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The story of the lost sons

October 6, 2014

Luke 15:11-32

When Jesus talked to God He called him ‘Father’. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he encouraged them to begin ‘Our Father’. The Lord Jesus was of course the Son of God. His life and work demonstrated that clearly.

But now he invited his disciples into an intimate relationship with his Father. He could be their father too!

In the opening chapter of his gospel John talks of the rejection that Jesus suffered when he came into this world. Those He had created did not recognise him. But there was another side to the story. Those who believed in him he gave the right to be children of God.

John continued with the thought when he wrote his first letter. He talks about the generous love of God, that his followers should now be called children of God. Perhaps John imagined his readers moving quickly through his words without really taking in the enormity of what they were reading.

We can all be like that. Very good with our spiritual theory. Nodding away at the truth written before us, but knowing little about it in our hearts. We can get so used to certain things in God’s word, that we can become complacent and cold.

So John goes on to pull his listeners up short. “Because that IS what we ARE!” He says don’t just believe it in theory, as some sort of spiritual truth. Experience it as a reality.

We might look at the world today and conclude that there is very little knowledge of God. People have different perceptions about what God is or might be. But to know him as a father?

But maybe too if we Christians look at ourselves, we might need ask ourselves “do I know God as my father? Do I have that sort of relationship?” Of Course we know him as creator, Lord, judge, quite rightly. But father? Indeed the word used in scripture ‘Abba’ is even more striking than that – describing God the creator and judge of everything as ‘Daddy’.

So to help us think about this today I want us to look at one of Jesus’ best known stories. The story of the lost sons. Of course you’ll pull me up on that straight away. You’ll tell me ‘only one son was lost’. But there is another son in the story. An older brother. In spite of everything in his favour he too had lost the relationship he should have had with his Father.

Let’s take a look at son no 1. Actually he was son no 2. The youngest. Evidently things are pretty good in the father’s house it’s a good life, a very comfortable existence. But it is not enough for younger son. He goes to his father and asks for whatever is due to him. He wants to strike out on his own and leave home. Now I think this is true in most if not all cultures around the world. You don’t decide when you inherit. For you to inherit your parents’ riches, one thing has to happen. Your parents have to die and then you get what if anything is left for you.

There is no suggestion that the father of the story was old or in ill health, but the son was impatient. The half of your estate that is due to me, can I have it please? In the words of the Queen song he loudly stated “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all! And I want it NOW!”

Was the boy bored with life with his father? Was life for him about nothing more than the material things he could have?

Isn’t life like that for so many today? It’s about what I can get. Working for a better life. Investing in good things. Pleasure and success.

And where does God fit in that? What does religion have to offer? Too many people conclude that they have no time and no need for a faith. It certainly wouldn’t occur to them that they could have any kind of relationship with God, let alone that of a father and child.

And so like the young son they go on their way. And maybe for them life is great. They have everything they could need or want. And if they don’t then they can work until they do. It’ll be worth it.

Maybe that is you today. You are here but there are other things you want.

You see the son’s fun was short lived. He had friends, he had money, he had a great time but his approach to life was short sighted. His money ran out. And he had no real friends. They were only there for what he could give them. He proved, in the words of the old blues song, that “nobody knows you when you’re down and out”.

And so a young man realises he has got it completely wrong and he returns to his father. A father who holds no grudge against him, who wants nothing more than for his son to come home. Who wants nothing from him except that he returns. He won’t even listen to the son’s apology. He is forgiven and accepted.

That could be you. Perhaps you are beginning to realise that the things you work for are not everything. They do not bring you true satisfaction or even any kind of security. God the father is waiting for you. In fact he does more than wait. He has sent his son Jesus into this world to seek you and to find you and bring you home. The story doesn’t really do it justice. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. At the cost of his own life. He gave everything so that you could come back. Back to the life that was meant for you.

Did he lavish love on you? Yes he did. Costly sacrificial love.

Will you turn and come home today. Move towards the father. He will receive you if you reach out to him in faith. No matter where you have been or what you have done.

It’s party time. But there looming like a grey cloud over the proceedings is the other brother. The one we sometimes fail to notice in all the excitement. Big brother is watching you. And big brother is very unhappy.

You see he was the good boy of the family. He had never entertained the sort of rebellious thoughts that his brother had. He had always been there. He had never even asked his father if he could have friends round for lunch. He had stayed at home in the presence of his father. And yet…

And yet he knew no more about the love of his father than his brother had. Whereas his brother had now got it, he was angry. This was not fair.

But the father reminds him that this is a time to celebrate. His brother is back. A fortune blown, but alive and found and forgiven without reservation.

If God could forgive, surely he could too.

You see he didn’t realise what a great father he had. He never entered into what his father had for him. If he wanted a meal with his friends all he had to do was ask, but he never did. He had no idea of the generosity of his father. He missed out. He never left for a far country but his relationship with the father was a cold one, because that is what he chose. No other reason.

You’re a Christian. Do you know anything of the warm relationship that this story speaks of? Is it all a bit cold and distant? Is it for you all about keeping the rules, keeping out of trouble? Because if it is, you can be as miserable and unforgiving as big brother.

We read earlier how John addressed his readers as children of God. “And that is what we are”. So if our experience is less than that, like big brother we have only ourselves to blame.

The story tells us that big brother said his piece, but ignored the encouragements of his father and refused to go in to the party.

A sad end to a happy story. But it does not need to be that for you. Things can change. You can reach out for the Father’s open arms and enjoy life as it is meant to be. A full life. An eternal life.

So whether you have never known God as a father or whether you have lost that joy you once knew the time is right to reach out.

Time for you to turn around and come home.

Or time for you to open the door to the Father’s house and walk right in to join the celebrations.

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