Last night at the Florida College Lectures, Phillip Shumake, presented a lesson from Luke 15, on probably the most famous of Jesus’ parables. Like Phillip and the Dutch artist Rembrandt, whose masterpiece depicted the return of the Prodigal, we also share fascination with this parable.
These parables were precipitated, as Phillip pointed out, by the Pharisees who criticized Jesus and murmured, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” The insinuation and implication is that Jesus associates with sinners because he is one of them. In other words, “birds of a feather flock together.”
In response to their accusations, Jesus told three parables. The lost sheep. The lost coin. And the lost son. Indeed these parable are like “a three act play” that present a unifying theme. All three were lost. And all three were diligently sought. And when they were found rejoicing ensued.
The three increase in their seriousness and intensity. The first two speak of a sheep who wanders away by sheer animal instinct. The coin was lost due to the carelessness of the owner. But latter is about the younger son of a wealthy plantation owner who demanded his share of his inheritance. The father grants the boy’s request. And soon thereafter he leaves. His lost condition was a choice that he made. And a human soul was at stake.
The story says “he journeyed to a far country.” I suppose to get as far away from home as possible. It has been observed that before one goes into the “far country of sin” it has already existed in our hearts.
Lacking sound judgment and seeking to gratify his fleshly desires, he “wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” Other translations render this “reckless living,” “wild living,” and “foolish living.” There is an indication some of his money was spent on prostitutes (v. 30).
However, he soon ran out of money and friends. A famine came. And he ended up in a pig pen feeding the hogs. A despicable environment for a Jewish man. “Cursed is he who feeds swine,” they believed. It was a metaphor for moral abomination.
The boy had hit rock bottom. Physically. Financially. Mentally. Emotionally. And Morally. What was he to do?
As he reflected on his deplorable situation, the Bible says, “he came to himself.” I like the NASU that says, “he came to his senses.” Reality set in. Before an erring child of God can be restored, they must wake up. See where they are. Who they are. How bad they are.
No one can be found who is lost until they admit the futility of their relationship with God. You see young people hanging with the wrong crowd. Dating worldly women. Engaging in revelry. Living a rebellious and riotous life. Nothing said or done by concerned godly friends can change them until they come to their senses.
You hear of Christians dabbling in drugs. Drinking alcoholic beverages. Dressing immodestly. Spewing out foul language. Watching erotic movies. Consumed by materialism. And conforming to the world’s lusts. Nothing will reverse the course of their actions until they come to their senses.
When the lost boy reflected on his condition, this led him (and will lead us) to some other important steps on his journey back to his Father.
He remembered the bountiful provisions of his father’s house. The servants were better off than he was.
He resolved to return home. He said to himself, “I will arise…I will go…I will say.” This involves purpose. Volition. And will. Serious self-determination is a necessary step for restoration.
He repented. He didn’t just think, “I made an error in judgment.” Or a mistake. Or look for a way just to better his condition. He admitted, “I have sinned.”
He regretted his actions. As he rehearsed what he would say to his father, he said: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He regretted his wrong doing. The hurt he caused his father. And his embarrassment to the family. “Make me like one of your hired servants,” he thought.
He returned. Sometimes there is a failure to follow through on good intentions. Pride, procrastination, or lack of purpose can interfere with our initial resolve to change. The old proverb is right. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
When he truly came to himself, he came back to his father and made his life right. Our hearts are touched by the father’s reception. He ran and kissed him. Hugged him. Put sandals on his bare feet. Gave him a ring that said, “You’re still my son.” And gave him the best robe; that was a sign of acceptance. He commanded for a ‘fatted calf” to be killed. And for the celebration to begin. Heaven rejoices, and so should we, when a sinner repents.
If you’re in the far country of sin, come to your senses. Come home. There are good people waiting to welcome you back. And a Father eager to forgive.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman