(Calling the Lost)
Background Reading: Luke 15
Devotional Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16
Keep in Mind:
"22But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 24for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry " (Luke 15:22, 24).
IDENTIFY with the characters in Jesus’ parable;
SENSE God’s grief over his lost children; and
SUGGEST culturally appropriate ways to rejoice with new believers.
Parables are illustrations Jesus uses to teach kingdom concepts, principles, or to demonstrate the nature of God using characters and settings relatable to the hearer's everyday life and customs. His aim is to make the kingdom known to His disciples and others following Him. There are three parables of Jesus in Luke 15: the lost sheep (verses 1-7), the lost coin (verses 8-10), and the prodigal son. Each story demonstrates God's heart in retrieving that which is lost and the great lengths to which love drives Him to recover what belongs to Him. The parable of the lost sheep is also in Matthew 18:12-14, but the lost coin and prodigal son are only in Luke's Gospel.
The telling of parables was often prompted by Jesus' encounters with the Pharisees and scribes to answer their complaints and accusations , or confront their attempts to entrap Him. In Luke 15:1-2, their complaint was about Jesus' inclusion of sinners at the dinner table with them. The Pharisees and scribes positioned themselves in their community above the average person. Because of their knowledge of the Law, they were considered the authority on what was acceptable. But here Jesus leveled the access to God the Father because through the Son all are welcome at the dinner table--a place of communion and intimacy.
He said: "A
certain man had two sons.
12And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood.
13And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
Jesus, the ultimate storyteller, uses a powerful climax to this discourse to grab the hearers’ attention and make a memorable point. He uses an illustration that hits home because those listening could in some wat relate to the story of this family conflict with an unexpected resolution. His central characters are a father and his sons. The younger son makes what is considered an insulting and brazen request of his father: to receive his share of the inheritance before his father’s death. The father grants his request and releases him to do whatever he pleases. The younger son leaves and goes far from his father’s house to live as he wishes. He pursues a wild life with no inhibitions and no rules but also no protection. Jesus shows how the younger son takes for granted what it means to be in his father’s house with all the rights and privileges he receives because of his connection.
1. Who in this narrative do you identify with most? How so?
2. How can stories like this parable help us teach and learn valuable life lessons in a different way?
Rock Bottom Results (Luke 15:14-19)
14But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine
in that land, and he began to be in want.
15Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." '
Jesus in this part of the story, shares with those listening the results of the younger son’s decision to leave his father’s protective covering and provision. The younger son has spent all of his share of his father’s inheritance, which could be assumed to be a sizable amount. His sin and folly have left him broken inside and out. The younger son has plummeted into an existence that is beneath his heritage. Worse yet, a famine has hit the country.
The younger son has nothing left to support himself with during this troublesome time and has to find work is a foreign country. He is able to get a job doing something no upstanding orthodox Jew would even think to do: working in the fields feeding pigs. Pigs are considered unclean, and for the son to be around them—especially to feed them—is disgraceful. This character in Jesus’ parable has hit such a low and is so famished that he desires to eat what the pigs are eating but is not allowed.
Satan always seeks to lure people into what appears attractive, exciting, and fun. As Jesus shows in this parable though, the result always leaves a person worse off than they could ever imagine.
The son in his despair realizes that there is another wat out of his trouble. He comes to his senses an recognizes that h can o home and work for his father as one of his hired hands. The son decides not to die of hunger but to go back to his father. He says within himself that he wil ask for forgiveness and further debase himself by acknowledging that because of his actions and behavior he is no longer worthy to be called a son but will be satisfied to be received s a hired hand.
1. Have you ever worked hard simply for the recognition, and did not receive it? Why do you think that happened?
2. How could we be more hospitable toward those who we are unfamiliar with? How could we do better in practicing humility when asked to do something that is out of our normal routine?
Fully Restored (Luke 15:20-24)
20And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still
a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his
neck and kissed him.
21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
22But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.
The younger son moves on his decision and heads home, but while making his way toward the property, his father recognizes him from afar and runs out to meet him. His father is filled with compassion and so grateful to see him alive that he throws his arms around his son’s neck and kisses him. This is not the greeting the younger son expects. The father could have been angry with him for spending his inheritance and returning home broke. He could have banished him from his property. But the father’s response is the opposite.
The father loves as only a parent can: unconditionally. This parable is Jesus’ most powerful depiction of the love of God as Father. This parable displays God’s redemption. Humanity deserves to be cast out but because of the Father’s fierce, unending love we are called back into relationship.
The repentant son wants to explain to his father how he has sinned against him and God; he truly wants to accept responsibility for his poor decisions and brazen behavior, bringing shame to himself and his family name. The younger son humbles himself before his father, believing he is no longer worthy to be his son. The father has a different response to his son’s request. He calls his servants to bring out the best robe and out a ring on his son’s finger and sandals on his feet. He puts his son back in his rightful place and gives him authority as if he never left. The father then calls for a celebration with the finest of food and drink because this son who was dead is now alive again, he was lost but now has been found.
The telling of this story by Jesus must have been very jarring for the Pharisees and scribes. A son who behaved so poorly would never be accepted back into a typical Jewish household or received in such a way by a father. But Jesus shows what God the Father is really like. His nature and character is not to see His creation banished for eternity, for He longs for us to return to fellowship with Him and repent (2 Peter 3:9). As noted in Scripture, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble who turn away from sin (James 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:5-6). The parable of the prodigal son gives the original hearers and believers today a display of God’s great love, mercy, and grace that we can do nothing to earn.
1. How should we embrace our sisters and brothers when they come into the body of Christ? Sometimes people leave our local church for various reasons. How should we celebrate their return?
2. In what ways do we understand the love of God by the character of the father in the parable?
Lesson in Our Society
The parable of the prodigal son is a timeless display of the dangers of living outside God’s protective covering. No matter what distance we place between God and ourselves, He is always reaching out to retrieve that which is lost. God’s love is boundless; but it takes a conscious decision to receive God’s love. He told this parable for those listening in His time, and the illustration carries on with us in our time to share with others the Father’s redemptive, unfailing love. In response to the revelation that the Father is constantly reaching for those who are lost we are called to seek those whom the world would deem “lost.” Homeless, incarcerated, addicted, and oppressed people are the very ones God wants to give an opportunity for relationship with Jesus Christ, even if they put themselves in their negative situation. How can we be more intentional about receiving those who were “lost” when they make efforts to return to community?
Daily Bible Readings
Monday: Transformed by Christ into New Life – Ephesians 2:1-10
Tuesday: God Seeks the Scattered People
– Ezekiel 34:11-16
Wednesday: God’s Compassion for Straying People – Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9
Calling Sinners to Repentance – Luke
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