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Luke 15:11-15:32
Key Verse: 15:20b

Thank God for blessing 2015 CSBC abundantly in his mercy and grace. I could see many people were very thankful for this conference. In preparing this conference many servants worked together doing their own parts and our prayers were offered to God. Yet, I believe that this conference was possible because of God’s merciful and compassionate heart. In Luke 15, in the previous passage, verses 1-10, the parable of the lost sheep and of the lost coin, we thought of God’s heart to find the lost. Today we are going to study the parable of the lost son. Many regard this superb story as the finest of all the parables. It is certainly among the best-loved of them all. No human being is able to invent a story like this, because it is the description of God’s heart. Only Jesus could do so. This passage excellently shows what God is like and what human beings are like. In this study we may go deeper into the heart of God the Father, his merciful and compassionate heart.

First, the prodigal son (11-20a). Look at verses 11 and 12. “He continued, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.’” The younger son’s request, “Father, give me my share of the estate,” shows his desire for freedom and to become his own master. At this point in his life he did not want parental restraint anymore. Surely the father in this passage had given him all the kindness and provision and good advices. However, now in his strong desire for a free life, anything from his father would not stop him from what he was going to do, however good it might be. To enjoy his free life, he needed money. So he asked his father to give him his portion of his father’s estate even before his father’s death.

One of the most precious gifts God endowed men with is freedom. When God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he gave Adam the freedom of choice. One’s freedom of choice makes his or her freedom real. Nowadays, many young people do not have the right concept of freedom. They think that a free life is to do whatever they want to do using their freedom to their maximum degree. In fact they become slaves of sin (Jn 8:34; Ro 6:16). One can live a truly free life, when he knows how to use his freedom of choice rightly based on the truth of God.

When the younger son said, “Father, give me my share of the estate,” the father must have been so pained in his heart. One mother expressed her deep broken heart when her 20 year old son suddenly said, “I want to move out after travelling Europe for two weeks this summer” despite all his mom’s devotion and love for him. The father in this passage divided his property between them, in spite of his unbearable pain and sorrow. For the father knew the son would not hear whatever words he gave because of his unquenchable desire for the world. In that case the father was wise.

Then what happened to the son? Look at verse 13. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Probably when he left his father’s house to go to the world, in some way he wanted to achieve a kind of success making more money, although he would enjoy the pleasures of the world. But his free lifestyle ended in squandering his wealth in wild living, which he would not expect at all. When young people’s voracious desire for pleasures of the world are combined with money, it drives their lives into wild prodigal living. Their moral concept they had learned can be gone in a moment. Young people in our times are so vulnerable in a money and fun-oriented society.

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.” Against his wishes he hit rock-bottom. He began to be in need with no income source. In his needy situation, he still wanted to manage his life by getting any kind of job, even with minimum wage. Things went from bad to worse. Recession hit the country he lived in. There was no even minimum wage job like dish-washing. So what did he do? Look at verses 15 and 16. “So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” A Jew feeding pigs, unclean animals (Lev. 11:7), how degrading! What a humiliation! And even in that humiliation he could not fill his hungry stomach, while the stomachs of the pigs he was feeding were filled. It was likely that he became worse than pigs, losing all self-esteem and sense of honour.

Here we see the picture of those who left God for freedom and of the happenings to them in the end. It is degradation. Some can succeed in the world with still riches of the world, but spiritual degradation and bankruptcy is undeniable. They lose dignity as human beings and become worthless before God.

Look at verses 17-19. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 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 men.’” “When he came to his senses,” is the time when he began to reflect on all that had happened since he left home. Then he could realize how abundant his father’s love is, how wretched a sinner he is and how worthless he is. This realization led him to have the thought of going back to his father curbing his pride, which is repentance.

“When he came back to his senses” is in other translations “when he came to himself.” This is very meaningful. In our times people seem to be too busy to come to themselves or avoid it. Many want to live among others, the people they like, being recognized by their achievements, title, career, belongings and seeming nice relationships. However, anyone who does not come to himself, he cannot find his true self, and so cannot come to God. God works through all things so that we may come to ourselves and come to God. Jacob in Genesis was a blessed man with honour, love and wealth, getting all he wanted. But one night he had to stand before God all alone in his fear of death, being separated from his loved ones and all the material blessings. That night he wrestled with God, asking God for a true blessing, different from all the blessings he had obtained. Through this spiritual struggle, Jacob could find himself as a sinner and God’s forgiveness and have a new heart and a new life direction.

Look at verse 20. “So he got up and went to his father.” The return trip must have been difficult, since he had gone to a distant country. But he persevered. This was the most important moment in his life. It was turning from the world to God. This is all God wants from prodigal sons and daughters, and all sinners.

Second, the prodigal God (20b-32). The prodigal God does not mean that God left his heavenly home as the prodigal son had left his home. The prodigal God is the God whose love is lavishing and prodigal because of his merciful and compassionate heart.

Let’s think about this God. Look at verse 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.” This shows the father’s love for his younger son who had left home was not changed. Everything was changed, but not the father’s love. The father must have waited for the son long years since the son departed him, opening the door wide and praying for him day and night, believing that his son would come back. The father was willing to spend countless days in the thought of his son. The sight of those who wait is different from that of those who do not wait. The eyes of the father must have been dimming in his old age. But he could see the son’s home-coming although he was still a long way off. Seeing the son with a haggard face and shabby clothes like a bagger, the father was filled with compassion for him. The son wasted his prime time in his life and could not establish himself in the world as many other young men did, but just was coming home helplessly. Yet, the son’s home-coming itself was a great joy to the father. So he ran like a young man at the sight of the son, though in his dotage the father would seldom run. Then he threw his arms around him and kissed him on his dirty face.

This father’s love is pouring out his heart without bound and without condition. It is boundless and unconditional, only seeing the son’s coming home. It is likely that the father gave himself to the home-coming son.

Then what goes next? Look at verse 21. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” This was the son’s verbal repentance. However, to the father the son’s act of homing home was his repentance and he had already accepted him. So most probably the father did not give him the chance to speak the words he had prepared to the end, but rather interrupted him. The words, “make me like one of our hired men,” would make him too heartbroken. Anyway, at this situation the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” This was the full restoration of his sonship with honour/dignity, authority and freedom. In this restoration of the sonship the father lost no time. The father was more than willing for the restoration of everything for the son, since the relationship between the father and the son was beautifully restored.

Then the father said to his servants, “Bing the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” It is very interesting that in this passage, the killing of the fattened calf is written three times (23, 27, 30). It seemed that the father preserved the fattened calf for this celebration of his son’s home-coming. It is true that God accepts sinners when they are coming to him in repentance. And according to the Bible the holy and righteous God can do so through sacrificing his one and only Son Jesus. In Christ Jesus we receive forgiveness of our sins and the full restoration of our sonship. And our God rejoices over us in Christ Jesus (Isa 62:5; Lk 15:7,10). Here the father said, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

We thank for Ian’s sincere life testimony at 2015 CSBC. When he shared his life testimony before God, confessing his sins in repentance, we believe that God was so pleased with him and many of God’s people rejoiced. His testimony was his home-coming testimony to God. He said, “Now UBF is my home.” I believe that he said this, because he could see God and God’s love and God’s hope and vision for him. Indeed 2015 CSBC was the feast God prepared for him and he enjoyed this conference that he even skipped lunch to write Bible testimony and play soccer in the scorching heat on Saturday and skip sweet early morning sleep on Sunday to play soccer again with his brothers in Christ. Thank God for his outpouring love for him.

We praise God for all his amazing blessings in Christ Jesus. We are reminded of Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” His love is lavishing and prodigal to the point of killing his one and only Son as a ransom sacrifice for our sins. He is indeed the prodigal God for all his home-coming children. And he is the God of joy and feast in Christ Jesus.

Verse 24 could be the happy and joyful ending of this parable. Yet this parable of Jesus continues. Look at verse 25. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.” This was really unusual to the older son. There had been no such sound of music and dancing. He may have felt that this was not a good sign to him. So instead of going into the house and finding out by himself he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. The servant replied, “Your brother has come and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” The servant looked very happy in this report, but the older son was not in hearing the report. Rather, he became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he 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!” Here we are surprized that the older son’s relationship with his father was sadly quite wrong, although he stayed with his father the whole time until now. That was not a father and son, loving relationship but that of a slave and master. He seemed to obey his father’s order thoroughly, but it was not a true obedience in love. To him his father looked unfair and was strict and stingy. Certainly, the problem was with the son.

On hearing the sons’ words, the father’s heart must have been so broken. How did the father help him? Look at verses 31 and 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.’” The father’s love for the older son was truly amazing regardless of the son’s terrible response at his brother’s returning home. First of all, the father let him know that his identity and position as the son of his father was secure, despite how he felt and thought. And the father also let the older son know that the son was always with him and everything the father had was his. This was also the expression of the lavishing and prodigal love of the father toward the older son. The father’s love for his older son also has not been changed. In this way Jesus wanted the Pharisees to realize and accept the love of God for them. This love of God is true to all Christians beyond their feelings and thoughts. However, one thing they should not miss is this. The father said, “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.” The father particularly articulated “this brother of yours.” Here we learn that if we have a right relationship with God, we should have our lost brother and rejoice with our God in finding him. This is a sound Christian life. This is the reason we need to go after and find the lost one around us and in our campus. We believe that God wants us to have the joy of finding the lost souls one by one and celebrate together with our God.

In this study we thank and praise God the Father in heaven, who waits so eagerly for his lost sons to come home and is willing to pour out his heart and restore everything for the lost one. May we abide in this our heavenly Father’s loving arms and share in his broken heart.

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