Saturday 4 July 2020

Luke 15 v 1/32

The parable of the lost son is the most famous of all our Lord's illustrations.

There are two sons, one is rebellious, does not want to work and help his father. Feels he does not want to be told what he can and can’t do, and is fully able to look after himself. He is fully aware that one day his father will have money to pass down to him and his brother, but his father is showing no indication he is ready to leave this world, which means he is losing days on which to enjoy himself with the proceeds.   He doesn’t appreciate what he has, and has visions of exciting young women who he can have fun with, visit the clubs and drinking places, all so much more fulfilling than what he is doing.

Under Jewish law a father was bound to leave his property with two thirds going to the elder son and one third to the younger, and it was acceptable for a father to give the inheritance before he retired if he wished. In this case, the younger son decided quite callously to approach his father

He went, and knowing him to be a good father who will listen and be sympathetic, and asks for his inheritance to be paid in advance. He said, ‘I want my share of your estate now; before you die.’; so the father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
His father probably pleaded with him and outlined all the benefits he had, the freedom to do what he wants, the care offered to him and the home comforts all prepared at no expense, with the hope of a bright future. but all to no avail. The father probably knew the son would never be satisfied until he got his way, so let him go and learn the hard way.   A few days later he took all his possessions to move to a distant land. In the eyes of Jewish tradition, this would be shameful to both father and son; it was as if the son had said ‘ I wish you were dead.’

He was leaving once and for all, nothing was left behind; he was not returning. Everything was taken. He had no pleasure in the company of his father and his brother; he proceeded to put as many miles between himself and his family as possible
In to-day’s world in Western culture many young people leave home to move into a flat in town with their friends, but in Jesus’ time would be seen as shameful. Here was this selfish boy abandon­ing all allegiance to his father in his old age, caring more for his own pleasure than his father

At first all of course was going well, he had money which soon brought him friends who were ready to help him spend it, and he had a great time with the girls ready to do his bidding, other lads helping to drink, and his own place far away from those who would put him right.

He enjoyed all the raw life thinking that this was the abundant life. He never lacked companionship until the time came, far quicker than he had imagined ; then his money goes, and his friends go just as quickly, no longer do the girls want his company, and he is all completely alone and desolate. How many young people are like that today, left sleeping rough wherever they can find a place, and then blame everyone else for their condition.  The only work he can find is feeding pigs.  Then reality set in; he remembered the luxuries of home with food and lodging lovingly provided.
For a Jew to have anything to do with pigs was bad enough; for him to be feeding them as his new companions each day was more despicable. He was hungry enough to devour their food, he had now reached a new low. He not only herded the swine, he herded with them. He ate from the pig’s own feeding trough

He reflected at what he once when he could be and do what he wanted to when he was cared for and kept fit and well, and never needed to beg for anything or feed pigs, and he knew there was only one man he could turn to was his father, who he had treated with such disdain and sadness when he left. He knew he had to do a lot of grovelling to put things right.

Jesus tells us the young man came to his senses, and said, ‘at home even the hired hands have food enough to spare and here am I dying of hunger. I will go home and say to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.'" He imagined in his mind even the hired servants in his father's house would have had a better life than he had, with food to eat and time in which to enjoy themselves. in a much more reasoned way. So, with little else, he summoned the will to go back and plead.

We are told the father saw the boy coming when he was afar off, which suggests that the father must have been looking for this to happen and had waited many days.  The father disregarded all traditions and ran to meet him and embraced him, but this was considered not to be dignified for a man to so act to a younger one, especially in such a case as this.

The son begins to repeat his prepared speech, but the father cuts him off to show he has forgiven him.

The father said to his 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, and kill the calf we have been fattening.  We must celebrate with a feast for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost but now is found.’ And so they had a big celebration.
Here is the joy of the father.  All is rejoicing, everyone happy and the boy tells his father what a bad boy he has been and doesn’t really deserve all this welcome for he has not been a good son, but the father will have none of it, the boy is totally forgiven and all forgotten.  

The other son is not going to be at all pleased.  Later, he will tell his father exactly how wrong he thinks his father has acted. Many will feel for this elder brother who was faithful and loyal, yet has never been treated so extravagantly as his young tearaway brother has been.

Probably no parable our Lord ever uttered is more pertinent to the times in which we live than this, the story of young people shouting and rebelling for the fun of it, not truly having opinions of their own, and unable to justify their actions, being led by activists talented in the art of influencing the gullible.

There have been repeated demonstrations in this country, most often for causes in which we have no involvement, and participated by mostly young people who have no real feeling other than having fun shouting and hassling the police.  It appears that once one demonstration is worked through another cause is found, and virtually the same crowds are back.

The media of course love it, the air waves and paper presses have something exciting to report. The hypocrisy is blinding as you see young men and women pulling and wanting to pull more statues down, when they know nothing about the men they attack. For instance, Cecil Rhodes is being attacked by students from our top universities, and some of them are actually being funded by scholarships provided by the legacy of Rhodes, who lived in a different kind of world, which we all agree had much wrong with it. Anyone with the smallest brain would agree with a prominent black leader in Scotland who state it far better to leave as a reminder of how things were.

The privilege and pleasure of being able to speak freely and respectfully is now being denied, and we are all expected to surrender all the past courtesies and responsible behaviour, especially that which was inspired by Bible teaching.  Anyone who disagrees with the activists is considered by them to be intolerant!

Christianity, which embraced all people irrespective of colour, gender age, nationality, is designated as old fashioned, for the old and weak minded, and should be ignored, but this parable of Jesus reflects much of what is happening in today’s world.
. Jesus is trying to point out that rebellious people often come to realise the only person affected by their rebellion is themselves. They have been living like Alice in a wonderland, and when they sit down and calmly analyse things, realise what fools they are and have been.  Youth has always to most people, been a restless time, especially to the weak minded. Others will study and not be too proud or arrogant to listen to wiser and more experienced people. It may be wonderful to be able to fulfil the dreams of living a life free from all worry, to be able to spend time with the person you dreamed about, but it is also fantasy.
The young people to day face enormous temptations. They watch television programmes, and unable to separate fiction and fact, think like the young man of the parable how nice to be with a glamorous young woman and enjoy an exciting life, quick engagements and marriage; or the young woman captivated by the handsome man who tells her how beautiful she is and then finds when she is pregnant he is nowehere to be found; either follow a tedious life ended only by the easy divorce process whereby this (fake) Conservative government require no cause for divorce.

The fantasises are over and reality has hit hard, and there is absolutely nothing appealing now in the life led, and freedom is not it is all cracked up to be; all the dreams are seen for the uselessness and stupidity they were.

Some people feel they themselves could never have done what this boy did.  Jesus wants us to show how this boy is set completely free, without any justification whatsoever. Everything depends on the father’s reaction. Now we have to put ourselves in the father’s place and think how would we have reacted.

There are many reactions taken to this parable. How could a son have the nerve to return and expect total overlooking of his actions?

How could a father be so joyful for a son who had abused and deserted him?  Imagine the fears and thoughts of the father who would know how his useless son would be suffering all alone in a strange world all those years. His father would have imagined the worst, as we all do when we know nothing of what is happening to our children.  
He probably had given up all hope. Suddenly, the agony and dread has gone and the boy is fine.

The father then appeals with the elder brother to join in the celebration, and by implication Jesus is asking the Pharisees to repent and receive the gospel.
If we can see the father's agony as Jesus intended us to see it, then we will have the answer to the question many ask about this parable.

The message of this parable that the conversion of any soul is a cause for rejoicing, and Jesus shows us by the words of the father ‘it was right we should be glad and rejoice, for this your brother was lost and now is found. Such is a message for us when we see someone has fallen away from our Church, to seek them and find out why.  I am often told the Ministers are too busy, to which I reply cut out all those unnecessary meetings which produce mothing of value. However, not only Ministers can bring people back.
If angels rejoice in heaven, then Christians should rejoice on earth when we recover a lost member.

Jesus also wanted to show the Pharisees and Scribes if their hearts were right,  they would never have criticised him for receiving sinners

Jesus wanted to show God as a merciful Father who cares for his children. Most of us know what it feels like when one of the family leave us to go and live far away even on good terms for good reason. Just as an earthly father cares for his children even when they reach adulthood so God endlessly cares for his children, which are his when we accept Christ into our lives.

The final lesson we learn from this story is that no one is eternally lost. God always leaves open the door for us to return. When we, like the errant son decide to come before God and say, "Father, I am   not worthy to be your son (daughter). I don't deserve your love and your mercy,; God  never lets us finish the sentence. Instead, he calls for the restoration of all that was ours, all that he wanted us to have -- the ring, the robe, and the merry feast.

All the fulness of God’s grace given to us because Jesus made us righteous when he died on the Cross for us, taking our sins upon himself to ensure we became acceptable to a Holy God.

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