Going Deeper 3-29-2019

The Gospel reading for Lent 4...
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32   Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."  So he told them this parable:  "There was a man who had two sons.  The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.'  So he divided his property between them.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.  When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.  He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!  I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."  So he set off and went to his father.  But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate.  Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.  He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.  He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.'  Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.  But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!'  Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"

This is one of the most beloved stories ever told, commonly referred to as "The Parable of the Prodigal Son."  Most of our attention has been on the prodigal and his journey from rebellion to restoration.  His is a story that many can relate to.  But others have stated that this should be called  "The Parable of the Loving Father" as His gracious reception of prodigal appears to be the climax of the story.

However, I think the best 'title' I have come across is this: "The Parable of the Two Lost Sons."  This takes into account the context in which Jesus tells the story.  Because of HIs gracious reception of prodigal outcasts-- "tax collectors and sinners"-- the insiders look down upon Him.  Those who by virtue of their own virtues and religious status feel as if they are deservedly favored by God have always tended to look down in judgment upon those whose lives are clearly broken.

In truth, perhaps we all ought to be able to relate to both brothers.  At times we have played the role of the prodigal, wandering away from God and living self-centered lives focused on worldly pleasures, while at other times we have stood in self-righteous judgment against others whose moral behavior doesn't live up to our own.  It is quite possible that we can play both roles at the very same time.

But here is the main point: The father loves both brothers.  His desire is to embrace both.  The problem is that only one has a repentant spirit.  If at any future point the self-righteous brother repents of his sin, the father will equally embrace him in grace.

What a beautiful and important story.  Thank you, Jesus!!

With You in His Embrace,
Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."