4th Sunday in Lent – Sermon 14

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Mothering Sunday is a special day! – a special day in the church calendar – a special day for families – when mum is given flowers or sent a card – children say thank you for the love and support she brings –

a happy time – when families and friends come together – spend time with each other – have a meal at home – perhaps go out to a pub or restaurant –

Jesus was out having a meal out – but He wasn’t with the sort of people a good Jew should mix with – they were tax collectors – collaborators – and thieves –

– some Pharisees were watching and didn’t like what Jesus was doing –

" This fellow" they said "welcomes sinners and eats with them”

as far as they were concerned – honest people wouldn’t even mix with them let alone have a meal with them –

The Pharisees considered themselves the spiritual elite – who kept God’s law to the letter – they had huge political and social prestige – were looked up to – almost like "saints"

But Jesus wasn’t embarrassed by their reaction – didn’t attempt to apologise for His actions – instead He told them a parable – in fact according to Luke He told them three parables – it’s the third one – the parable of the prodigal (or wasteful) son – we are going to look at this evening – a story about a triangle of domestic tension between a Father and his two sons –

In it Jesus is teaching them about God’s love for “sinners” and warning so called “saints” not to dispise them

We going to look at what He says about getting lost – getting found – and the Father’s response –

First Point

first how we get lost – Jesus gives us two examples – there’s the "big row"

The younger son wants his share of the estate which he would normally get when his father dies – Under Jewish Law a father must leave two thirds to the elder son and one third to the younger son

But – he can’t wait for his inheritance – he wants to take the money and run – to be free from responsibility and discipline at home – and to live apart from his father

Jesus knows that we can fall out with God in just the same way – put ourselves first – blame Him for our problems and frustrations – take the gifts He has given us and use them for our own purposes

We see lots of examples of the "big row" in today’s society – in our newspapers and on television – young people leaving home after falling out with their parents – and living on the streets – marriages splitting up after a big argument – leaving people hurt and with an emptiness that fills up with anger – resentment and loneliness – it must be particularly hard on Mother’s day for mother’s and children who suffer such pain and disappointment –

Then there’s "the big freeze" Jesus deliberately included the second son to show that we can lose our way with God – by cutting Him out slowly – day by day –

in verse 29 – the elder son says to his father –

"you know how I have slaved for you all these years, I have never once disobeyed your orders; yet you never gave me so much as a kid, to celebrate with my friends"

what was once a loving – caring relationship – had deteriorated into one without love – he was no longer grateful to his father – he expected things in return for his good behaviour – thought he had earned his place in the family –

We lose many friendships to the "slow freeze" -drifting apart from people without realising it – until we grow used to being separated – the same can happen to our relationship with God – if we start to exclude him from our decisions – stop talking to Him in prayer – stop loving Him – the result is just as tragic as the “big row” and perhaps more difficult to retrieve

Point 2

 but Jesus tells us – we can be found again –

The younger son’s attempt to live apart from His father had failed – all his dreams of the high life vanished – his money gone – the only work he could find was looking after pigs – a task forbidden to Jews – He was desperate and hungry – so hungry that he might even have eaten the pig food

then Jesus says in verse 17 – that

"He came to his senses"

he took a long hard look at himself – and saw the sort of person he was becoming – He realised that away from his father he wasn’t free at all – he was just surviving –

From that moment on he starts to do something right – the first thing he does is – refuse to eat the pig food – he was desperately hungry – but knew life was better than this – it would have been easy for him to accept his situation – but he didn’t

this is a real danger – many people want to change – but because they don’t see an immediate answer – they settle for their present situation – accept second best – and never look any further

Then in verse 18 – the son says

"I will set off and go to my father and say to Him – I have sinned against God and against you, I am no longer fit to be called your son, treat me as one of your servants

He faced up to some unpleasant truths – admitted to himself that he was guilty – that he had offended his father and offended God – flouted God’s rules – failed to love others as he should –

The also realised were he belonged – that he had tried to replace his fathers love with material things – and it didn’t work – he knew deep down that his father would help him if he asked – so he returned home – in faith – he was prepared to work as a hired hand outside the family – to be with his father again

Contrast this with the behaviour of the elder son – no realisation of guilt there – He openly insults his father and condemns his brother – he was sorry that "his father’s son"- had ever come home – as far as he was concerned he was the one who was being wronged – all he could see was his younger brother being praised for going off and spending all the money

the elder brother stands for the self righteous – like the Pharasees who would rather see a sinner destroyed than saved – he could only feel resentment – perhaps even envy

although he lived in his father’s home – he was in truth far away from it – Jesus warns us that it is possible to be religious and yet be without love – to forget God loves us simply because of who we are-

Point 3


but when we do go home – there to greet us is the love of the father – just as he looked for the younger son – and saw him from a long way off – so God looks for each one of us – wanting us to make that commitment towards him –

The father runs up to embrace his son – and kisses him – dresses him in a cloak of honour – gives him a ring of authority – and shoes to signify that he is accepted back as his son and not as a hired labourer – the father forgives him with no recriminations – no punishment – no hidden threats – he is so overjoyed that he throws a party to honour his return

Jesus teaches us that God’s grace and mercy is reliable and completely free – even though we turn our backs on Him in 100’s of different ways – no matter how big the row is – or how serious the problem – He wants to make it up

Even the elder son who is full of resentment – and tries to embarrass his father – is still welcome – the father goes outside – to try to persuade him to come in and join in with the celebrations –

In verse 31
" My boy, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours, how could we fail to celebrate this happy day"

God’s judgment is not a sorting process – where those He likes go to heaven – and those He dislikes go to hell – Jesus tells us that all are welcome – and if we stay out its not because God didn’t let us in – its because we refuse to go in –

The older brother thought he deserved a reward for all the support and help he had given his father over the years – but we can’t have heaven as a reward – only as a free gift – and we must be humble enough to receive it

We might think from this parable that it is easy for God to forgive our sins – but its not – He is hurt when we deceive Him and turn away from Him – Look at the cross – Jesus’ death is an example of how much our sins offend God – He gave His only son to die on the cross – to keep the door of reconciliation open for us –

Jesus deliberately leaves the parable open-ended so that the Pharisees can decide for themselves how it finishes – Both sons had wronged the Father – the younger son was rescued because he had the humility to repent – the older son – like the Pharisees – has to overcome his pride if he wants to be saved




For the father it was a special day when His son returned – home to his family – for the younger son too – it was a special day when – he realised that he wasn’t just lost – he needed his father’s forgiveness – after that – it was only a few steps to joy – but it was probably the hardest steps he had ever taken in his life – We would all like to enter heaven with our heads held high – being congratulated and welcomed in – but none of us ever can – there is only one way – accepting God’s grace and mercy like the son who is lost and then found again And for God that will truly be something special –


Prayer to Finish

 In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit