This is the message I will be bringing tomorrow at San Pedro CRC:
Text : Luke 15:1-32
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Do you know where these lines came from?
¡Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,
Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!
Farewell, beloved Country, treasured region of the sun,
Pearl of the sea of the Orient, our lost Eden!
Yes from Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell-written the night
Before his death at Bagumbayan- and without a doubt known by Filipino children)
But how about the 14 stanzas of that poems? – possibly not.
Or these lines?
Adiós, dulce extranjera, mi amiga, mi alegría,
Adiós, queridos seres, morir es descansar.
Goodbye, sweet foreigner, my friend, my joy;
Farewell, loved ones, to die is to rest.
Which was the last two lines of that same poem –referring to his common law wife – Josephine Bracken –an Irish national born at Hong Kong.
That is why it is important to read and reread and discuss books over and over again so that we will remember them right and see how it can apply to us. More so with the Bible-which we might assume we already know –in terms of the actual words and phrases used- and where and what occasion it was spoken or taught.
Today we will be discussing about the one of the most remembered and loved parable of our Lord- The Prodigal Son-with a twist since we will call it (as suggested Presbyterian Pastor of New York –Tim Keller) – Prodigal Father!
To be prodigal seems to suggest profligacy-wastefulness, extravagance – laki sa layaw-jeprox!
But prodigality may also mean generous to a fault, overflowing.- like the Shepherd who left the 99 sheep just to find the one lost; the woman who overturn her house so she can find the lost coin again –and the father who threw a party for the wild younger son.
The parable –though always though as addressed to younger ones type- those in the wild side-
IT was in fact spoken specifically to the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day, and it contains a very moving address to them – the religious leaders of the day. It is said by one of their Rabbis that –“ Let not a man associate with the wicked not even to bring him to the Law”
As seen in Verse 1-2:
“1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable”
- Importance of Search for the Lost :
How important ot God is searching and finding the lost? –To Jesus –he have to tell 3 stories so that the Pharisees and scribes will know- About a lost sheep:
4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent
About a lost coin:
The Parable of the Lost Coin:
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
They are stories about the impracticality and unmathematical action of the principal actors’ in the stories. They don’t calculate well- in order to just find what was lost. The woman maybe poor with house with low doors nad no windows so she need to light a lamp-it might be part of her headdress during her wedding-and so very important to her –however cheap it is to others –it is precious to her.
And this is how Jesus portrays as His Father in heaven. He will celebrate and announce joyfully when someone previously lost –and now is found.
During Jesus time and the early church- Gentiles are entering the kingdom ahead of the Jews –who are the bastion of the Law and righteousness-but instead of helping them see Jesus and his offer of being in the banquet of God-they are avoiding them because they don’t want to be with sinners.
And so we will be going to the story of the Two Brothers-which are really two kinds of people:
The two kinds of people:
first, those who, like the younger brother in the parable, have gave up with religion and hypocrisy, and have rebelled against traditional morality and authority;
second, those who, like the older brother, devote their lives to being respectable, conservative, and very moral people, and who therefore look down at the younger-brother type, while seeing themselves as the pillars and leaders of the community, and of the church.
But surprisingly enough, when you get beneath the surface, both of these very different kinds of people are actually surprisingly similar.
They are both REBELS -who have no genuine love for their father –
To them their Father is just someone they can control and manipulate.
Whether through disrespect or false loyalty – in order to get his things, without any concern for his true affection and fellowship. He is just a commodity-something for something they are.
- The Younger Son:
- The Request:
The Parable of the Lost Son
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
This means that he wishes that his father had died or he does not have anything to do anymore with his father or his family. A relinquishing of his background, his legacy.
This also means that the belongings of his father is divided ahead of His death- divided into 3 parts-with the older brother getting the double portion-and the younger getting 1/3- meaning if the father has 6 million- the youngest son got 2 million. The older has an asset worth 4 million.
- In a distant country:
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need..
In a distant country-(choran makran) meaning a country/space away from the Holy Land of Palestine- he engaged in a wild living as a Gentile-forgetting the holy separated life of a Jew-A covenant person. A wild living-(asotos) unsafe life (as if you are trying to cross EDSA or SLEX or C5 without using the overpass-you are playing with Death) . So he scatters (like winning million in Lotto then losing it again through buying spree and being galante wala sa lugar)- all that he has –since without family he is really on his own.
Then it got worse- a severe famine in that far country happens –like civil war in Syria, Mali or –and everything gets expensive – everything-and money devalues- like Mickey Mouse money during the Japanese occupation. And you wonder why this type of misfortunes happens? Good can come out from bad things- Only in God .Like right now in the devastated lands of North Korea or Africa- many Muslims are turning to Jesus-seeing him in dreams and being directed to Christians to hear His Message.
So –the last once of self-independence and pride –he tried to earn a living manual hard labor. Last ounce of trying to forget who he is.
15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
And it got worse-he is pushed to something that his whole life before this –he tries to avoid- pigs- those dirty and ceremonially unclean animals (which is still considered by Adventists and Muslim as unclean –even with the death and resurrection of Jesus) .
And he does not get better treatment there- he is not fed well and he have to work hard- he almost tries to fight with the pigs for the carob tree (umbrella shaped tree) pods (BAGUIO BEANS LIKE) they are eating – And then something clicks in his mind-and in his heart- which rarely happens in each one of us.
- Turning Back
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
He realizes himself –an internal insight- which is the stirring of the Spirit- that He has been wrong all this time. That he has lost all the position he all have before and that here- in far country of the Gentiles –not the Holy land of his birth-He is worse than the servants of His Father. He remember the goodness, kindness and generosity of His Father –which when he was with him before he took so for granted that he never felt thankful for anything at all.
He no longer demands- to be treated as a son –a but now hoping-that His Father will not change – for He knows he is kind and merciful. That He will admit that he was wrong –and that it was his pride that made him fall.
And he is just willing to be like their servants –which he knows firsthand because they experience also the generosity of His Father.
How come others does not realizes this? Because of their sins-yes –sin blinds us from the goodness of God – and also because the Spirit have not yet searched for us.
And this is not wishful thinking left in his mind only-but active- Sa Kalooban niya –siya ay nagdecide na umuwi na! This is the power of Spirit working in him. The long road going back will try him but he is decided to find his father again and repent of his sins.
- The Prodigal Father
20b “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
In an Oriental/Jewish Society – Fathers or people of authority are recognized for their dignified walk- slow but sure . Imagine seeing a Gokongwei, Lucio Tan or Henry Sy or an Ayala running? It does not becomes them. It demeans them-because there is a possibility of stumbling down while running.
And yet while the younger son is a long way of- in a distant horizon- as if the Father knows that this far country is experiencing all the convulsion, famine –he knows the news of that far country- And yet emaciated and already thin –he still recognizes his younger son walk-maybe he remembers when he was young as child how he walks-there is something different –distinctive in his walk –and the Father knows- and He knows the troubles he is in –and He was filled with compassion –( splagchnizomai-strong emeotions- that his bowels in his stomach moved) –so He ran (with the added difficulty of their garments and robes) to meet him –with open arms thrown around the younger son-and then kissed him (still ceremoniously and physically unclean).
There is no doubt what His father feels for him-will he now demand for a better situation that what he stated while in that far country? No! For he is no longer of his father –in all he did before-so he said:
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
And yet – this is how his father treats him:
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
All the dignity of a son is given back to him-all the outward marks of a son was given to –no ifs or buts- Robe, ring and sandals (stoleyn,daktulion and upodeymata) – he is comforted by the thought that as a son –he regains his place, dignity and security and protection as his Father’s son. And more so- ( mukhang Ilocano ata tatay niya) they have not celebrated for so long and yet the Father commanded to kill a clean animal- a calf –to be cooked – not for just a few to eat –but for many- their household and friends -so that they can celebrate his coming back.
There is a Buddhist or Talmudic equivalent of this story –about a son who left his father and then encounter problems in a far country- then wandering he was taken by his father’s servants –and then nurtured a little at a time until this son corrected his life, his manners, his language-then at the end the Father decided to recognized and give him back the recognition as his son. So different and so legalistic.
Grace is different – It seeks and gives ahead and before and then later it transforms us.
But are all happy? No –the older brother is not- The Pharisees and scribes are indignant and furious for how Jesus is treating sinners by eating with them:
- The Older Son:
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.
There are 2 rebels-one far -one nearer-both not enjoying the fellowship other dear father-but the other is just within reach.
He easily suspected that something is amiss since he does not hear often the sound of music and dancing –he barely knows it- he in fact disdain happy sounds- He is all prim proper-he will not be caught with ounce of emotion of joy. He wanted to be known as the serious one-dignified and respected- and yet by others-he does not ask his Father. In fact he rather asks a servant of the house instead of His Father.
And there he learn that a fattened calf-which he might have taken care of for himself- was killed for his wasteful and irresponsible son-because he just returned (he forgot the part that he being safe and sound is a big thing to his father –for he might have returned in a casket, a body bag-dead-too late anymore: does he not know the story of Jacob’s grief when Joseph was reported dead? ) –so fuming mad-angry –he will not enter the house of feasting. Much like the Pharisees and scribes- better to be dignified and away from the feast. Away from his brother-and away from his father.
28 So his father went out and pleaded with him.29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
And so –again the Father initiates the conversation-He went out and talked-no! –he pleaded-again uncharacteristic of an Oriental /Jewish Father.
But now it is different –the older son is demanding –based on his perceived importance and usefulness-not realizing that he can be replaced –if as worker he is negotiating. He also betrays his estimate of what he is doing-slaving and never disobeying- He is his father’s son and yet he feels and lives like His servants-
Most Christians or at least the nominal ones does not know the joy of biblical adoption- the joy of being a son! And they still thought that to be in favor before his father-he need to be a slave himself. Does he not know that His Father loves him because he is simply His son? Just for being one! Does a Han Sy must be become like their professional managers –which they hire- so that he can be treated as a son of Henry Sy? No- He is a Sy before his work as one of the big shot in the Sy’s empire.
But does he not remember that His father estates were already divided and what is left is all his? And therefore it is he who can decide to celebrate if he wants to? He can have his young goat if he wanted to.
There is a similar but tragic story to this-King Lear and the film by Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation called Ran-but it has a different ending. Except for the true loyalty of the younger son and the rebellious older brothers.
So his father replied to him:
31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
He reminded him of what he has now-and that he should have celebrated with Him since –this younger son is also his son-and his brother-and a life without them –that is dead before he dies himself is a life filled with grief. He was lost for a long time-and now he is found-and still alive –and the future is bright again. But will the older enter the house with feast or will he remain outside until the end?
- I will no longer direct my application to those outside and still lost-you have already heard it –through the story-but now I direct the application to the elder brothers inside:
The story is meant for us to examine our hearts to see if we have become like the older brother, so secure in our position that we take the Father’s love for granted
And even resent it when that love is extended to those whom we feel are less deserving of it.
- How can we live a life that emphasize this importance-to seek those who are lost and bring them home:
- Live as we preach-not double-minded, not double-face, not double-tongue-not a hypocrite
- We –must be approachable, gentle, kindhearted, merciful, generous people (Story of someone who resigned because of my voice in the office).
- Our lives must be characterized as one spending time to seek the lost and helping others to become mature members –Sons and daughter of God’s household.
- Though this a digression –it is important especially for Reformed household –for we baptized infants –see Heidelberg Catechism Question 74# “Should infants, too, be baptized?
Answer: Yes. Infants as well as adults belong to God’s covenant and congregation. Through Christ’s blood the redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to adults. Therefore, by baptism, as sign of the covenant, they must be grafted into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the old covenant by circumcision, in place of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant.
We must remember that there is grace before time- and this include sour children- we must not presumed that this against the means that the Lord has given us-which is Christian nurture and upbringing. We don’t how each child will respond to His promptings in this life –they might become rebels or dutiful sons and yet true conversion only happens when they themselves respond-repent and trust the Lord for their salvation. We must take our responsibility of teaching them and urging them to hold onto Christ every moment of their life. But remember He is more gracious in the New Covenant than that of the Old.
- This is another digression-but in the Lord Supper-it is a celebration a commemoration of what the Lord did –for the sake of the sinner – so don’t ever think that you need to be worthy before you partake of the bread and the wine-you just need to accept that yoa are sinner that needs His Grace. The Lord ’s Table is just meant for you.
- And lastly- and the heart of the message really- Who is the true older brother? The One who understand the heart of the Father –and will run to you and embraced you –even when you afar still –and willing to sacrifice more than a fattened calf so that the Father in Heaven and his angels has something to celebrate-who is the True older brother? Listen to this:
9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
It is Jesus who is the True Older Brother –and as his fellow brother we must emulate and imitate him as we seek those that are still lost. Let us pray for those still outside.