The Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 27, 2022
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Our Journey Through Lent—
It is a Journey of Restoration
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them his parable: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. 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. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of your was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A home. A classic automobile. A painting. An old photograph. A piece of fine porcelain. A piece of antique furniture. A vintage license plate. A vintage airplane. A vintage watch.
What do all of these things have in common? If you go on the Internet and type “Restoration Services” into the search box, you will find company after company which proclaims that they are specialists in restoring such things. I have no idea what it would cost to restore such things, but my guess is that the more restoration that is required the more expensive it will be to utilize their expertise.
If you have already read through your bulletin this morning then you can undoubtedly figure out where I am going with this. Since our sermon text for today is the very familiar account of the Prodigal Son, and since we are studying this portion of Scripture on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, let’s take this opportunity to see that: Our Journey through Lent is a Journey of Restoration. There are two questions that I think need to be addressed this morning. The first question is: Why do we need to be restored? The second question is: Why is our heavenly Father willing to restore us?
Our text for today begins by revealing to us the reason as to why Jesus gave us the Parable of the Lost Son, or as many of us know it, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Listen once again to what Luke tells us, “Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him (Jesus). But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
You may recall that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law had a pretty high opinion of themselves. As far as they were concerned they didn’t need any help from anyone in order to get into heaven. They were absolutely convinced that they could get themselves into heaven by keeping not only God’s Law, but also by keeping the hundreds of laws which they had added to God’s Law. So, when they saw “tax collectors and ‘sinners’” gathering around the Rabbi from Nazareth, and when they saw that Jesus was not only “welcoming” these “tax collectors and ‘sinners’” but He was actually “eating with them”— they were shocked! So what does Jesus do? He teaches them! He teaches them a using series of parables— including the Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son.
How does this parable both address and answer our first question for today: Why do we need to be restored? The easiest way to answer that question is to simply look in a mirror. No matter how much people may try to deny it, no matter how much people may have deceived themselves into thinking that it just can’t be true— we are the Prodigal Son! We are the Lost Child! We are in desperate need of restoration!
Stop and think about it, my friends. The Prodigal Son was dissatisfied with the way his life was going. So what did he do? He did the unthinkable! He went to his father and said, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” He was basically saying to his father that he was tired of waiting until after his father had died before he received his inheritance. He wanted what he considered to be rightfully his— and he wanted it now!
After he received his share of the estate then what did he do? Since he didn’t want anyone telling him what he could or could not do with his own life, since he did not want anyone telling him what he could or could not do with his own money, he went off to do his own thing. Jesus says, “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.”
Did the younger son get what he had wanted? Yes he did. Did it turn out the way he had planned? No it did not. After he had wasted all of his inheritance he found himself in a situation that was unthinkable for a descendant of Abraham. He got a job feeding pigs— and the pigs were eating better than he was! Finally, he “came to his senses.” Very literally, the Greek here says, “He came to himself.” He realized that he had gotten himself into a very desperate situation and if his situation was ever going to change he knew what he had to do. He had to go home, confess his foolish sinfulness to his father and hope that his father would be merciful to him and allow him to become one of his “hired men.” He knew from experience that his father treated his workers far better than he was being treated in this foreign country. Perhaps he even hoped that after he had worked for his father for a while he might be able to get back into his father’s good graces.
Do you see any parallels in our lives, my friends? I do. There are times when we may feel dissatisfied with the life that the good Lord has given to us. There are times when we don’t want anyone telling us what we can or cannot do— not even God! So what do we do? We go off on our own to do our own thing. Sadly, after we have indulged in our own personalized version of “wild living,” we eventually find ourselves in a situation that is not all that different from the desperate situation of the Prodigal Son. Yes, we may even find ourselves in a situation that is unthinkable for a child of God.
Once we have “come to our senses” and realized the foolishness of our own sinfulness, once we have realized how far we have fallen as a child of God, we know what we have to do, don’t we. Like the Prodigal Son we know that we need to go home, kneel before our heavenly Father and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your (child) son.” Deep down inside we are hoping that our heavenly Father will indeed have mercy on us.
How does our heavenly Father respond to our heartfelt plea for mercy? Jesus gives us a beautiful illustration of our heavenly Father’s response when He says here in our text, “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…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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Like the father in this parable our heavenly Father is always watching and waiting for His Prodigal Child to return home to Him. And when His child does humbly return home to Him, what does the heavenly Father do? Does He scold His child for wandering away? No! Does He set up a list of “conditions” that His child needs to meet before He is willing to welcome them back? No! Like the father in this parable whenever our heavenly Father sees one of His Prodigal Children coming back to Him, He rushes out to meet us, He wraps His arms around us, He kisses us on the cheek to welcome us back and He restores us! Yes, through the power of His Holy Spirit working through His holy Word and His holy Supper our heavenly Father restores us! He dresses us once again in the “best robe” there is— the robe of perfect righteousness that His Son won for us on the cross. (Pointing to the cross) He puts a “ring” on our finger to signify that we are once again a part of His dearly beloved family. And He puts sandals on our feet— which leads me to think of Ephesians chapter six where the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to equate “sandals” with the “gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15)— the “Good News” of the “peace” that Jesus has won for us, the “Good News” that guarantees that all of our sins are completely forgiven!
And why, my friends? Why is the heavenly Father so thrilled to have His Prodigal Child return home to Him? Jesus tells us that it is because our heavenly Father is “filled with compassion” for us! Why does the heavenly Father’s “compassion” so freely and so completely restore us to full status as His dearly beloved child and then call upon the angels of heaven to celebrate our return? (See Luke 15:10) Jesus put it best when He has the father in our parable say, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this (child) son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Yes, my friends, our heavenly Father always rejoices when one of His wandering children comes home to Him!
While there are many companies which claim that they are specialists in restoring everything from homes to cars, from paintings to porcelain there is only one Person who can “restore” lost and fallen sinners like us. That Person is our heavenly Father. My prayer this morning is two-fold. First, I pray that as you and I continue our journey through the season of Lent that we will recognize that because of our own sin we need to be restored. Secondly, I pray that we will also rejoice in knowing that no matter how often we have wandered away, no matter how far we have fallen as a child of God, our heavenly Father is filled with so much compassion for us that when we “come to our senses” and come back to Him— He freely and fully restores us to the privileged position of being His dearly beloved child. Certainly, that is a truth that leads all of us to say:
To God be the glory!