Sunday Afternoon Musings
This morning I preached the third message from Luke 15. The so-called “Parable of the Prodigal Son” is perhaps the best know and the worst titled parable of all of Jesus’ masterpieces. Some have called it the greatest short story ever told. Jesus is hunting hearts.
Unfortunately, both the naming of the parable and the predominant focus when it is taught leads us away from the point that Jesus was primarily aiming at.
The parable was told for a particular audience. Verses 1-2 tell us that the Pharisees and the Scribes were upset with the rabble that was drawing near to Jesus. They felt the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus was eating with were unclean and unworthy of an audience with Jesus. Verse 3 is short but is the key to interpreting the entire parable, “So, he told them this parable.”
Because He knows their heart, because He knows they are feeling self-righteous, because He knows that they don’t see the wonder of sinners returning to God, because He wants to penetrate their defenses and call them to see as He sees, “He told them this (singular) parable.”
Here’s the outline of the last three weeks:
Week 1: Lost and Found
- Jesus teaches to the moment. (vs. 1-3)
–things to understand about the moment
- He is setting up the interpretation. (vs. 4-7)
–how Jesus builds his parable
- He underlines that the parable is about repentance. (vs. 8-10)
–this is the critical thing to remember as we move to “the prodigal”
Week 2: The Dysfunctional Younger Son
- Lost people matter to God.
- You (and your “prodigal”) have never sunk so low
that you don’t matter to God.
- Repentance releases joy.
- Grumbling is inappropriate when heaven is rejoicing.
Week 3: The Dysfunctional Older Brother
. (Like the younger son, …)
- He believes the father owes him something.
- He lives for himself. (He is just as far away from the father, just in a more socially acceptable way.)
- He doesn’t relate to the father with respect.
- He can be restored.
The Pharisees and Scribes are the targets for the parable (vss. 1-3). Who were they? One way of thinking of them is that they were the most Bible literate, Bible-quoting, Bible doing, Bible-honoring, people of the first century. Who would fit that description today? Wouldn’t it be we evangelicals?
As a group, is there anyone who takes the Bible more seriously, quotes it more, or honors it more than us? This parable is targeting us. It is an arrow designed to get past our defenses. It is Jesus warning us to delight in the return of sinners to Him. It is Jesus inviting us to abandon “older brother” arrogance, hardness of heart, intolerance, and self-righteousness and join the celebration party that is happening “before the angels of heaven.”
Why does Jesus want this for the “older brothers” that we sometimes become?
Because, like the prodigal, we are only truly ourselves when we are on our way home to the Father. Because we are only truly ourselves when our heart is continually repenting and seeking relationship with the Father. Because we are only truly ourselves when honoring the Father is the passion of our heart.
You see, Jesus is hunting our hearts.
Let’s wake up tomorrow and ask God to help us come to ourselves (vs. 17). Let’s ask Him to give us the heart of the prodigal so that we can avoid becoming the self-righteous older brother.