s love who waits for us to return to him and live in his love. We also learned about God’s heart who accepts all sinners. May God help us to seek the lost with Jesus’ heart this fall.
Let’s read the key verse once more.
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”