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Sep 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 2, 2018 – Luke 15:1-7, 11-32

Are We On the Same Page?

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable, saying,
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:1-7

Intro: At first it looks like this chapter is going to be about Jesus

His compassion and his close connection with sinners
– a connection that was very offensive to the religious people in the crowd
• but Jesus tells three stories that introduces a different theme
• the chapter isn’t about the scandal of Jesus’ ministry
◦ it’s about people who are unable to rejoice with Jesus in his work

A few key words in these opening verses:

  1. “Sinners” – they are at the heart of the controversy
    • Jesus offers the religious group a new perspective
    • namely, something of value had been lost, but then found
  2. “This” – “this man”; this expression serves to depersonalize Jesus
    • a way of disowning someone
    • Peter, I do not know this man you are talking about (Mk. 14:71)
    • we will return to this point later
    3. “Rejoice”
    • for some, rejoicing is spontaneous (v. 5)
    • others have to be encouraged or told to rejoice (vv. 6 & 9)
    • heaven’s joy over the recovery of a sinner is spontaneous
    ◦ and even more so
    than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance

Now we’ll jump to the longest parable Jesus ever told

A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me. So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living Luke 15:11-32

This parable divides into two parts
– the first part shares the same plot as the two previous parables
• something goes missing, is found, and rejoicing follows
◦ only in this story, the lost object is humanized — it is not a sheep or a coin, but a son
• everyone in Jesus’ audience would recognize and agree:
◦ the younger son was a sinner — like those hanging around Jesus
• this is a fact that he came to see for himself and confess (v. 18)
– his turning point occurs in verse 17,

But when he came to his senses . . .

• or “came to himself” – he took a good, hard look at himself
• he realized he would be better off at home, under his father’s roof

Having made up his mind, he began to formulate a prayer
– a confession of what he had done and what he had become

Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men (vv. 18-19)

• “worthy” is not what defines a child’s relationship to its parent
• being a accepted as a child is not something a person should ever have to earn
– his request would be that his father would make him one of his hired hands
(he never reached this part of his prayer, because his father interrupted him and ordered his servants to put nice clothes on his son and throw a party to welcome him home, vv. 22-24)
• “make” translates the Greek word poieo
◦ we get our English word “poem” from this root
◦ a poem is something that is made or composed

This word is used when Jesus said to his disciples, Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men (Mk. 1:17)
Paul used a form of this word when he wrote, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ep. 2:10)

• this wayward son had come to a new understanding
◦ his father could make him something he could not make of himself

The second part of the parable introduces a new character

Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back save and sound.” But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him (Lk. 15:25-26)

This character is implied by the stock characters in the first two parables
(the anonymous “friends and neighbors” invited to rejoice)
– here the character is individualized and made explicit — an older brother
• it is his reaction to how his father treated his brother that is Jesus’ primary theme
• he does not share his father’s spontaneous joy over the younger son’s return
– the older brother refused to set foot in the home and join the party
• when making his case to his father, he refers to his brother as this son of yours
◦ notice how Jesus borrows this expression fro the Pharisees and scribes, this man (v. 2)
• but his Dad won’t let him off the hook, and says in response, this brother of yours
◦ Jesus wasn’t concerned about the religious people disowning himself
◦ but he did not want them disowning God’s “other children”

We are very aware that Jesus did not finish the story
– did the father convince his older son that he should share his joy?
• did the older son go into the house? Did he embrace his brother?
• or did he stay outside, grumbling?

In this story, Jesus attempts the impossible

He is trying to pry open the minds of his pious critics

Gerry Spence, a successful defense explains “that arguing directly into prejudice is like hollering at the kitchen sink.” He asks, “How do you argue into the storm of social prejudice? You usually do not steer into it head-on. You tack into it like a sailboat heading into the storm.”

– Jesus wasn’t trying to get sinners in crowd to repent and come home
• they were already doing this
• he was reaching out to the ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance
◦ he was trying to get them to repent and come home
– this is the surprise in his story – and, in fact, the whole point of the story
• the son who always obeyed and never did wrong
(and wouldn’t every parent love to have a son like that!)
◦ he was now the one who needed to change and come home
◦ which was exactly what the Pharisees and scribes were refusing to do

In the late 1960’s, hippies began to crowd into my dad’s church
– I would describe my initial attitude as smug amusement
• they had stepped onto my turf – I knew the Bible
– but one day it hit me, all of this old stuff was alive for them
• the scriptures were today, and more important than anything else in world
• they were actually living in Jesus,
◦ not out of duty or because they had no choice
◦ but because they wanted to, they were grateful to, and they had joy!

Several of those hippies eventually became preachers
– some time later, I heard one of them say he liked preaching in prisons
“You don’t need to convince prisoners that they’re sinners”
• now I wonder if I could have convinced him,
◦ he was still a sinner too
– if the younger son in the parable had made his confession to his brother
• the older brother would not have stopped him mid-sentence
◦ he would have heard him out patiently and then said something like:

“Well, I’m happy you’ve come to your senses.
You know, you’ve not only wasted your inheritance,
but you broke Dad’s heart.
Now that you’re back, I’ll make sure you have food and shelter,
but you’ll start on the bottom rung.
You’re going to have to work hard to prove yourself.
Maybe some day you will finally work-off your shame.”

There is no question that the brothers were very different

Or that one of them went wrong, while the other stayed right
– but at the same time, they shared a common defect
• they believed the illusions of their false selves
• the younger brother’s illusions were obvious to everyone
◦ and eventually became obvious to himself
◦ did the older brother ever discover his own illusions?
– for almost four decades I lived in a small mind, stuck in a small world
• most of my thoughts were automatic and repetitious
◦ my brain learned to filter information so that it confirmed to my beliefs
◦ the same was true of my feelings, they were also automatic and repetitious
• Jon Kabat-Zinn, wrote a book on mindful meditation,
◦ the title is, Coming to Our Senses
◦ like the younger son, coming to our senses brings awareness that allows us to move out of our small minds and small worlds

We don’t have to visit different worlds or invent them
– we have to learn to see our world differently – and ourselves differently
– this is the gift Jesus gave his religious audience — those willing to receive it
• the opportunity to see differently and to change, to repent
• and to break out of the box they were in

Conclusion: If you write an autobiography,

It means that you write the story of your life
– so an autobiography means you write your story two times;
• first when you live it, and then when you report it
– as I mentioned, the first two parables have endings
• but Jesus left the story of the lost son unfinished
• perhaps he was waiting for the Pharisees to ask him,
“How does it end?”
◦ and his answer would have been,
“How does it end? You will write that part”

He puts us in the same position
– we know the ending Jesus wants us to write
• the question is Will we? Can we?
• we can stay stuck in our habitual self,
◦ or we can repent – we can work on changing
◦ beginning with this new perspective, seeing others through his eyes

What could seeing through God’s eyes do for us?
I suppose the question should be,
what could it do for others if we saw them
through the eyes of Jesus?
This new perspective could make us more aware;
aware of our own homesickness and sin,
and how God’s infinite love extends to all of his children.
A new perspective could also make us
more sensitivity to the subtle ways
that grace enters our lives every day.
If that begins to happen for us,
then whenever grace manifests,
let’s embrace it, feel it, give thanks for it, and share it

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