Hi Friends! Here’s a reminder of where we are and where we’re going with the Lost Series from Luke 15:11-32. Lost Part 1: The story of the Lost Sheep. Lost Part 2: The story of the Lost Coin. Lost Part 3 Introduces the Return of the Lost Son. Lost Part 4: The Younger Son. Lost Part 5: The Older Brother. Click these links to catch up on anything you missed!
This week: Lost Part 6: The Father. Here are some insights into the Heart of the Father…
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ 22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’ ” (Luke 15:20-32 NLT)
Jesus told all three stories: The Lost Sheep; The Lost Coin; The Lost Son, to help his hearers (and us) understand something about God that we may never have really known, or if we did know it, we find it really hard to keep in focus. The thing about God that Jesus is telling us here is that God is good and God is love! God loves lost people and found people and nice people and mean people and good people and bad people and people who believe and people who don’t believe.
First, Jesus tells a story of how a “Good Shepherd” will leave the ninety-nine in the fold to go and seek after the one sheep that was lost. Jesus presents himself as the shepherd who seeks after the one who was lost. God loves the world and sent his Son to seek us and find us and bring us home to the safety of the sheepfold. Then all heaven rejoices together when the one who was lost is found!
Next, Jesus tells a story of how a widow woman will light every lamp in her house and sweep it clean until she finds the one lost coin. Jesus pictures God the Holy Spirit as the widow who turns everything upside down to find the coin that was lost. When the lost coin is found (the sinner is restored) again, even the angels in heaven rejoice!
Finally, Jesus tells us the much longer story of the Father whose youngest son insults him, takes his inheritance, squanders it on debauchery, goes broke, and feeds pigs. He eventually “comes to his senses” and decides to come home. Please note: This is all misdirection! We think that the “sinner” in this story is the young son. But we’re wrong. Because in this story the Father does not seek after the “sinner” as in the other two parables. Instead, in this story, the young son is the one who returns home on his own and it is the Father who eagerly rushes out to meet him on the way and restores him. Then we get to the actual “sinner” in the story when the Father goes outside the party to seek after the “lost son” [the older brother] who refuses to come inside the house.
Here is where Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees. They (like us) assumed the “sinner” in this parable was the Younger Son, but now they realize that the one who is really missing out, the one whom the Father seeks after and goes out to find and restore, is the Older Brother. This is when Jesus looks into the eyes of those Pharisees and lets them know that even though they have separated themselves from the loving Father who loves and welcomes the people they see as “sinners,” the reality is that they are the ones the Father is going out to restore into the fold. They are the lost coin the widow sweeps the house to find. They are the older brother the Father leaves the party to bring back inside the house. They are the ones who are missing out on the joy of heaven’s celebration!
The message is clear for Pharisees and Older Brothers alike. God is holding the door open for you. Come inside and enjoy the fellowship of the Father, and of those you have deemed unworthy of mercy. There’s still time for you to let go of your pride and to realize that “you are always with God, and all He has is yours.” But they must recognize those “sinners” as “this brother (or sister) of yours.”
The Father loved his younger son. He gave him free will to choose to stay home or go away. When the young man was gone, he had watched for him day and night. When the young son returned, he ran to meet him and hugged and kissed him. He refused to even listen to his son’s proposal of working his way back into the family. He accepted him, he embraced him, he gave him a garment and shoes and a ring. And he got the party started while his son was having a shower and a shave!
Brennan Manning says, “Even if we come back only because we couldn’t make it on our own, God will welcome us. He will seek no explanations about our sudden appearance. He is glad we are there and wants to give us all we desire.”
The Father loved his older son. He gave him free will to choose to stay home or go away. Every day, he was proud of his son’s responsible behavior, his diligence, his skill and hard work. He enjoyed being with his older son daily and he had released his responsible older son to run the estate. He trusted that the estate would be in good hands when he was gone.
The Father loved his older son and he loved his younger son! Keep in mind that the Father isn’t angry at either of his sons. He loves them both! He’s so glad they’re both back home, under the same roof! And he wants them to love each other the way he loves both of them.
Jesus came to show us the Father!
- Jesus said, “The words I speak, the works I do, are the things I see my Father do.”
- Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”
- Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen my Father.”
- Jesus said, “You have the privilege of calling my Father, our Father.”
This was a new way of relating to God for the people Jesus was speaking to. They were used to relating to God primarily as an austere power and authority figure who was rather easily angered and had to be appeased by sacrifices and offerings and whose favor was maintained only through careful rule-keeping and ritual behavior. Jesus presents us with the Father. Abba. Not a distant disciplinarian with a name too holy to pronounce, but as Abba, Daddy, Dad.
Friends, until this “Father, Abba, Daddy” reality gets rubbed into every part of our spiritual/religious selves, we’re stuck out in the yard, missing the party. We’re stuck in the religious pattern of comparing, judging, rejecting, excluding, and resenting. We’re missing out on the joy heaven experiences when Younger Sons come home, and Older Brothers (and Sisters) come in and enjoy the party!
Father wants us all back home. He wants the Lost Sheep back in the fold. He wants the Lost Coin back in the purse. He wants the Lost Son back home. He wants the Older Brother to enjoy the party. He wants all his children to learn to love each other the way he loves us.
I wrote earlier that I was going to finish the Lost Series with this article about The Father, but there’s been a change in plans. Next week we’ll be taking one more step in the process. I’m going to write to you about how we can put ourselves in the story. Looking forward to sharing with you!