A Tale of Three Sons

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Since God the Father desires a true relationship with his children, we need to respond to his welcome

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"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me...I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see."
Today we're going to look at being **lost**, a parable from Jesus. You've likely heard this story before, it's often known as the parable of the prodigal son. The story is so rich, so deep, and so wide. I am going to focus on the sons of this story, and their relationship with the Father in the story, who is God.
This is "A Tale of Three Sons". Yes, you heard it right. Three sons. Turn with me to Luke, chapter 15. Jesus has been accused by the Pharisees and scribes of "receiving and eating with sinners and tax collectors" In response, he tells 3 parables. I'll begin in verses 1-3, and then jump ahead to verse 11 to the end.
## Let's Pray
Who is his audience?
V1-3 - tax collectors & sinners, plus pharisees & scribes
Sinners. Who are they? In other parts of the gospel where "sinners" are mentioned, it's things like drunkards, gluttons, prostitutes.
Tax collectors were some of those sinners, mentioned in v15. Who were they?
Roman collaborators. Lets feel that: say a member of this church goes to work for the IRS...and audits church members! These people were *hated*.
Pharisees & scribes as a parallel to tax collectors & sinners.
These were the religious leaders of the day. The parallel today is pastors who have a M.Div from Southeastern Smeinary.
The scribes & pharisees were grumbling...the same word used of Isreal's grumbling against God in the wilderness. Jesus's parable is in response to their grumbling.
Both Tax Collectors & sinners and the Scribes & Pharisees were God's people. Who are God's people today? Us! This is, first and foremost, a parable for **the Church**!
Not to say it can't be applied to all, Rom. 3:29 "is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,..."
But, church, don't miss this! In this parable he had an audience of church people.
If you are sitting here, in church today, this parable is for you. You're meant to find yourself in one of these sons and see that **Because God the Father desires a true relationship with his children, we need to respond to his welcome.**
First, let's look at how God's welcome is extended to younger sons.
### Since God the Father desires a true relationship with his younger sons, we must respond to his welcome.
Standing in front of Jesus were sinners and tax collectors. They were those who *know* that they were separated from God. And they are scared and wondering if God will take them back again. They needed to see the father's love as free.
There might be some of you just like that sitting here today.
Let's look at the beginning of the parable to hear what Jesus says to those who need to grasp the father's welcome as free.
v12, "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."
Rude! Especially in that society. I want you to feel the weight of this request. You've paid off your mortgage, are getting ready to retire...then one of your adult sons says "hey, how much of your estate would I get when you die? 1/3rd, right? Why not give that to me now?"
And you do! You take your retirement, cut it in thirds, re-mortgage your house, take the tax hit, and give that money to one of your sons.
This was the younger son saying **you are dead to me**
Prov. 28:7 says "The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father."
He has disgraced his father. which means:
**The younger son did not deserve a family relationship**
*And he knows it.*
v17“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!
18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
He thinks he's gone too far from a true relationship with his father to return and be a son.
##### What separated him? his hearts desires: He wanted the things of this world more than a relationship with his father.
The younger son's desires promised joy, but separated him from his father and caused misery. So it has been from the beginning, so it always is with every lie we're told.
We're told alcohol will make us brave.
Told sex outside marriage will prove our power.
**All of those lies comes from the Father of lies.**
Standing against the father of lies is our father, and let's look at how he welcomes those who *don't* deserve the family relationship:
v.20 **He runs to welcome them. Embraces him, gives the best robe, ring, sandal, and brings him into a feast**
The younger son's repentance is not glamorous. he's hungry! Really hungry!
(Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for your own prodigals is let them go. Let them experience hunger.)
##### He returns because of hunger and finds that in his Fathers home is a feast.
==App==: Do you feel far from God?
Before this man could ever go to his father, he first had to come to himself. See himself as he really was, and turn from that to his true home.
So! Here's the question for you, sitting right here, in the Church, today.
- Is there a persistent sin that is separating you from God? I am not talking about nitpicking yourself over perceived wrongs. No, persistent sin, that thing which you are afraid to let people here know about.
- Come to yourself! This message right here today means that God is welcoming you back, and will send the Holy Spirit to be the power to break those chains of misery.
- Or, do you believe that past sin is keeping you from God? Have you ever heard that little voice say "look at what you've done. There is no way God could ever love you."
###### If you've heard that voice, which is the voice of the Fahter of lies or one of his many minions, don't deny it. Admit it. "Yes. I did that. I sinned. And guess what! I have turned and God is running to me because **The father's forgivness is full and free**
##### This is the kind of lavish love God the Father pours out on his children day after day after day.
If you, your own wayward prodigal son, or even Joe Biden, if Nancy Pelosi (who is the Church mad about?) repented of their sin today, today they would be welcomed by God into his family.
#### If that jars you, you need to really hear what Jesus was saying to the elder son.
### Since God the Father desires a true relationship with his elder sons, they must respond to his welcome
**25** “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. **26** And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. **27** And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ **28** But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, **29** but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. **30** But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
The Elder son is a good rule follower - kind of like many elder children!
Let's look closer and see that the elder, dutiful brother's entire relationship with God his father is broken:
v29 "these many years I have served you" - you don't serve family, you serve a master!
"but you (not my Father, you) never gave me even a goat..." (lesser celebratory animal)
v30 "but when *this son of yours*"
"you gave him..." Won't call his brother, his brother. does not call the Father father.
#### the Elder son has cast *himself* out of the family
in anger - right there, verse 28
The elder son is furious at the father's joy, rages at his grace, and is in contempt for his love.
**Why?**
##### The elder son only wants the Father's things. Not the father.
V30, "who *devoured* your property" - really, meaning "my property"
##### If the younger son did not *deserve* the family relationship, the elder son had no *desire* for a family relationship
### The ES is as far from the father as the younger brother was in the pigsty.
Who is Jesus speaking to?
Oooh. The Pharisees. We, 2,000 years later hear the word "Pharisee" as a scary insult. But to the first-century Jews, Jesus's audience, they were the religious "good guys", like a Jerry Falwell or a Billy Graham. What Jesus says here is shocking - the sinners are the younger son which means that the good, rule following Pharisees are the elder sons. He's telling this story to the elder sons!
==App==
This should bring us, sitting here in church, up short. It is meant to make us- good church people, pastors too - examine ourselves.
Are we aware that we were as far from God as any younger son?
No matter if you were raised in church, no matter if you say "I never lied, never cheated, never stole..." your heart was far from God.
Romans tells us "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"
Every elder son is as desperate need of repentance as any younger son.
Come to yourself. Be honest about your heart.
Here's the test: You lead someone to Christ. What is the first impulse Of your heart? Giving people a list of verses to memorize, a daily reading plan, and a list of don'ts?
If there is any part of you that is saying "but! But that's not right! That won't work!" Then I want to *entreat* you in the same way...
...the father goes and *entreats* him, v28
Entreats him as his son, does not get angry. Sometimes English dosen't capture the full meaning. This is a continuing action verb, meanaing he entreated him continually.
When the younger son was hungry, the father brought him to a feast. The elder son wanted the things of the father, and look at the text..."my son, everything I have is yours"...but he wouldn't listen.
The Holy Spirit preserved this parable for thousands of years knowing it would continually challenge those of us who look like we have it all together...and are - maybe deep in our heart - scornful of those *sinners*.
**Jesus's point in this story is that the elder sons are as far from the father as the younger son was in the pigsty.**
Two sons.
Both separated from God.
Both because their hearts wanted everything *but* a relationship with their father.
One crucial difference: The younger son knew it, and repented. The elder son didn't think he needed to.
But! There is a third son in this story.
So to find out who that son is, let's go back to the word.
#### He's the son who is telling the story, and he is the true son! Let's go back to verses 1-3 to see his point
**Jesus didn't just welcome the sons, he is the shepherd who went to seek and save that which was lost...whether they are younger or elder sons.**
He didn't do it out of obligation! He is the true son, who *willingly*, *delightedly* went when he was sent by the father (Scripture?) to go seek the lost sons.
#### Matthew, the tax collector becomes an apostle. Mary magdalene, the prostitute, witnesses his resurrection. Paul, the Pharisee, is the great missionary.
**We think God wants good people. What God wants are new people. Born again people!**
He wants YOU!
All your soul. All your mind. All your strength.
All your heart.
All of you.
But who can give God everything? Well, with man it is impossible. But! With God, all things are possible.
We can't re-make our hearts. **Even trying in our own strength will make us an elder brother**! But God can. Come to yourself and see the depth of your separation, and turn to the welcome that God our Father gives through Jesus Christ, the true son.
When we do that, he will send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and begin to remake our relationship with himself, and remake our relationship with one another.
Do you hear his welcome?
## Let's Pray
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