Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Greatest Story Ever Told (Part 1)


SERIES: Topical Messages: God: His Love For Sinners

SETTING: North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE: Sunday AM (November 8th, 2015)

SUBTITLE: The Greatest Story Ever Told: The Parable of the Loving Father

SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:11-19

SUBJECT: God loves sinners

SUMMARY: The proof of the Father’s love is demonstrated by the father’s acquiescence to the son’s request, in the reception by the father when the son returned to repent, when the father restored the son to an exalted position, and in the face of the younger son’s reaction.

SCHEME: To provide evidence, or proof of God’s love for sinners

Our theme is: God loves sinners


Interrogatory Sentence: How does God prove that he loves sinners who repent?

Transitional Sentence: The passage before provides seven (7) proofs that demonstrates that God loves sinners who repent:

• Is seen in the request
• Is seen in the response
• Is seen in the rebellion
• Is seen in the result
• Is seen in the repentance
• Is seen in the rejoicing
• Is seen in the reaction

[The Title of the Message]

The Greatest Story Ever Told: The Parable of the Loving Father (Part 1)

[Announce the Text]

Please open your Bibles to Luke 15:11-32

[Scripture Introduction]

This gospel was written by Luke to an important government figure in Rome named Theophilus. Luke wrote his gospel to ground Theophilus in the things that he had been taught about the incarnation of Christ and all the events that surrounded Christ’s life up to his ascension into heaven. Luke claimed to have perfect understanding of all the events involved in Christ’s life from his birth to his ascension. Luke did not write a biography but he did write the longest book of the New Testament. He focused on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Even though it was written to strengthen the faith of Theophilus, God has wonderfully preserved this gospel so that it serves to strengthen your faith. Luke, guided by the HS gave us a well-balanced presentation of the deity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Re-announce and read the text

Let’s now read Luke 15:11-32

Prayer for illumination & understanding

Heavenly and Gracious Father, we, your children know that in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Through your HS open our eyes that we may see the wonders of your Word; and give us grace that we may clearly understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

[Sermon Introduction]

It is estimated that more than 1.5 million American kids run away from home, or are kicked out of their home every year. Sixty-eight (68) % of those kids are between the ages of 15-17. Thirty-five (35) % of those kids had run away before.

As God’s children, do we ever run away from “home”? Running away entails leaving the home, but it also involves running from the presence, control, authority, guidance, and discipline of our mother and fathers.

I propose to you that at times that we all runaway. We might not run away from our physical home, we don’t have the opportunity at this time to run away from our heavenly home. But we do runaway from our Father’s presence, control, authority, guidance, and discipline when we sin and persist in our sin.

At times we sin, we violate the standards, the holiness, and the character of God our Father. Many times we choose to run from Him rather than run to him. During those times when we refuse to run to God, God brings us to a place where we recognize our rebellion and draws us to repentance and to himself. God loves repentant sinners.

This morning I want to share with you the proof that God loves sinners who repent. We do not have to be afraid of God even though we may have sinned, and even sinned egregiously against God.


I intend to prove to you that God loves sinners who repent

[Analytical Question]

What proof do we have that God loves sinners who repent? Our passage provides seven (7) proofs that God loves sinners who repent.

[Let’s begin examining the proof that God love sinners who repent by digging into…]

1A The Request made by the son for his inheritance

Now I know that we as God’s children almost never go to God and request that we be permitted to sin. But we see God’s love for His children by His acquiescence to the Son’s request knowing that this son would end up in sin.

[Luke writes in verses 11 and 12:]

“Then he said, “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me...’” (Luke 15:11-12a, NKJV)

[Before we become engaged in the ramification of this request let’s look at…]

1B The Set Up for this passage

Luke 14:1 states that Jesus went into a house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat. This event took place on a Sabbath Day. Verse one says that the Pharisees watched Jesus very closely. The Greek word Luke chose to use was  (paratereo.) This word means to “stand beside and watch, to watch assiduously, to observe carefully.” This word carries the meaning or idea of watching with the eyes carefully in order to see. The Pharisees watch closely and carefully to see what Jesus would do.

Why? Why were they so attentive watching Jesus? Well, it seems that one person at this dinner had a disease called dropsy.

Dropsy is an old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. Today one would be more descriptive and specify the cause. Thus, the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure.

The Pharisees asked Jesus whether it was lawful to heal on a Sabbath Day. It seems that Jesus had purposely choose a Sabbath Day to heal a person in need. It seems that Jesus saw the Sabbath Day as a “perfect” day to do acts of mercy.

So, the Pharisees are standing close to Jesus and they are watching him very carefully to see if he was going to heal this man who had the dropsy. We know that Jesus did in fact heal this man.

The Pharisees didn’t say anything, the text tells us they remained silent. He healed the man and sent him out of the house. Probably for his own safety.

Jesus asked the Pharisees that if they had a donkey that fell into a pit would they not rescue the animal. They still didn’t respond or say anything.

So Jesus tells them a story about guests who had been invited to a wedding feast. He told them how these guests came into the dinner area and tried to choose the best seats. Jesus tells the Pharisees not to choose the best seats

because if they did and someone came to them and told them to move so that somebody more important could sit there, they would be embarrassed.
He told them it would be better if they chose bad seats and then be told by the host to take better seats.

Jesus wants these Pharisees who are full of pride and envy to think humbly and even to look on the man whom he had healed as more important than their donkey or oxen. Jesus wanted them to have compassion and not pride because they would not heal or help someone on the Sabbath Day.

As a matter of fact Jesus says to them, give a supper and invite people who could not reciprocate or pay them back. In other words, be humble and act mercifully. Don’t do something for an immediate reward, but wait until after the resurrection and you have been rewarded then.

This story and suggestion by Jesus causes one of the Pharisees to do some thinking. He thinks of the coming Wedding Supper in the Kingdom of God and he says, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom.” This guy missed the point by a mile.

Let’s stop a minute and ask ourselves a question. Why did Jesus tell these parables or these stories? How do they relate to our passage at hand?

Jesus left the house of the Pharisee who had missed the point. He is walking in the midst of a crowd of people who had been following him. Maybe this crowd was thinking of the supper and all of the food and drink that this story conjured up. Maybe they were thinking about the miracle of the man who had been healed. Maybe they were thinking of those who had been spoken of who had been invited to the supper in the Kingdom. Myself, I think Jesus was going to expose the Pharisees as hypocrites.

So Jesus turns to the crowd who is following him and talks about what true discipleship really is. Jesus concludes chapter 14 by talking about true discipleship in verses 25-35.

He tells the crowd that a true disciple, a real follower of Jesus, the real deal, or real McCoy will hate his very own family and even his own life in contrast to the love and commitment that a real disciple has toward Jesus – the real disciple will pick up his/her cross and die each day and will count the true cost of being a real disciple.

So, those who are humbled, those who are unable to repay in like kind and those who were invited second – these are the real deal. Not the Pharisees who have exalted themselves, who throw lavish parties, who are repaid by even more lavish parties.

Jesus finishes this passage on real and biblical discipleship with a very serious admonition, “…he who has ears to hear, let him hear…”

The Pharisees were guilty of at least four (4) things:

• Despised people whom they considered to be sinners
• Discounted the value of or the compassion for sinners
• Defiantly refused to realize that they were sinners themselves.
• Determined to find no joy in seeing sinners come to repentance

So, Christ gave three (3) illustrations to them in order to illustrate the joy that God has over and with sinners who repent of their sin. God takes great joy and pleasure when sinners recognize their sin and repent of it.

• Christ illustrated this with the parable of the lost sheep 15:1-7
• Christ illustrated this with the parable of the lost coin 15:8-10
• Christ illustrated this with the parable of the lost son 15:11-32

Now you know the background behind this famous and beloved parable. The Pharisees had once again demonstrated their attitude toward sinners by the expression, “This man receives sinners and eats with them…” So Jesus makes known and corrects this sinful attitude by giving three examples of the joy that God has when sinners are confronted and repent of their sin. This then is The Set Up.

[Now that we have seen the setup, let’s turn our attention to what I call…]

2B The System behind this passage

This story is about Middle Eastern, first century, Jewish village and social life. For the most part we 21st century, western, Anglo-Saxons don’t really get this. These people lived in a time and place of what is called “shame/honor.” Members of accepted society did not do what would produce shame and you did what brought you honor.

Everything in this parable depicts shame for various actions and attitudes, especially from the perspective of the Pharisees. You will see this as we go along.

Remember, verse 11 - “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me...’”

The younger son is asking for his inheritance. We wants the share of his father’s estate that he would have gotten when his father died.

The idea of inheritance played a very important part in Jewish social life. There are two chief terms used in the Hebrew for this custom, one is a verb and one is a noun. By definition these terms refer to the estate that a child received from his father

• Fathers would pass their estate – all of their possessions, their title to the land to their children. The oldest son would receive a double share and then the rest of the estate was split evenly. If there were no sons in the family the estate would be given to the daughters in order to protect the family title.

• If there were no children, the estate would go to the man’s brothers, and if there were no brothers, it would go to the closest male in order to keep the property and possessions in the family.

• This was also why daughters were not to marry outside of the tribe of the father – they wanted to keep the land and property in the family.


When you go to God and ask God for various things you must be mindful and careful of your requests. Since the purpose of prayer is to bring your will, your desires, and your life into alignment with God’s will, purpose, and design we are both commanded and encouraged to pray and to pray often. Therefore, you should never be discouraged, frightened, or indefinite in the requests that you make to God. He is your father! You are his children. Just like your children came or may still come to you and ask you for things, go often to your Father and make your requests. Make your requests wise ones.

So, this was the system that was the foundation for the events in this parable. Now, let’s move to…

2B The Shame

This request was shocking to say the least and was very shameful.

1C The Problem with the request

First of all, the younger son had no say in the distribution of the wealth, possessions, or the estate. That was the privilege and duty of the older son. At that time there was a definite pecking order, and the younger son is out of order. This was a matter for the older son to deal with at the proper time.

It would have been considered so shameful that the father would have struck his son or even had him publicly beaten for such a disrespectful act as this one. The Pharisees who were listening to Jesus tell this story would have expected the father to severely discipline this son who had been so brash and so brazen to make such a request.

And, another thing that made this request so shameful was the fact that the older son did not defend his father by putting his younger brother in his place. He should have said or did something.

2C The Presumption by the request

Second of all, the younger son is basically saying, Father, I wish you were dead, or at least I would want you to be dead. You see, he was not entitled to anything while the father was alive.

He is saying, Father, you are standing in my way. You are standing in my way of living up my life the way I want to. I want to live it up.

So, if you won’t die then give me my money. This was a very shameful request. It was a slap in the face to his father. He is basically saying I don’t love you, or at least I love my inheritance more than you. I want out of here!

He is saying in essence, I don’t want your rules, your religion, or your rituals. I don’t want anything about you. I would rather you were dead so that I can get my hands on my inheritance.

3C The Provision for the request

There was a provision that could be pursued with legal proceedings. The actual total or amount of property and possessions could be totaled up while the father was still living to determine the amount of the expected inheritance. But the actual settlement of the estate and distribution would not take place until the father actually died. So the younger son was in essence declaring his father to be dead.

It is interesting to note that the Rabbis taught this: To son or wife, brother or friend, give no power over yourself while you live, and give not our goods to another so as to ask for them again. But we will see that the father ignored this teaching and did give his son power over
him and did give his goods to him.

Can you imagine the heart-break of the father? Can you imagine what the Pharisees are thinking as they hear Jesus tell this story? They would be thinking strike this kid, or bring him to us so that we can publically deal with him. They would be beside themselves to think that any Jewish father would entertain such a shameful request as this.

This request is shameful. It is shameful because of the problem it creates, because of the presumption involved, and because it violated a basic provision.

[Let’s move from the first proof in this parable to the second proof, and that is…]

2A The Response by the Father to his son (12b)

“So he divided to them his livelihood.”

Unbelievable! The father responded by complying with his younger son’s shameful request. This was a real “eye-roller.” What was he thinking? The Pharisees – this is who this story is for – would never believe that a Jewish father would respond this way.

Think about it. In order to divide up the estate, 2/3 would go to the older brother and 1/3 would go to this younger brother. The father would no longer have anything that was his.

1C The Size of his estate

It appears that the father had a large estate. How do we know this?

• The father had servants as part of his household and estate
• The father paid day laborers to work for him in his field (s)
• He had enough animals to kill “a fatted calf”
• He had a large enough land to require paid help to work it

2C The Settling of his estate

To give the younger son his inheritance he had to liquidate his estate. Now the father did not move off the property. He didn’t actually sell the property. But he did have to sell the property and possession at a discount.

The father would have to do at least two (2) things:

• He would have to find someone to appraise the value of the estate.
• He would have to find some to pay for the property and then wait until he died in order to actually take ownership of his estate.

The father actually mortgaged his estate for a discounted price to someone who now had to wait for him to die to collect.

But he did just that. He found someone to buy it at a discount and then distributed the proceeds to his two sons.

The Pharisees would be asking themselves what was wrong with this father? Why would he do such a shameful and disgraceful thing? Was he so weak that he couldn’t say no? Could he not discipline this son of his?

And it appears that the older brother hated his father as much as the younger son. Because he did nothing to stop the proceedings and he took his share. The text says that the father divided his estate between them, both sons.

By the way, this is even more shocking and heartbreaking than it appears. The Greek literally says, “He divided his life.” Everything that he had worked for and lived for, everything that was important to him, everything that consumed his time and energy was now gone.

Neither son seemed to care about that. It did not seem to have any effect on them. They took was the “life” of their father for their own use.

What a surprising response! The father responded to the younger son’s request by giving him what he wanted.


Even though you are encouraged and commanded to come to God and make your requests known to him, we must be careful of what we ask for. God’s response may surprise you. There are times it seems that God will give to you what you seem to want so strongly. He does this not because you change his mind or purpose but because he uses your request to line you up with his purpose.
Sometimes your request is not the best thing for you. But in God’s infinite wisdom, he might give to you what you have requested in order to train you, correct you, instruct you, or even discipline you. Be prepared for God’s response. He does answer prayer. Sometimes as you know the answer may be no, sometimes it is yes, sometimes it is not yet. But sometimes it is OK, if this is what you want, here it is.

Normally, we would move to our next point, but we will have to wait for two weeks before we can move on. I am sorry this message is going to be two weeks apart. I hope we don’t lose any continuity during this time.

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


Pharisaical hypocrites dislike, despise, or even hate sinners. Particularly those sinners who sins are deemed to be worse than their own. To get the point across that God loves sinners who repent of their sin, Jesus told this parable to rebuke and instruct the Pharisees.

Seven different proofs went into the making of this parable to make it effective. The first proof that we saw was the request made by the younger son. It was an offensive and shameful request. The second proof we saw was the response of the father. He responded by giving the younger son what he wanted or had requested.
Martin Luther gave us this very wise piece of advice, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer. To have prayed well is to have studied well.” (Martin Luther)

Let’s pray! 

1 comment:

nashvillecats2 said...

Good to read Gregg, loved the advice at the end by Martin Luther King.
Thanks for a wonderful post.