Welcome to Expound our verse-by-verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Turn in your Bible's, please, to the gospel of Luke, chapter 14. And as we're about to partake of the Lord's Table or the Lord's Supper, as we call it, we find ourselves in this chapter at another supper. And it is a supper to which Jesus has been invited by a Pharisee. He's a guest of honor. It is a very tense meal. It's a meal on the Sabbath day. Jesus is there. They're watching him closely---that is, the religious elite---watching him carefully to see what he would do, especially in light of a man who has a need. He had a swollen appendage, edema, or as the New Testament here calls "dropsy." And it is the Sabbath, but they also know that Jesus is compassionate, and so they watch him to see whether or not Jesus would heal on the Sabbath or not, which of course he does.
So in chapter 14 we're introduced to what we might call our "Lord's Table Talk. This is Jesus talking to the one who invited the guests as well as to the guests themselves at this meal. And, as I mentioned, it's very tense because of what he says to the people in the crowd. When we get to verse 15, the tension is broken by somebody saying a pious statement. "When one of those who sat at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, 'Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!' " In making that statement, the one who made it assumed that he would be in the kingdom of God eating bread and be one of the blessed ones. He did not count on the answer that Jesus was about to give. So, we go from tense to more tense. We go from tense to intense in this little chapter.
But what we are introduced to are a series of stories. Jesus was a master storyteller. He gave parables. I've told you what the word means. It's a story that is cast alongside of a very important truth, and the truth is seen in the story that unfolds. And the truth is made more meaningful and more plain by the story or the parable. So the theme, in really keeping with communion, the theme of these parables is all about lostness, lostness. We have five stories, five parables about something lost. We have a lost opportunity, a lost priority, a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. That's what we're going to look at. Now we celebrate the fact that we who were once lost have been found. We love the song written by a previous slave owner and slave trader by the name of John Newton who was converted.
And after a year---several years of debauchery as a---in the Portuguese slave trade, he came back to England, became a chaplain in London, and wrote the great song. "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found; I was blind, but now I see." With that theme in mind to introduce it, let's begin with the first set of illustrations, or the parable; and that is, the parable of the lost opportunity. I might even call this the parable of the lame excuses, because really that's what it is. We started reading through it last week, but we failed to make the application because of the time.
"Then [Jesus] he said to him, 'A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, "Come, for all things are now ready." But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said, "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go see it. I ask you to have me excused." ' " Now, my question is: Who would buy a piece of land without having seen it first? It's odd that the excuse would be, "Hey, I just doled out all this money for a piece of land, but I don't even know what it looks like." You've got to be pretty lame to do that, and it really is nothing more than an excuse. It's not really a reason. I gave you an interesting definition of an excuse last week. It was Billy Sunday who said, "An excuse is simply the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie."
That's what this is. "I bought some land. Don't know what it looks like. Excuse me, I can't make the supper." Here's the second, verse 19, "Another said, 'I bought five yoke of oxen, and I am now going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' "A second, very lame excuse. Who here would buy, let's say, a 1992 Suburban with never test-driving it? And so you pay the asking price, but you've never seen it, and you haven't test-driven it, so you go, "Hey, I just bought a car. It's got 250,000 miles. I'm going to go test-drive it after I've purchased it." Remind me to never have you represent me as an agent of some kind. [laughter] That's just a bad excuse. But the third excuse, I think, is even more interesting. "Still another said, 'I've married a wife, therefore I can't come.' " [laughter]
Real great head of the house here. [laughter] "Hey, I invite you to supper." "I can't come because I'm married." [laughter] "Well, bring her along. That's the whole idea. Bring her with you. We're not asking you to come alone. We want you to bring your wife." This is simply an illustration, a parable of those who offer up excuses not to follow, not to obey, not to get close to God, not to do spiritual---not to have a spiritual life. "I'm too busy. Sunday is the only day I spend with my family. I can't come to church on Sunday." That's putting something domestic, a domestic life or a domestic commitment before the Lord. Or, "My business, you know, I've got this team of oxen out there and I've got to check it out." Or, land investments, "I'm just so busy. I can't serve the Lord."
"So, the servant came and reported these things to his master. And the master of the house, being angry, said to the servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.' And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' " Now I find it fascinating that the master didn't say, "Well, that's enough. We have enough people. That's a pretty messy bunch anyway," but he says, "Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be full.' " I believe it was Aristotle who said, "Nature abhors a vacuum." I believe he was the first one who officially on record stated that: "Nature abhors a vacuum."
But somebody once observed, based on this parable, both nature and grace abhor a vacuum. It's a beautiful thought. "Hey, there's room, and if there's room, bring as many as you can, anyone who will take the invitation and come." Now you need to know that in those days the invitation process was twofold: you were notified in advance of the feast; and then when supper was hot, having received already the invitation, you were told "Supper is ready. The feast we invited you to, now it is ready. Come, you've been invited, it's now prepared." This is a story about something that has happened to the people. Let's finish it out and then I'll explain. "'For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.' "
The invited guests were the covenant people, the Jewish nation. The prophets came in the Old Testament and announced the coming of the kingdom, announced the coming of the Messiah, invited the nation to voluntarily follow God's plan in the coming kingdom. Then John the Baptist came and said, in effect, "Supper's ready." "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" "The kingdom of God is near you. It is upon you. It has come." He announced it. The invitations went out long ago, then the announcement came through John the Baptist. So the invited guests, they're the nation of Israel. The maimed, the lame, the blind---those are the tax collectors and the sinners, the category of people that the religious elite frowned on, looked down upon.
And then those in the highways, and the hedges, the byways, those are those who are even further out, those are the Gentiles that we'll get to in the book of Acts when the Jewish nation, having spurned and turned aside from the invitation, the gospel goes out to anyone, everyone. It's a story of the gospel going out to all the world, but then that very sad thing in verse 24. And now it's sort of answering that guest who said, "Blessed is he who eats and drinks in the kingdom of God!" And Jesus said, " 'I say to you none of those men who are invited shall taste my supper.' " Ouch! The meal just got intense. It went from tense now to intense, a very, very tough night, especially for that guy. Now, I do want to make note of something that you need a clarification, I believe, on.
If you'll notice in verse 23, the master said to the servant, "Go out into the highways and hedges," and notice this, "compel them to come in." This verse has been abused throughout Christian history. This was a verse that Augustine used to justify religious persecution of non-Christian groups that you can force people to submit to the authority of the gospel and the Christian church. It was a thought that was introduced in his writings. Later on it was a verse that was used to justify the Spanish Inquisition in Europe, and it was used to justify the Crusades against the Arab Saracens in the Middle East. But the idea of compelling a person doesn't mean compel them by force of arms, but by force of argument, by persuasive speech.
Share with them, and by your lifestyle and by your love and by your ability to communicate, compel them to come. Let them know, not forcing them by compulsion by physical force. So that's the parable of lost opportunity. Now we have the parable of lost priority. "Now great multitudes," verse 25, "went with him. And he turned and said to them"---now you have noticed, and just see it again, that as our Lord's ministry progresses---you know, he ministered on earth three, three and a half years. But as time went on, in that short little time span, the crowds grew, the multitude's grew. He became very popular. And one of the reasons he became popular is that he took on the big dogs. He took on corporate religion in Israel. He took on the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees.
And so the crowds loved him, but not everyone who followed him as part of the multitude was faithful to him as a disciple. So he always had something to say, not just to the immediate situation, but to the crowd from time to time that followed him. "He turned and said to them," we're told in verse 25, " 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife, children, brother, sister, yes, his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.' " This is called thinning out the crowd. This is where you preach a sermon knowing that there's going to be a lot of people that are going to hate what they hear, and they're going the leave and never come back.
Jesus wants that---that is, he would rather have somebody who is faithful to him than just somebody who's fascinated with him. I heard about a professor who was asked about one of his students, one of his pupils. And the professor said, "Well, he attends my lectures, but I wouldn't call him a student." Very interesting, you can attend lectures, you can listen in the crowd to Jesus, but Jesus may not consider you one of his followers, one of his disciples. John, chapter 2, multitudes believed in him, "But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men . . . and he knew what was in man." So Jesus says something that would thin out the crowd and what a statement it is. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, his mother, his wife, the children," etcetera.
What on earth does he mean by this? Well, Middle Eastern language was very vivid, and this is a very vivid challenge, not saying that you should go to your mom and say, "I hate you, Mom, because the Bible says I should. I hate you, Dad." Because the Bible says, "For God so loved the world." But here is the idea: you should so love God that love for anyone or anything else, by comparison, is as though it would be considered hatred. That's the idea of this. Comparatively speaking, God isn't to be relegated to, "Well, you know I have a wife," or "I have five oxen," or "I have property that I can't do anything with until I see it." So he thins out the crowd, and he said, "Listen, your love and your commitment to God is such that anything else would take such a low level."
Now, I am speaking to some people who you haven't set out to hate your parents, but when you gave your life to Jesus Christ, you heard something like this: "I can't believe you would disgrace the traditions you were brought up with. You break my heart, son or daughter. It's as if you hate me." And you're not trying to hate them, you love them, but the chips have fallen where they may and where they are. And your commitment to Christ, they can see, has taken a higher precedent than your love for them, your love for what they've given you, your love for how you were raised, even a love for a spouse or a child. "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." If you haven't heard of him, you need to know of him, John Bunyan. Most of you have. He wrote Pilgrim's Progress.
Spurgeon read it once a year. I haven't read it once a year, but I've read it several times, and it's classic Christian literature. It was written by a man who was in prison for his faith. He was put in the Bedford jail in England. He was told to quit preaching and he wouldn't do it, so they put him in jail. Now he knew that if he was arrested and put in jail, that his family would suffer poverty, they wouldn't have any provision, but he couldn't stop preaching the gospel. He had to show love for God even above his family. But he said, when he was in prison, he wrote, he said, "The thought of my wife and my poor children suffering is as to me the pulling of the flesh from my bones in this place." It tormented him, it tortured him, but he knew that he must be commitment to Christ and serve Christ.
"For which of you," verse 28, "intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it---lest, after he had laid the foundation, and he is not able to finish, all who see begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish'?" In other words, count the cost before you make the choice. "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men with him---with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple."
A man by the name of Henry Drummond summed these verses up this way: "Entrance into the kingdom is free---The entrance fee into the kingdom is free; but the annual subscription is everything." You're saved by grace through faith. You don't earn it. You don't work for it. You receive it. But it will cost you everything. That annual subscription, once you're in---as a free gift---you give it your all. It's not a weekend hobby. "I go to church and see my friends." You're all-in, according to Jesus. "Salt is good; but if salt has lost its flavor," its punch, its ability to bring zest, zing to a meal, "how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" What Jesus is speaking about here is not losing your salvation, but losing your saltiness.
And if salt loses its ability to preserve---that's how it was used in ancient times. They would rub it into the meat to preserve it from corruption. If it lost the ability to do that, it was worthless, useless for---hadn't fulfilled its purpose. It was also used to add taste, spice to a meal. It was used to halt---to preserve and halt the spread of disease. So, if it loses its purpose, it's good for nothing. The point is don't lose your purpose, don't lose the punch, don't lose your edge as a believer. "Then," verse 15, "Then"---verse 1, chapter 15---"all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to him to hear him." Please notice who's attracted to our Lord. Notice who's thinking, "Hey, I want to hang out with that Jesus guy." All the scum of society, the filth, they're going, "I like this Jesus guy. I want to hang out with him."
I wonder how many people that would be called tax collector or sinners would say that about you. "I want to hang out with that girl, that guy." "And the Pharisees and the scribes complained, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' " So we have three parties here in verse 1 of chapter 15. We have the crowd, the clergymen, and the Christ. The crowd is attracted to Jesus. The clergymen are complaining against Jesus. This is a typical pattern we find in the New Testament. But notice a few things about just these couple of verses. Notice the compassion. They notice the compassion. The Pharisee and the scribes notice the compassion Jesus has because they say, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." That accusation was true; he did hang out with them.
There was something embracing and loving about Jesus that didn't push these people away. Now, Jesus, it won't keep him from telling the truth, and he won't get involved in their sinful activities. He will be the Son of God. He will be God in human flesh. He will be the Messiah. He will be perfect and holy. But there was something about him that was attractive that people saw. He was compassionate. I love the description of our Lord in Matthew, chapter 9, when he sees the multitude gathering around him in Galilee. And it says, "He had compassion upon them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." You see, Jesus saw people differently than a lot times I think the way we see people. We see people like this as an inconvenience. "I have to explain these people to my friends."
Jesus saw them as an opportunity, not an inconvenience, "weary, scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." He's going, "I'll be your shepherd. You can follow me." So we see the compassion of our Lord. We also see the condition of this crowd. They're tax collectors. They're sinners. That's why Jesus came. Nobody wanted them. You listen to these religious people, they didn't want to hang out with these guys. Jesus Christ wants the very people no one else wants. I love this about him. And then we also see the callousness of these preachers, these religious folks. So he spoke this parable to them. Now, we have three more parables: parable of the lost sheep, parable of the lost coin, parable of the lost son or the prodigal---all three parables tell the same truth.
Jesus is simply amplifying the truth with each story and I'll explain why. So, these three parables answer the complaint of these clergymen when they say, "This guy eats with tax collectors and sinners." So it says, "So he spoke this parable to them: 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!" I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.' "
The Pharisees, the scribes, the religious folks, the leaders had a term for people who lived around them but did not keep the law as strictly as they kept it. They were called by these religious elite "the people of the land." And with these people they did not associate, they would not eat with, they would not loan money to, or get into a business venture with. They certainly wouldn't marry or let their children marry them. In fact, the Pharisees had a saying, and that is why verse 7 is important. Their saying was this: "There is joy in heaven when one sinner is obliterated. That's why verse 7 is so powerful. "For I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
Now sheep were commonplace over in that part of the world at that time. If you've ever read the Bible, Old or New Testament, you know that there's the Shepherd's Psalm, there's the parable of the Great Shepherd that Jesus gives. It's all through the Scripture. Even to this day, if you take a tour to Israel, you'll see a group of people that are keeping their sheep out in the---out in the hills called the Bedouins. And they are like the authentic nomads. That's doesn't mean they never get mad; it just means they travel around from place to place in tents. They're wanderers. And they look for the best pasture. And they'll, in the hot summer months, move their sheep down into either the high country or down into the deep ravines where it's shady and cool and things grow.
And in the cooler months they'll bring them out in the open. You see them all over Judea. They're commonplace. Sheep require shepherds. Sheep are renowned for lacking mental acumen. In other words, they're dumb. But that is not the point of the parable. This isn't the parable of the dumb sheep; it's the parable of the wonderful Shepherd who sees a lost sheep and goes after it and rescues it and brings it on his shoulders and brings it back. Now, if you were a business person, you would read this parable, and you might think something like this: "Well, one sheep out of a hundred---that's 1 percent lost. You know, in business you figure on a margin of loss. That's just the cost of doing business. So you lose a sheep, so what? Move on."
But here's the news---and especially to any of you who ever feel lost in the crowd. You feel like you're just sort of insignificant. " Oh, there's a big crowd, and there's a big church, and there's a big world out there. And God has a big business that he's running." And you need to know something---you are his business. You are his business. He knows your name. He will come out and rescue you. That is his business---rescuing people, loving people. And verse 7 is so important. Just look at it before we move on and finish out the chapter. There's "more joy in heaven"---in heaven---"over one sinner who repents." Sometimes we go, "Oh, just one person came forward tonight. Just one person responded to Christ, that's all." There is a party in heaven. The angels are going nuts when just one person comes forward.
C. S. Lewis used to say, "Joy is the serious business of heaven." It ought to be our business. When we see God doing his business, it's our business to rejoice over just one. Now, there's a logic here that you shouldn't miss. Here's the logic: the shepherd rejoices when he finds one lost sheep just like God rejoices when he finds one lost person. The friends of the shepherd and the neighbors---the friends and the neighbors rejoice with the shepherd when he finds a lost sheep just like the friends of God should rejoice over one sinner that repents. And the logic is, therefore, "You Pharisees are not God's friends." That's part of the parable. "The shepherd rejoices, the friends rejoice, you must not be the shepherd's friends, because you're not rejoicing over the one that is lost." I told you it was an intense meal.
Now, we come to the second of the three parables, but it's a fourth of the five parables for tonight's study; and that is, the parable of the lost coin. "Or what woman," verse 8, "having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp"---we would say grab a flashlight---"sweep the house"---or get out the vacuum---"and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." The lost coin isn't like you lost a quarter, or a dime fell off the dresser and it's somewhere underneath the bed or whatever. In those days, a married woman was marked by having a special headdress that she wore for her wedding.
It was a silver chain with ten silver coins. And to lose one of those silver coins is like losing a wedding ring. It was something very valuable and very precious. It fell off or she misplaced it. And so it's valuable because the relationship that it depicts is reflected by the ten coins that she would proudly wear or display inside of her house. And it's lost, it's gone, it's been misplaced, and so she looks for it. It's a big deal, in other words, to her. And so, likewise, once it's found there's joy in heaven in the presence of these angels. Now we come to the lost son, the Prodigal Son. And people have called the Prodigal Son, this final parable---it's a little longer than the others---the greatest short story in all of human history and literature.
It's been given that designation. Everybody's heard of this wonderful parable, this story. It's the same lesson as the previous three, but there is a difference. In all three of the parables, something is lost, but progressively that which is lost becomes more valuable. A sheep is valuable, but relationally a coin would be more valuable than a sheep, but certainly a son, a person is more valuable than a sheep or a coin. So, with each parable it becomes amplified to make the point. It's becoming more and more valuable. "A certain man had two sons." By the way, this is called the parable of the prodigal son. I don't like that name. It's really the parable of the perfect father. It's more about the father than the son. So instead of the Prodigal Son, let's call it the perfect father; instead of the wasteful son, the wonderful father.
"And the younger of them"---the young son out of these two boys, "said to his dad, 'Yo, dad' "---No. He said, " 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood." Okay, when there were two boys in the family like this, when this was the setup, the oldest would get two-thirds of the inheritance, the youngest would get one-third. But they didn't get any of the inheritance until the Father died. It belonged to the father. It was theirs, but only upon the death of the testator, the one who made the testament, the Father who owned it all. So for the son to say, "Give it to me now," is tantamount to him saying, "I wish you were dead." No son would dare ask his father for his inheritance---"Look, I'm going to get it anyway when you die, so just drop dead. Give it to me now."
It's very insulting and that's why the crowd that heard this must have gone, gasp! A son wouldn't do that. So he did. "He divided to them his livelihood. And not many days afterward the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions on prodigal living." Can you see the difference between the sheep, the coin, and the son? Sheep wandered away. The coin was lost by somebody else. The coin has no will of its own. It's an inanimate object. It's sort of a victim of somebody misplacing it. But a son has a will. That's a human being that makes a choice. Some people wander away like sheep. Other people are victimized and misplaced by this world and displaced by our society. And still other people, by their own will, wander away, shake their fist at God, and get on with their life.
This guy wasted it all on prodigal living, partied hardy. "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and it began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into the fields to feed swine." Now, this is a Jewish audience, and this would be, presumably, in the story a Jewish boy now going to the very lowest possible strata of society---a pig farmer, unkosher meat. So the crowd again would go, "Ooh, gross!" "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate." Swine, pigs, by the way, were fed carob pods. Have you ever seen a carob pod? And they were fed to the pig, but the human stomach can't digest them. The alimentary canal of the---we can't do it. So it says he would have gladly done it, but he didn't.
"And no one gave him anything." Even begging he couldn't get anything. "But when he came to himself"---aah, that's the key. It takes a person to come to himself or come to herself, and it can take---it can take a long time. I've talked to people and I've left the conversation thinking, "One day they may come to themselves. He may come to himself. She may come to herself." But sometimes it's a long and perilous journey to get there. "But he came to himself, and he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you." ' " This is repentance. This is confession. "I admit what I have done is wrong."
" ' "And I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." '" So he rehearses this speech."I'm going to go home. I'm going to go to dad. Dad's a nice guy. I blew it. I told him to drop dead, but I've changed." So he rehearses the speech. He's ready to go. "And he arose, came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him"---so he's rehearsed this speech. He's starting to say it now. " 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' " And before he could finish his premade speech, "The father [butted in] and said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe' "---it's a place of honor to be given the best robe.
And, perhaps, the best robe was his robe, the father's robe. That would be the best robe in the house. "Get the best robe. Get my robe." " 'And,' " notice this, he " 'put a ring on his hand' "---that's a symbol of authority---" 'and sandals on his feet.' " In other words, he restored him back to sonship, freely forgave him. " 'And bring the fatted calf' "---something that was reserved only for a great feast or sacrifices---" 'and kill it, and let us eat and [be happy] merry' "---let's have a party. I love Jesus. He loved to eat. [laughter] He had stories about it. He invited himself to lunch sometimes, like Zacchaeus, "Hey, let's go to your house and have lunch," just invited himself there. Just my kind of guy. " 'For this my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.' " That's the basis of amazing grace.
"And they began to be merry." Everybody was happy, except for one. "Now, his older brother was in the field. And as he came to draw near to the house, he heard the music and dancing." Can't you just see this narrow guy, "I can't believe they're---this music and they're dancing around." I know people that say that when they come to church---"This music . . . they're happy . . . got their hands raised up, kind of dancing around." [laughter] "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' " And so the older brother rejoiced---oh, it doesn't say that. [laughter] I'm sorry. I guess that would be reflex, right?
"But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I have never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends.' "Notice that this older brother---and by the way, he is emblematic in the story of the Pharisees. You get that. They got it too. First of all, this older son is ungrateful with his papa, his dad. He will not go into the house to talk to his father. He stands outside, demands that his father come out. That's a sign of disrespect. His father had to come out to him. And notice what he says in verse 30, "As soon as this son of yours . . . ." He didn't say, "This brother of mine." "This son of yours . . . ."
He won't even acknowledge him as a brother. So he's ungrateful with his papa. Let this be a lesson, a reminder to us, because I know it's just part of our human condition, so often we are ungrateful for what we don't have rather than grateful for what we do have. "You have that and I don't have it." Shut up. [laughter] God takes care of you. God knows what you need. Instead of being ungrateful, be grateful, be merry, be happy. His father will make that point, but he's ungrateful right now. Second thing is he's unhappy with his place. "I never got what I deserve." Be careful that you ask that. He's basically saying that "You didn't make a party for my friends." He's got an attitude problem. He's been working all of these years for his father, but with a bad attitude.
It hasn't been out of delight; it's been out of drudgery. " 'As soon as this son of yours, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you kill the fatted calf for him.' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and alive again' "---this is the point of all three parables---" 'was lost and is found.' " Some of you have been serving the Lord a long time faithfully, prayerfully, diligently. You look for needs around the church. You're involved. But then you see somebody else and you have wondered---we all do---"Why is that person seemingly more blessed and I do more? I'm more faithful. I'm always in the time of prayer. I'm always coming early and seeing what needs to be done."
Do you know it's possible to be laboring in the Father's fields and not close to the Father's heart? "Church of Ephesus, I know your labor, you work hard, your patience, but you have left your first love." We can do things for the wrong reasons. When we see somebody blessed or somebody come back, even if they have sinned with a horrible background, rejoice that they're in the kingdom, they're in the Father's house, which leads us to this---contentment. It's a great word. Paul said, "I have learned in all things to be content in every state I'm in." Remember he said that? "No matter what state I'm in, I've learned to be content." So whether you're in Hawaii or New Mexico or Colorado or New Jersey, [laughter] whatever state you're in, learn to be content. I had to learn that.
You see, contentment is learned. Paul was in prison when he wrote that. He was in jail when he wrote that, and he said, "Here I am in jail, and I've learned in whatever condition I'm in, I've learned to be content," which means he wasn't always content, but he learned it. Contentment can be learned. Yes, even you can learn contentment. But just as contentment is learned, discontentment is also learned, and it is contagious. And so whenever I'm around discontented people, I know that I can't spend much time with them, because that attitude tends to rub off. It's like, "Yeah, life does stink. It is pretty bad." That's why I suggest when you get up in the morning, read the good news, before you read the bad news; read the Bible before you read the newspaper.
Get the scope on the big picture before you zero in on ISIS, or the economy, or the election's coming up in a couple years. Just get the big picture. Learn to be content instead of learning to be discontent. Something else about this, and here's an obvious truth: Jesus is making a distinction between two kinds of sinners. There's a visible sinner, the obvious sinner, and the invisible sinner. The obvious, visible sinner was the younger brother who went out and partied and got involved with harlots and drinking and drugs and fornication. You know, we're doing a whole series Jesus Loves People, and you'd be surprised the kickback we get from people. "You mean he loves murderers like . . . ?" I saw a text tonight somebody showed me, because they posted one of the Jesus Loves People things.
And somebody said, "You mean your God loves Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler?" Yes, he did love them. He's not willing that any should perish. By loving them doesn't mean that he has an emotional fondness for them. And it doesn't mean that he would tip his hat and let them come into heaven, because after all, he just lets everybody he loves come into heaven. No, he won't. He loves people that he sends to hell. But he loves them and he's not wanting them to perish. He wants them to repent. But Jesus loved all people, every one of them, the worst of the worst. But there's two kinds of sinners. And the second kind Jesus would probably say is worse, because he doesn't know how bad he is. And he's complaining about the favor that God would show to the first ones, the visible sinners.
The invisible sinner is the religious person who looks down his or her nose at the grace of God. "How would you let the person that looks like that into the church?" Where else should be they be? We let you in. [laughter] They let me in. I remember the first time I came to a place where it was a church where I knew my background; they didn't care about my background. I just knew I was fresh off the streets, fresh off of drugs, fresh off of a bad lifestyle, and I was embraced like I had been there all my life. And it was a big tent; it wasn't even a building. It was just a tent with fake grass that was put on top of the dirt and a rock band. This is in 1973. And I just thought, "They built this church for me." [laughter] So we've covered 14 and 15---or half of 14 and all of 15 tonight before the Lord's Supper.
Three lost things, these three last parables: sheep, coin, person. Each more valuable as they went along. One wandered away, one was misplaced, the other by choice who went away. Isaiah the prophet said, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all gone our own way; and the Lord has laid on him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all." What was prophesied by Isaiah is portrayed here by Luke in the parable of the lost sheep. But Isaiah didn't just predict lossness; he predicted how those lost things would be found. Because he said, concerning the Messiah, "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent [dumb], he opened not his mouth." He was killed. He was sacrificed. He died. So, lostness is predicted; foundness is---if that's even a word---is predicted.
And the only way we can be found and redeemed is by the Shepherd becoming a sheep, losing its life, and sacrifice to restore humanity back to himself. That's what we celebrate in the Lord's Supper tonight with the bread and the wine, his sacrifice for us. Let me close with a story, because Jesus loved them so much. It's a true story and it was told to us by Dwight Lyman Moody. D. L. Moody was traveling over to the UK and he went to Scotland, up in the highlands of Scotland. He saw shepherds keeping sheep and he noticed that the shepherds were very diligent and attentive with their flocks, so he went to speak to one. And he said, "You know, these sheep are prone to wander by nature. And I, as a shepherd, have to kind of chase them around the highlands."
But he said, "There's a particular type of grass that these sheep will go after. It's very sweet and the sheep love it. And so they'll wander away, and sometimes they will even jump down into, like, a little landing in a real steep place, ten or twelve feet, to eat this grass. Now, they can't get back up, they require a rescue operation at that point. They isolate themselves by the jump and they eat the grass. So as a shepherd," he said, "I leave them there. They're bleating, they're crying out, but I leave them there. I wait till they've eaten all the grass. And I leave them there for days until they're so weak that they're going to faint." And Moody said, "Now why would you do that? Why wouldn't you immediately rescue them?" "Because," he said, "if I were to jump where they just jumped, I would scare them.
"They would jump out over the cliff and kill themselves. So I have to wait till they're so weak and they wouldn't---they can't go anywhere else. And then they just let me carry them and lift them away to safety." And Moody learned from that that human beings sometimes have to lose a lot. They have to lose families. They have to lose income. They have to lose a lot before they say, "I give up." And when they say, "I give up," when they come to themselves, the Shepherd goes, "Aah, you're in the right spot." "Lord, I'm at the end of my rope." "Good. I wish you would have gotten there years ago. [laughter] Now I can rescue you. Now you know that you have no thing you can add to this. There's no energy that will help. It's all me, not you."
In a moment we're going to bow our heads and I'm going to have a couple come up and lead us in the elements, the communion. It could be that that's you. I've just spoken to a lost sheep. You're at the end of your rope. You've eaten the grass. It was sweet for a day or so. Now you're starving. You're at the end, you've lost a lot, and you're about to be found by the Shepherd. Let's bow our hearts. Father, we consider the incredible truth that, frankly, church people are quick to forget that Jesus loved tax collectors and sinners. And they were attracted to him, while so often the snobby, religious leaders and the elite who prided themselves in being better and more spiritual like the older son, they're unable to rejoice. In fact, they are perhaps more lost than anyone if they don't have Christ.
Now we recognize some do have Christ, and they still complain, and they don't give Jesus a very good name because of it. But, Lord, we're just thankful that you love people, that you love all people. That you want to rescue people, whether like a sheep that has wandered or gone astray, or like a coin that has been abused and mistreated or lost, misplaced by society around them, or they have just said, "I'm checking out. I'm leaving. I'm not coming back," like the prodigal son. You're in the business of restoration, of bringing the sheep back who's too weary to walk, by placing him on your shoulders or her on your shoulders, by finding the coin and bringing it back to relationship, by finding the son who wandered away and restoring full sonship back.
Lord, I know that I may be speaking in this large crowd to some who have wandered away, or they have walked away, or they've just been beat up by this world. And tonight they find themselves at the end of their rope. They have felt helpless. They have sensed what it is to be hopeless. Assure them, Lord, of your great love for them, that you do not want anyone to perish. You want everyone come to repentance, to turn around, and turn to Jesus, like the prodigal son did in this story. And as the Father was there to receive back, Lord, you are here, you are present as we have gathered here tonight to restore, to bring back, to save. Our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed. You might be here tonight and in any of these stories you feel like it described you.
And whether it's the first time for you to authentically give your life to Jesus Christ, or you have wandered and you need to come back to him, if that describes you and you are willing to run back home into the Father's arms, to be found by him, to be brought into the fold, I want you to raise your hand up just so I can see your hand. Just keep it up for just a moment. God bless you toward the front, and you on my left. Yes, sir. Anyone else? Raise it up high so I can see it, if you don't mind---to my right, on the side. In the back, God bless you. In the family room, thank you. On my side to the left; another one in the back; another one toward the back on my right.
Father, I pray for those that have raised those hands. I don't know their past. I don't know their story, but I know you do. And I pray, Father, that you would, as they receive Jesus into their life, I pray that they will sense a peace and a belonging. Right where you're seated, if you raised your hand, would you just say to the Lord, right where you are: I give you my life, Lord. I know I'm a sinner. Forgive me. I turn my life to you. I repent. I turn away from my sin. I turn my life to Jesus. I believe that he died on the cross for me and that he rose from the dead for me, and I want to live for you. Receive me, in Jesus' name, amen.
If you prayed that prayer, after this service, if you don't mind, please, because we'd like to give you something and help you as you begin your walk, there's a prayer room right over here to my right, to your left. Just say, "I raised my hand tonight." Now, would you take the elements out. We're going to take the Lord's Supper as we close our service. Clay and Michelle Schroff are going to lead us as we take the elements, first the bread and then the juice.
Michelle Schroff: Let's pray. Dear heavenly Father, I just thank you so much, Lord, for giving your body, Lord, having it broken for us. Father God, I just pray that this week we would be more aware of that, in Jesus' name we pray. Let's take the bread together.
Clay Schroff: Lord, we are here standing before you and we are so thankful that you are willing to give of your blood, the blood that started in the garden where you knew what was before you, and yet you willingly went to be beaten, to be whipped, to be struck, and finally, Lord, to be pierced for us. As we take---as we take the element, Lord, we ask that we remember the great sacrifice that you gave to shed your blood to cover our sins, in the name of Christ. And we all drink together.
Closing: If you've missed any of our Expound studies, all of our services and resources are available at expoundabq.org.