Today, we conclude our Beautifully Broken series.
The first week, Adam and Eve showed us God’s design for love, and why we need restoration. The second week, we explored God’s greatest gift to us – His ability to write a love story for each of us.
Last week, we saw the pain and restoration process God uses after we mess up through King David’s example.
As we conclude our Beautifully Broken series, we explore a parable of a broken family, an unruly child, the rejoicing of those who were lost and now found, and our part as a family member.
Family Is Complicated
I want you to pause for a moment, and think about your family. You may or may not have siblings and your parents may or may not still be alive; however, one thing is for certain, every day was probably not perfect.
As a parent, you might be trying to wrangle your small little ones and you wonder why they just won’t listen to you. You cry out for help, but everyone seems like they have earplugs in.
Once the kids get older, you think it will be easier, but easy seems an elusive dream. I wonder if that’s how the parent felt in our story today.
Our stories are all different, and the parable of the lost son invites us into a story that may look something like your story. God’s redemption and restoration is available to all, but not all will recognize or receive it.
Three Parables – Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Son
In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables to a group that had gathered around him including some Pharisees.
He started off with the parable of the lost sheep. He asked if they had a hundred sheep and one was lost, wouldn’t they go and search for the one? And when they found it, wouldn’t rejoice at it coming back to the flock?1
The second parable was about a lost coin. A woman who had ten silver coins and had lost one. She searched high and low for the coin, and when she found it, she told everyone so they could rejoice with her.2
The third parable is where we will focus our time together today – the lost son.
All three parables talk about redemption, and the third focuses on redemption and restoration. Jesus kept drawing the people (including the Pharisees) and us towards redemption, but He cautioned that if we fail to recognize our need for redemption, we will spend eternity apart from Him.
Let’s look at the story of the lost son…
The Lost Son
The parable of the lost son often times goes by a different name – the parable of the prodigal son. You might have heard this parable in grade school or at church or even at mass to describe the unruly nature of children in the family.
However, this parable is about redemption and restoration of each one of us, and the part we play in a family.
Pastors love to point to this parable to during family sermons as an encouragement for parents whose children have gone off the deep end or drifted from the Lord.
As someone who has grown up in the church, I can tell you that I have heard most of those sermons, and let me caution or warn you that there is a plot twist in the story that might change your perspective on this parable.
I imagine that Jesus had the audience’s full attention as He began the third parable. He said,
“'A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.’” – Luke 15:12
During this time, it was unheard of for the younger son to ask for his inheritance before his father had died. In fact, it was usually seen as a sign of disrespect.
But the father granted the younger son’s request, and gave him his share of the inheritance early. The son went off and had a merry life – living it up with his friends, flaunting his wealth, partying in the local clubs, and all around making bad choices.3
After his spending spree had come to an end, a famine struck the land and suddenly the son was in bad shape, and needed help. So…he got a job feeding pigs. He was so hungry that he wanted to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything to eat.4
This son was broken, and he had a moment of clarity that I think we can all relate to, he said,
“At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” – Luke 15:17-19
So the son packed what little he had, and headed home. I can only imagine that he rehearsed, and rehearsed what he would say to his father on the journey back home.
In Luke 15:20, we see something that is out of character for a father and a man during the time that Jesus was sharing this story, it says:
“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.”
In our story so far, Jesus has shared one plot twist – the first being the inheritance given to the son – this was uncharacteristic for the time and culture.
Jesus did it again – He said the “father ran to his son”. In that day and time, men did not run anywhere. This phrase would have made the Pharisees upset as it was breaking cultural norms, and Jesus wanted to illustrate something about redemption.
What I love about this part of the narrative is that Jesus calls out that “his father saw him coming”, that means he was constantly looking for his son. He wanted him to return, and he had a hope of him returning.
This is what God does with us – He lets us go if we choose, but He pursues us…watching and waiting for our return. He sends people into our lives to steer us back to Him. God loves us, and wants each of us to be with Him.
The son is more than a little shocked by the father’s response…in fact, he doesn’t even get to finish his prepared response. His father calls the servants over to get him clothes, and prepare a banquet for him.
Once again, God’s reaction to us is the same. When we come to Him and accept Him, scripture says “the angels in heaven are rejoicing” – it’s our own banquet party.
Not everyone was pleased that the son had returned. The brother heard the party as he came in from the fields, and asked what was going on.
A servant replied that his brother had returned, and your father is throwing a party. I imagine the brother raging mad and stomping off towards the house.
Just as the brother is getting to the house, his dad comes out to share the good news with him, but it wasn't good news for the brother.
He tells his father why are you throwing a party for him – you have never done that for me.
Luke 15:31-32 says,
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 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!’”
The brother was so mad that he would not come in and celebrate the return of his brother.
Encouragement and Challenge
At the beginning of the chapter, Luke shares how Jesus was guiding the people (including the Pharisees) to see that He was the Messiah. We never know how the Pharisees or people responded to the last parable – Luke just moves on with more parables.
Let me ask you, who do you identify with in these parables?
- The missing sheep or part of the ninety-nine?
- Worried you lost your coin, and seek for it with reckless abandon?
- The wayward son?
- The father (or mother) constantly watching for your wayward child to return?
- The brother who seems to have done everything right, but is never celebrated and so your heart has grown bitter towards your family, others or even God?
God’s gift to the world came as a baby, born of a virgin, grew up and lived a sinless life, and would eventually die a cruel death on a Roman cross. Jesus did all of this for you and me, but we must accept this free gift.
As you think and ponder who you are in the above parables (and spoiler alert: you can be multiple people), ask God to show you who you are. Ask Him to guide you and if you need to improve a relationship, ask Him to help you.
If you have been on the fence about a relationship with Christ, today might be the perfect day to stop straddling the fence and move closer to Him. Ask Him to meet you where you are at, and to help you move forward on your spiritual journey.
Lord, thank you for sharing these parables with us. Thank you for the challenge that each one brings that causes us to pause for a moment, and reflect on the gift you are offering. I ask you to meet each person that calls out to You for help, and please help each one of us to be listening for your gentle whisper to act and help someone along their spiritual journey. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness in our lives. Amen!
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