Today I'm starting a two-part series on what is popularly known as the "Parable of the Prodigal Son." I'm sure many of us have heard this story many times and there are a lot of great books written just about this parable. There is something about the prodigal son that we identify with in ourselves. But there are really three main characters in this story. The first is the father, then the younger, "prodigal" son and lastly the elder brother. In this sermon I will focus on the father and the next sermon will focus on the sons (This sermon will be on April 6th).
When we focus on the character of the father, one question arises in my mind: What kind of father gives his son an early inheritance, lets him leave home and then welcomes him back? Would you do that? What would you think if you heard of a parent doing that?
I think this father is able to do this because he is 1) crazy generous; 2) has crazy patience and 3) has crazy grace. These qualities enable him to have a love for his son that is able to let go but not give up.
When the younger son asked the father for his share of the inheritance, it could have been considered a grave insult. Normally an inheritance was given upon the death of the father. In this case, the younger son would inherit one-third and the elder brother would inherit two-thirds of the estate. A Jewish wisdom book written 200 years before Christ advised fathers against giving an early inheritance. But the father is crazy generous and gives it to the son.
Jesus is revealing the heart of another Father who is crazy generous. God the Father was crazy generous in giving us His Son. The dictionary definition of prodigal is "wastefully or recklessly extravagant." There is even a book written entitled "Prodigal God" that incited some negative reviews because of this title.
The point the author may be making with this provocative title is the question: Who is this God who would recklessly, seemingly wastefully spend the blood of his precious son for sinners like us? Romans 8:32 tells us "He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" and Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
While we were still sinners, God decided to lavishly, generously give His Son Jesus Christ for our sins, without requiring our worship and obedience as a prerequisite.The father is crazy generous with a love that enables him to give to his son and let him go.
Not only was the father able to let go, he never gave up. He had crazy patience. Luke 15:13-19 tell us that the younger son set off for a distant country, squandered all that he had, and had to start working for a pig farmer before he came to his senses and decided to return home. In Luke 15:20 we see the patience of the father. "...while he was still a long way off" gives the impression that maybe the father was looking out for his son every day, longing for his return.
1 Corinthians 13:4 reminds us "Love is patient." 2 Peter 3:3-8 tell us just how patient God is "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
The father never gave up hope that his son would return. In the same way, our Father God is patiently waiting for us to come to repentance and He never gives up on us.
Lastly, the father had crazy grace. A common definition of grace is "getting something you don't deserve." In Luke 15:21, the son had a definite sense of sin. His declaration to the father is "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." And in the background of his repentance, the compassion and grace of the father shines out.
The father runs to his son, clothes him with a robe and a ring and sandals (restoring his place in the family) and has a feast to celebrate his return! The son would not have to become a hired hand and earn his restoration. The son did nothing but return. This is crazy grace.
The Father God offers us this same crazy grace when we come home to him in repentance. The Father runs to us and clothes us with Christ's righteousness. There is nothing we can do to earn it. We only need to return.
In this parable is the story of a father who was able to let go and never give up, and it is the story of our Father in heaven who lets us go and never gives up on us. There is hope in God's crazy generosity, crazy patience and crazy grace.
But it is also an invitation to be like the Father. Are there some people and situations we are having a hard time letting go? Are there people and situations you have given up on? What would it look like to have a heart that is able to let go but not give up?
How will you experience God's generosity, patience and grace for yourself and then pass it on to others this week?