Most people miss what the point of this whole parable is - it’s clear, but we get little snippets of this story in our heads, miss what Jesus is driving at -
We start with a shepherd with 100 sheep - 4 goes after the one that is lost, until he finds it
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance
Then we meet a woman with 10 coins - the attachment was probably sentimental rather than monetary - may have been a necklace she received as a dowry - if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Then finally we are down to one prodigal - There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property [lit. estate] that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered [lit. scattered, like farmer flinging out seed over his field] his property in reckless [lit. without thinking] living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.
15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs [remember, Jews thought pigs were detestable, dirty creatures] ate [one of the ways to pray for your prodigal, pray that your prodigal will get sick to death of eating the pods that the pigs eat], and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself [love that expression, like he’s been wandering around in the weeds, keeps trudging along, finally runs into himself] - ILL: Advice one woman who had seen a prodigal daughter return was asked by another mother, my daughter is a prodigal - what should I do? This woman said do nothing - you just keep referring her to God], he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him - Note father didn’t run after him, hire private detectives to track him down and send him reports - but he was watching the road every day to see if he was coming home] and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [started into his apology, had rehearsed it, practiced it, so he said just the thing he wanted and needed to say - so launched into the apology - but notice his dad wouldn’t even let him finish, he heard what he needed and wanted to hear when his son said, “I have sinned.” 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Would think that’s where the parable, the story would end - but that left the older brother unaccounted for - so Jesus continues his story 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in.
His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
Focus in the parable is not so much on the lost sheep or the lost son - it is on the response of friends and neighbors - how did friends respond? Friends of the shepherd were totally pumped - wanted to celebrate with him; friends of the woman who found her coin were totally pumped, wanted to celebrate with her;
The only monkey in the wrench was the older brother - who was consumed with self-righteousness, he went outside, crossed his arms, sulked, and stayed outside while everybody else was inside partying down -
ILL: Groucho Marx said I would never join any club that would have me for a member - Pharisees saying same thing - some people would never join a church that had riff-raff in the congregation, say I want to hang out at the church where all the cool kids go, where all the shakers and movers go
Now when Jesus told this story, he wanted the Pharisees to see themselves in the older brother - you’ll notice he doesn’t tell us what the older brother did - the story, the parable, ends with the father and the son talking outside the house, and then the story just ends - why? Because he wanted the Pharisees to write the end of this parable -
Let’s sum up. What do we learn from this story?
There are no guarantees - they were raised in same household, with the same values - eventually choose own path - we as parents must recognized that, our children will eventually get to the point where they are making their own decisions regarding life
Sent him out to feed pigs - utter humiliation because of the status of pigs in that society
16] longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate - we need to recognize that our prodigals have to completely come to end of selves, get sick of what they have been eating
Realize that the father didn’t know anything about any of this - trust that God is at work even when have no idea what is going on
But he kept watching the road, was ready to receive the prodigal back into his life