Mar 31 2019 The Prodigal Son(s) - Which are You? (Both!)
1st April 2019
This is really the story of two sons – and they teach us a critical lesson in our relationship with God. The younger son wanted to live it up – and normally the inheritance would not be given until the father died. Only the sons would get an inheritance – and the older son would get double – and be responsible for the rest of the family. This request would have been unheard of, and would have been extremely offensive, and not only demonstrates his selfishness, but shows that the son is alienated from the father. This would have caused public humiliation and disgrace for the father, the son, and the entire family.
Their wealth was in the land. So, the only way the son could get this inheritance would be if the father had sold 1/3 of the land – publicly – everyone knew everyone else’s business – and people would have talked – what is going on in this family? The father would have been expected to have answered NO! But he doesn’t do that – he divides the wealth with both brothers. We slip by that, but it is really important. He divided his wealth – 2/3 to the older son.
11 And He said, "A man had two sons. 12 "The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So, he divided his wealth between them.
The world WEALTH – is BIOS – bio – life. He is not just dividing his stuff – the father is tearing his life apart. We might say, his life’s work – his living – all that he has become in life is being torn apart by this younger son. This is an attack on the person of the father by the younger son. It is like him saying, you are better off dead to me than alive.
The father – the patriarch – had the final say – and there was no going against that. If you were a boy – you stayed at home – and built your house on the family land.
This is tied to the Garden. People ask – why did God allow them to eat of the fruit – we would have had none of these problems! Why didn’t the father just say no!
13 "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.
There is this pattern in Genesis – where when they sinned, they moved east – and then Cain went farther east. And in the Old Testament – east is symbolic of Eden.
This son is seeking his own pleasure – which becomes a place of pain for him. He hits rock bottom.
14 "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
Then he comes to his senses. What am I doing here? His mind goes to his father. He got to the bottom and his mind goes to the father. My father has all these workers and they get food!
17 "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' 20 "So he got up and came to his father.
He knew the solution was to go to the father.
His sin had caused a sense of shame and unworthiness. Sin causes us to feel shame and unworthiness. As a result of this – even his little speech here shows that he has a deep misunderstanding of who his father is. Sin does this to us as well – it twists in our minds who God is.
The whole problem for this young son – had a misunderstanding of the father’s character.
Like Adam and Eve – he doubted the character of God. And when we doubt the character of God – we act improperly. Looking back, we can see how we doubt the character of God when we sin.
When we do things we’re not supposed to, we doubt His character even more. This is the story of humanity in all of us.
Then the father responds – and it is the responses of the father that mean the most. The whole time the son was gone – you can picture him going out to the hill that looks out to the road – 2,3,4 times a day., It doesn’t say that – but you can imagine the father doing this. The father takes the initiative – not the son – already engaged in looking for him.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
This would have been unheard of – for the father to run to the son! The patriarch never would have done this after what the son had done! The son had shamed him and his family with selfish rebellion – but the father shames himself because of his love.
This should remind us of someone. And this is church – so your guess is probably correct.
Jesus went to the cross – enduring the shame – for the joy set before Him.
The cross was a place of shame and disgrace – but for God’s love for us, it is okay that everyone thinks of him as a disgrace.
. 21 "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
The father cuts him short – he was forgiven before he got there! Before he left! He stops him dead in his tracks – and then restores the sonship and identity – and that is what Jesus does for us – you are my beloved child in whom I am well-pleased. That is what He does even in our shame. Grace and forgiveness.
' 22 "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.
Dead has come to life.
There are two other parables before this – celebrating the lost sheep – (probably killed one of the other sheep! Have never figured that one out!) and then the woman who finds her lost coin and celebrates. We celebrate the lost being found. Being reborn – being born again.
Now we get to the older brother:
25 "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' 28 "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.
Now let me just say – if we are honest, we can understand his anger, I think. He had to stay and watch the shame and grief of the father and family – while the younger brother wasted everything. I think we can understand – as the father is throwing a party for him – and you have heard this in your family – you’ve always spoiled that kid and now you are spoiling him all the more.
The problem – the older brother did not see the younger as the father did. The father saw the dead who had come back for life, and the brother saw him as the one who wasted it all and is back for more!
And we find that the older brother was just as alienated from the father as the younger son was:
29 "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
I have slaved for you – never neglected a command – I’ve done everything I was supposed to do! But this son is just as lost as the one who went out and spent everything. We recognize the lostness in the younger son, but this son is lost because of his goodness. He has gotten lost in his goodness, Tim Keller says.
The people hearing these parables – Pharisees, tax collectors – and sinners – and the Pharisees are complaining that he is eating with tax collectors and sinners – and Jesus tells them this parable.'
31 "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"
No matter which way we go – the way of the younger or older – we see ourselves in each – and times where we are both. In both cases, we have God’s constant presence with us and his generous spirit. Everything I have is yours! It is all yours!
A couple practical things – in case you’re wondering which one you are – it is easy to tell when you are the younger son – you are the older son when your service to God becomes duty and slavery – burdensome – you are the older brother.
When we are judgmental and condemning toward the younger brother types in our world – we all have them!
When you see a younger brother type prosper and get blessed, you become resentful and think – that is really unfair.
Another way – sometimes older brothers – we see this – older brothers can tend to be into conserving things. He understood the way of their community and religious community – and the proper response in their community would have been to say – Son, you are dead to me – and older sons are trying to conserve those ways – but Jesus is constantly deconstructing those ways.
In closing – Humanity contrasted with True Human – tying this from Genesis to Revelation. And that is why I think this parable is so famous – design patterns – motif – we see this beginning with the snake in the garden – and the fruit they are not supposed to eat.
She SAW the fruit – looked good
She TOOK the fruit
She ATE the fruit.
In Genesis 1 – every time God created something – He saw that it was good.
Then there is this pattern – Genesis – Joshua – someone sees something that looks good and takes it.
David SAW Bathsheba and TOOK Bathsheba
Aichan – Saw the gold and TOOK it.
It goes on and on.
As a result of seeing, taking, and eating – they are driven to a distant land.
The younger son sees the wealth – takes it – and consumes it.
Jesus is the true YOUNGER brother. He is the true Human – the name Adam means human. Our son is really named human! Jesus left, just like the younger brother – left his heavenly home for a foreign land – not in rebellion – but obedience. Not for his own pleasure – but for others. Not to waste his inheritance, but to give up everything to gain an eternal inheritance. And not to seize control – but to hand over control to His father.
In the garden – as we come closer to Easter – Father, let this cup pass, but not My will but Thine be done. This is giving up control entirely – On the cross, He paid for the sins of both the younger and older brother.
And finally, Jesus is the true OLDER brother. It would have been his responsibility to seek out the younger brother and bring Him back. Jesus sought out all the brothers.
Another thing Jesus did – He paid the debt that all younger brothers amass. All of the debt of our sin was upon Him.