God Desires a Relationship with Wayward Children (Luke 15:11-32)

God Desires a Relationship with Wayward Children (Luke 15:11-32)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 19, 2022: Father’s Day

Let me once again say Happy Father’s Day!

The Scriptures give us an image of God as our Father. We see this in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. Though there is plenty to get into with this subject, I only want to talk about a parable that Jesus told. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells a story in which the father in the story represents God. I want to talk about this parable.

As I talk about this parable, I want to show that this parable shows us that God is a Father to us, and as a father to us He persistently desires for us to come to Him. When we come to God, He welcomes us regardless of what we have done in our past. God is available to us.

My theme today is:

Jesus tells a parable describing God’s desire for a relationship with us like a father wanting a relationship with his wayward son.

I need to make a disclaimer. Parables are not allegories. They are stories with a purpose. In this case, the purpose is to show that lost people matter to God. To do this Jesus told a story about a wayward son and how the father longs for him to come home. Maybe we can make some indirect applications to parenting, but the main point of the parable is that God is a loving Father longing for a relationship with us.

Let’s read this parable in its entirety:

Luke 15:11-32:

11 And he said, “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 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 his property in reckless 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 ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, 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 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.’ 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.

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.’”

  1. Let’s start by talking about this illustration of a son who goes wayward
    1. We call this the parable of the prodigal son. Prodigal means “extravagant or wasteful.” As you heard in the parable, the son wastes his father’s money.
    2. There are two sons in this parable and the younger tells his father that he wants his share of the estate. Now, you must know that there are a couple problems with this. The first problem is that asking for an inheritance early is like saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead!”
      1. Regardless of the insult the father divides the inheritance between his two sons. This is the second problem. According to the Old Testament (DT 21:7), the elder son was supposed to receive a double portion.
      2. Jesus is showing that regardless of what we do, God is our Father and as our Father, He welcomes us into His loving arms.
    3. Verses 13-14 show that the son takes his father’s money, and he leaves. Jesus says that he wasted his wealth with wild living. Jesus doesn’t tell us what the son was involved in but we can take a guess. We can take a guess because some of you have been in situations like this.
    4. Verses 15-16 show that now, this son is feeding pigs. Pigs were an unclean animal in Judaism, so for Jesus’ audience, this is a big deal. This son has sunk to a very low station in life. But Jesus is setting this up to show the great, great love of God, our Heavenly Father.
    5. Verses 17-19 show that the son is repentant. He realizes what has happened to his station in life. He is ready to confess this to his father.
    6. Verses 20-24 show us that as he comes back to his father, his father sees him from a distance and runs to him. We also see that his father wants to throw a party to welcome his son home.
    7. In that day it was considered a breach of an adult male’s dignity to run, but this father is so excited to see his son come home that he runs to him and embraces him.
    8. Jesus is showing how eager God, the Father, is for a relationship with us.
    9. I have noticed the joys of parenting are great and there is nothing my daughters could do to make me love them more. But with the joys come the great responsibility and being hurt because you know that your child, whom you greatly love is in a bad situation.
    10. Some of us can hear this story and think like the eldest son. We see his reaction in verses 25-32.
    11. The eldest son’s thinking is on the side of TRUTH—all TRUTH and no grace. His thinking is that the younger brother made his decisions and he should live with them.
    12. But I think that no matter what that elder son cannot see things the way a parent would. That elder son just can’t think about watching the boy learn to walk, rocking him to sleep at night, teaching him to fish, school programs, and all those other things. A parent thinks with their emotions.
    13. I believe that God made us emotional because I think God has emotions. The Father in this parable is clearly God and when we are in the filth of life; when we are in bad situations, I think that God hurts. Some of you know what it is like to hurt and ache and lose sleep because your child is in a bad situation. Then I think you know a small element of how God feels when we are in a bad situation. God grieves and God hurts. Then when we choose to come back to God, He runs to us and throws a party in Heaven.
    14. A man was commissioned to paint a picture of the Prodigal Son. He went into his work fervently, laboring to produce a picture worthy of telling the story. Finally, the day came when the picture was complete, and he unveiled the finished painting. The scene was set outside the father’s house, and showed the open arms of each as they were just about to meet and embrace. The man who commissioned the work was well pleased, and was prepared to pay the painter for his work, when he suddenly noticed a detail that he had missed. Standing out in the painting above everything else in the scene, was the starkly apparent fact that the father was wearing one red shoe and one blue shoe. He was incredulous. How could this be, that the painter could make such an error? He asked the painter, and the man simply smiled and nodded, assuring the man, “Yes, this is a beautiful representation of the love of God for His children.” “What do you mean?” he asked, puzzled. “The father in this picture was not interested in being color-coordinated or fashion-conscious when he went out to meet his son. In fact, he was in such a hurry to show his love to his son, he simply reached and grabbed the nearest two shoes that he could find. “He is the God of the Unmatched Shoes.”[1]
  2. What are some applications from this parable?
    1. The first application goes along with the theme: God is a Father to us, and as a Father to us, He persistently desires for us to come to Him. When we come to God He welcomes us regardless of what we have done in our past. God is full of grace. This doesn’t compromise Truth. In this parable, the son did recognize what he did was wrong and confessed that to his father. There is such a thing as sin and repentance.
    2. This parable shows us that God wants to be involved in our lives.

A final application comes from this example:

A San Diego father (who wants to be known as “Frank”) believed his son, a homeless, heroin addict living on the streets in Denver, was on the verge of dying. Frank contacted Chris Conner, one of Denver’s leading homeless advocates. Conner has helped parents find their lost children, but this was different. Conner said, “I’ve never had a parent who necessarily went this far to descend into homelessness themselves.” Conner connected Frank with Pastor Jerry Herships, whose church serves lunch to homeless people in a Denver park across from the state capitol.

Frank described the moment he met his son on the street in Denver:

He has no idea that I’m walking towards him. I can see that he can’t stand up without the support of a building. He would appear drunk to most people. To his dad, though, I know from past experience, sadly he’s on heroin—heavy. I go up to him, and he starts to turn his back on me. I don’t even care. I just grab him and squeeze him as hard as I can.

For a week, Frank became his son’s shadow, wandering the streets during the day and sleeping on the banks of a river at night. He grew a beard, ate hand-out sandwiches during the day, and swatted away the rats at night. Meanwhile, his son got sick, in and out of the hospital, stealing to buy more drugs. At one point, Frank told his son, “If you die, your mom and dad die with you. We might still be here breathing. But make no mistake, we’ll be dead inside.”

When asked why he did it, Frank said, “The only thing I could think of was just go there, be with him and love him. Show him how much his family loves him.”[2]

How far will we go for our children regardless of how old they are?

How far does God go for us? We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Let’s pray

[1] Contributed by: Wayne Major found at SermonCentral

[2] Andrea Dukakis, “A Father Feared For His Son’s Life, So He Joined Him On The Street,” NPR (6-23-18)

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