Tested Faith—The Uniform Lesson for April 24, 2016

April 17, 2016 1 Comment »
Tested Faith—The Uniform Lesson for April 24, 2016

By Mark Scott

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 1.29.00 PMThis parable is the most familiar of Jesus’ 40 parables. Jesus’ teaching on discipleship ended with the words, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Luke 14:35). The most unlikely people, namely tax collectors and sinners, drew near to hear him (15:1). To justify his association with such folk, Jesus told three parables that act as one (notice the singular use of “parable” in Luke 15:3). 

Coming to His Father

Luke 15:11-19

Jesus began the story with the phrase, There was a man who had two sons. Both times Jesus started parables this way did not end well for the religious leaders (Matthew 21:28-32). While we should be careful of assigning meaning that may not have been intended (allegorization), it is hard not to think of the father as God, the younger son as the tax collectors and sinners, and the older son as the Pharisees and scribes. 

Perhaps Helmut Thielicke is correct in calling the story The Waiting Father. Father occurs 12 times in the story (9 times in our text). Three times in our text the younger son uses the direct address, “Father” (vv. 12, 18, 22). No doubt the younger son broke his father’s heart by saying, “Give me my share of the estate.” In the Middle East that means, “I wish you were dead.” One would expect the father to discipline his son or at least object to this flying-in-the-face-of-love. Instead, with great vulnerability, the father divided his property between them. 

Verses 13-16 tell of the downward spiral of the young brother’s poor choice. He set off for a distant country (“far off”—the same word is translated in v. 20 when the father sees him; also used in Ephesians 2:13). This is pagan territory. He squandered his wealth in wild living (the same word describes the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1). When the son was at the end of his resources, a severe famine occurred. Biblically speaking this was Jesus’ way of saying that someone was not obeying God. The son got a job feeding pigs (consider how that went against the Levitical dietary code) and longed to fill his stomach with what the pigs ate. Things could not have been worse.

Things for the son also could not have been better—when we come to the end of ourselves it is a glorious moment. The young man came to his senses. The boy assessed his situation, compared it to the life he had with his father, made a plan, and rehearsed his speech. 

This action took courage. In the shame and honor culture of which he was a part, to return home after bringing dishonor and financial ruin to the family was a huge risk. There were no guarantees that things would go well. He recognized that his sin not only broke his father’s rules but also broke his father’s heart. Perhaps there was a fraction of works righteousness in him thinking he could work hard to pay off his debt. But his efforts to make himself right were quickly jettisoned when he saw his father running toward him.

Coming to His Father Again

Luke 15:20-24

Verse 20 is probably one of the greatest verses in the Bible depicting the love of God in story form: His father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Love, tenderness, and protection are all in evidence.

The son tried to get his recorded speech out, but the father interrupted with plans for a spontaneous party. The son may have started his journey back home by coming to himself, but he was pulled all the way home by his father coming to him. The best robe was placed on his back. The signet ring was put on his finger and sandals were brought for his feet (only sons wore shoes; hired men worked in bare feet). “The” fattened calf (the one being nurtured for the next big occasion) was slaughtered. 

This is the story of the younger brother. It is the story of the tax collectors and sinners. It is our story. And it is the essence of the gospel and the story of the love of God.

Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.

Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.

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One Comment

  1. KENNETH TROMP April 21, 2016 at 12:15 PM - Reply

    Just some thoughts that should be considered:
    From my youth I have been taught that these three parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost (prodigal) son, were for lost people i.e. the unsaved. However, when you look at these they indicate ownership. The shepherd didn’t find someone else’s sheep he found one of his own that had wandered off. The lady didn’t find someone else’s coin it belonged to her. The father didn’t find someone else’s son, he was continually looking and expecting his own son.
    In the scripture we are not called “children of God” until we accept Jesus as Savior. Romans 8:9-179
    But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
    10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
    11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
    12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
    13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
    14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
    15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
    16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
    17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint- heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Emphasis mine)
    Often we have a tendency to use parables or even some other scriptures to focus on the lost when they are really speaking to those who are believers. Example Rev 3:20 Where Jesus is standing at the door of the church at Laodicea as verse 22 says “he that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
    It was mentioned that the son may have felt he could work off his debt; however, he wasn’t in debt to his father since what he got was his 1/3 share of his inheritance. He didn’t borrow the money from his father he just got his share. Granted the inheritance. The Law said the inheritance was split upon the death of the father but the father divided it between the two. The brother got his also.
    He was humbled by his past and wanted to just work for room and board. He was willing to be viewed by his father not as a son (which he felt he didn’t deserve) but as a hired servant.
    It becomes apparent that heaven rejoices when we who are “Children of God” repent. As John makes clear that even though we are believers we still sin. 1 John 1:8-10
    8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
    9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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