Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 12, 2018
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.”
— Luke 15:11-24, ESV
Jesus’ theme of lost and found now incarnates from a sheep and a coin to two human beings, two sons, a younger and an older. The youngest is a representative of “the tax collectors and sinners,” while the elder is more like “the Pharisees and scribes” (ref. Luke 15:1-2). For two thousand years the young son has garnered the most press, being dubbed with the infamous nickname, “The Prodigal Son.” However, he is just prodigal one. The older brother is prodigal, too.
One thing they both have in common is a fabulous father, who should be and will be the focus of this familiar story. But the two sons’ respective relationships with the father are diametrically opposed. The younger son seemed far from the father, and indeed ventured afar, yet he was always close, very close, to the father’s heart. The older son seemed near the father, virtually hand in hand, yet his hard heart was always very distant from the father.
This sermon will touch on prodigal one’s relationship with his father. Next week we’ll tackle prodigal two. I hope prodigal one’s story is your story, for I am quite sure it is mine.
Prodigal one rebelled and the Father let him.
There are some things you just didn’t do in the polite Jewish society of Jesus’ day, things that would be equally uncouth today. You don’t dishonor your parents and you certainly don’t wish out loud they were dead. Prodigal one, however, did both.
In seeking to claim his inheritance before his father’s demise, the young son, the prodigal one, said at least two things. He pronounced his hatred of the provincial life provided by his father; and, he declared his wish for the father to be dead, so that he could get his hands on the family money. Strangely, in the story’s first twist, the father took no punitive action but rather acquiesced to the younger son’s demand. Prodigal one, in the words of the Steve Miller Band, took the money and run.
This is a scene of youthful angst and rebellion that has played out on a billion stages. He gets the keys at sixteen and hot rods into the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. She goes off to college and the former teen queen turns into a wild woman. Family and faith are left behind in the dust of another rebel, another prodigal, another wild child, another natural and normal human being.
We are all rebels at heart. We are born that way and we choose to be that way (ref. (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). This is why salvation requires a re-birth, or new birth (ref. John 3). This is not a surprising beginning to the same old story, child rebels against parent. What is unusual is the father’s response. He lets him go.
The father allowed the son, prodigal one, to make a free and willing choice. But the bondage of his will made him want to be free from God and godly things. He could have stayed, under the father’s care, love, and guidance; but, he chose to go headlong into a wide, wild world. God has given every man, woman, boy, and girl the same choice. And all of us, without exception, choose to rebel, sin, and break the heart of our heavenly Father.
Prodigal one ruined his life and the Father watched him.
After the money came in, prodigal one’s hormones kicked in. Without the guidance of the father, freedom imprisoned him. Apparently, rebellion is not all its cracked up to be.
I’m sure when the young man was spending his father’s money on wine, women, and song (in inappropriate ways), he had lots of new friends. His house of fun was actually a den of iniquity, but human lust longs for nothing more than a party past God’s curfew. Sooner or later, however, the music stops.
The Holy Spirit is the only fountain that never runs dry. Everything else is bound to evaporate. Prodigal one’s money ran out and his friends ran off. He went from being a free man to an indentured servant on a pig farm, something that would have been especially repulsive to Jewish sensibilities. His young life, so full of vim and vigor, was ruined.
The father is not credited with a response in the text. But read between the lines. You know the father knew, for he could see with spiritual eyes. Wise fathers and mothers always know what their kids are up to, the approximate state of their rebellion, and the cost they will incur. Godly wisdom knows the old cliche is true, that sin will take you father than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
Prodigal one paid it all. So did someone else, but His story is hidden in this one.
Prodigal one repented and the Father inspired him.
At the end of your rope there is nothing but hope. You cannot spend it, drive it, or drink it. But hope is there and it is more valuable than any material thing on earth. Godly hope ignites the mind, spreads to the heart, and transforms the will.
Knee deep in mud and starved half to death, a memory pinged in prodigal one’s mind. He remembered the kindness of the father, how even the servants were well cared for on his family farm. Oh to live back home, even as a slave and not a son. It would be so much better than the end of this rope he was holding.
Then, prodigal one’s heart broke. He realized the extent of his rebellion. He knew, or at least he thought he knew, he had forfeited forever the right to be the son of such a fine father. It was his fault, too, not the father’s. Still, like Dylan said, you gonna have to serve somebody, and serving the old man as a bond-slave would be better than remaining lost in a far country.
So, another free choice was made, this time enabled by a nobler will. Just as prodigal one had decided to leave home, he endeavored to return, and put feet to his prayers. Off he went on the most amazing adventure of this life, and the life to come.
The turning of the mind, the heart, and the will is a biblical thing called repentance. It is a gift from God, inspired by God, instilled by God, and it changes everything. You see, it absolutely was the love, grace, and spirit of the father which enabled the son to come home.
Prodigal one returned and the Father embraced him.
Israel, then and now, contains a heartland and a wild west coast. Sounds like the USA, doesn’t it? Rebellious kids always head for the coast. This means that every evening, this father looked into a setting sun with a burning eye, a broken heart, and a boundless hope, waiting for his boy to come home.
Then, that day dawned. The father saw him a long way off, of course. He had been looking for him the whole time. The shepherd finds the sheep, the woman finds the coin, and the father finds the son. For the reunion, the son used hands and knees. The Father takes his everlasting arms and throws them around the redeemed prodigal.
The son is profoundly changed, and will continue to be changed, by the compassion and grace of the father. Prodigal one confesses his sin and rebellion, pledges his willingness to be a slave, and begs for grace, mercy, and peace. Of course, he gets all three, and more.
Surely you see the picture. By grace he is clothed with a robe of righteousness, in mercy he receives the ring and authority of a son, and he is made to walk in peace with shoes on his feet, for the first time as a truly free man and fortunate son of a fabulous father.
A celebration is certainly in order, and ordered immediately by the father. Partying is always better if you go with God. Every one seemed overjoyed at prodigal one, except prodigal two. His story remains to be told.
But for now, focus on prodigal one. If you were once lost but now found, he is you and you are him. For his story, the parable of the prodigal son, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org