130310 Luke 15:11-24

Last Updated on Monday, 11 March 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 15:11-24
Theme: Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven!

It was a long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Somewhere in that land was a field, and somewhere in that field was a young man feeding pigs. Pigs weren't just dirty animals. They were ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 11:7), and coming into contact with them made him unclean too. And yet this man was jealous. He was so poor, so destitute, so hungry that he longed to fill his stomach with the pods the pigs were eating.

But it wasn't just the hunger pangs that kept this man awake at night. He also felt the pangs of a guilty conscience. Night after night he relived the events that had ultimately brought him to this place. And it all started with a brief exchange with his father.

One day this son had gone up to his father and demanded: "Father, give me my share of the estate" (12). There was no: "Dad, can I talk to you about something?" or "This might sound sort of strange, but I have a favor to ask." The son couldn't wait to get his greedy hands on the inheritance he believed was rightfully his, and he didn't even have the decency to wait for his father to die before he took it.

As soon as the father honored his son's request, the son dishonored his father again. He packed up his belongings and left for a distant country. As he started out on this new and exciting adventure he thought to himself: "I am finally free, free from my father's rules, free to go wherever I want, free to do whatever I want."

And there wasn't much he didn't do. We can only imagine all the sins included in the statement that the son "squandered his wealth in wild living" (13). He was acting on every immoral impulse. He was satisfying every sinful desire. And he was burning through his inheritance in the process.

Eventually the money ran out, and when it did so did his friends. And there he was...all alone... in a foreign country...far away from his family. To make this bad situation even worse there was a severe famine in the land. And for the first time in his life, the son really knew what it felt like to be in need. He was so desperate that he took a job feeding pigs, and even then he barely had enough to survive.

With nothing to eat and nowhere to turn, the son swallowed what was left of his pride and said to himself: "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men'" (17-19).

The plan was risky, but the son didn't really have any other options. On the long journey home he probably played out the conversation he would have with his father over and over in his head, and it didn't always have a happy ending. What if his father rejected him? What if he didn't even recognize him? Would he be locked out? Would he be sent away? Or was there a chance, was there the slightest chance, that his father could find it in his heart to forgive?

The truth was that the father never forgot his son. He remembered the day his boy left home with all of his earthly possessions and disappeared over the horizon. He longed to see his son again, but he didn't know when that day would come. Months? Years? Never? That was a possibility, he knew, but he never gave up hope.

And then one day it happened. It wasn't a dream. It wasn't his mind playing tricks on him. He saw a person far off in the distance. The form that approached was dirty and kind of skinny, but the father could have recognized that face anywhere. It was him!

In spite of what his son had done to him, he wasn't angry or resentful. In spite of the way his son had treated him, the father was filled with compassion. His heart swelled with joy, so much joy that he ran down the road and threw his arms around his son and kissed him.

But that's not all he did. Before the son could even finish his well-rehearsed confession, the father called to his servants: "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (22-24).

If you study this father/son reunion carefully, you will notice that something is missing. The dialogue is entirely one-sided. The prodigal son speaks to his father, but there is no reply. Jesus doesn't tell us what the father said to his son. We don't know if the father said anything to his son, but we don't need his words because his actions speak volumes.

When the father's eyes locked on his son in the distance he didn't lock all the doors. He hurried out to meet him. When the father approached his son he didn't raise his fists to fight him. He opened his arms to embrace him. The father didn't order his servants to take his son away. Instead he told them to make preparations for a big party.

Even if the father didn't use words to express himself the message was loud and clear: "Son, even though you rejected me I never gave up on you. I never stopped loving you. You are precious to me. You mean the world to me. You are redeemed, restored, forgiven."

A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Everything we are told about the father in the story suggests that he is none other than our Father in heaven. The more difficult question is: Who should we identify with the son? Do you know any people like him, people who try to keep God at arm's length, people who insist on do things their own way, people who have deeply hurt the people who love them the most?

Maybe you can think of a specific individual who fits this description, but when Jesus told this parable he didn't have a single person in mind. The Lost Son isn't one man. The Lost Son represents sinful mankind. We can see the Lost Son every time we look in the mirror. With every impure thought, we turn our backs on God. With every harsh word, we give God the cold shoulder. Because we sin, we are the ones who are lost.

You are a helpless, hopeless sinner. You have called me as your pastor to tell you that. You even pay me for it. Hearing that you are dead in your sins may not be pleasant, but it's important. In fact, facing up to the truth was the turning point for the son in this parable. He recognized his sin. He repented of his sin. And he and his father rejoiced in the forgiveness of sins.

Most people like a happy ending, and the ending to this story couldn't be much happier. The only thing that's missing is "and they lived happily ever after." But it's just a story, right? It didn't really happen.

In the real world the outcome would be different. If the son would have died of starvation in that foreign country, that would be real. If the father would have held a grudge and never spoke to his son again, that would be real. If the two men would have settled their differences on a daytime TV talk show, even that would be more real.

I am here to tell you today that this story is not just a story. It's real. It really happened. And it has everything to do with another Son. The prodigal son was rebellious. God's Son was obedient. The prodigal son was sinful. God's Son was perfect. The prodigal son felt the full weight of his sin. God's Son took on his shoulders the sins of the world.

Jesus paid for the sins of the world, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood. Jesus died on the cross for you, and as a result you are free. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are no longer the property of Satan. Because Jesus sacrificed his life for you, you belong to him. You have been REDEEMED.

Sin separates people from God. Because of our sin we bring down on ourselves the righteous judgment of God. But because Jesus has redeemed us, God the righteous Judge doesn't condemn us. Instead He steps down from the bench as says to us: "Because my Son took your place, you don't have to be afraid of me. Don't think of me as an angry judge. Think of me as your loving father. Think of yourself as my dear child. Thanks to Jesus our relationship has been RESTORED."

Maybe you are thinking to yourself: "This sounds too good to be true. I would like to believe that I am on good terms with God, but I just can't. I am carrying too much baggage. There are too many skeletons in my closet. There is no way that God could possibly love someone as screwed up as me."

What I'm saying may sound too good to be true, but it is true. It's true because God says it's true. The Lord says: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18). God's Word promises: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). God's Word declares that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Two thousand years ago Jesus told a dying criminal: "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). And today that same Savior comes to you and says: You are FORGIVEN.

"Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven" is more than a sermon theme or a song title. It means something. It means that your soul is precious to God. It means that your sin no longer separates you from God. He is your loving Father. You are his dear child.

No matter how far you have drifted away, he still loves you. No matter how long you have been away, his arms are open wide. No matter what has happened in the past, there is hope for the future. Because of Jesus, you have the real hope of eternal life in heaven. Amen.

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