The Hope of the Father. The Rest of the Story Part 3

June 15, 2014

Well here we are, week three of
our look at the Prodigal Son and the rest of the story. And all three of our
weeks have their beginning in Luke 15:11 To
illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.”
In week one we looked at the younger son, the “Prodigal
Son”.  We always picture him as a young
man, in his late teens or early twenties but there is no evidence of that.  All we know is that he was younger than his
brother.  My father is the younger son,
and he is 76. 
And we began with him because really the story is about him
and the choices he made. You will recall that he asked his father to divide the
family estate between himself and his older brother.  And the story tells us that the Father did
exactly that, and the younger brother took his share and wasted it on wild
living, reckless living, prodigal living, depending on the translation you use. 
But he chose to live that way, nobody put a gun to his head
and forced him to spend all his money in wild living it was a choice he made,
I’m sure he could identify with Oscar Wilde who
said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”
And you know the story, eventually a famine came upon the
land and the young man had spent all of his money.  And it is remarkable how quickly fair weather
friends disappear when the fair weather ends. 
And this brother ends up, we
are told, tending pigs.  Pigs!  For a Jew of that day, there would be no
other job that signified the bottom of the barrel like tending pigs.  In the Old Testament we are told in Leviticus
11:7-8
The pig has evenly split hooves but does
not chew the cud, so it is unclean. You may not eat the meat of these animals
or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you. And
I would suspect that the law had a very practical purpose, it was for the
people’s protection.  It would have been
very difficult for pork to be cooked to a safe temperature.  And here he was taking care of pigs.  And the bible tells us that the son “Came to
his senses”.  And he realized that even
the hired hands back home were treated better then he was.
And so in the same way that he
chose to leave home, he chose to return home. 
But much to his surprise he was greeted not as a servant but as a son.  And his father threw a party for his son to
celebrate his return home. 
But not everyone was happy, in
particular his older brother. 
In week one we looked at why
the younger brother needed to be celebrated. 
That he was willing to acknowledge that he had done wrong, that he was
willing to return to his father that he was willing to own up to his mistakes.
Those are the steps that still
lead each one of us home to the father.
Last week we looked at the
Morning after the Party.  And part of
that was celebrating the faithfulness of the older son.  You know the one who took care of his parents
and got up every day and went to work doing the things that needed to be
done. 
And we talked about how the
same God who can deliver us from sin can give us the strength that will keep us
from sin, how he will and does answer the prayer, “Lead me not into
temptation.”
And I mentioned how it somehow
seems easier to celebrate the person who beats an addiction then to celebrate
the person who never took the first drink or smoked their first cigarette.   It was Mark
Twain who said “It is easier to stay out
than get out.”
And that seemed like a fitting
message to deliver on the day we were celebrating our High School
Graduates.  “It
is easier to stay out than get out.”
And both of those messages
dealt with choices, good choices and bad choices but choices never the
less.  And it is a reminder that kids can
be raised in the same home by the same parents and still choose to take very
different paths in life. 
And for all their differences in their attitudes and the
choices that they made the one thing that the two sons had in common was their
father.  And so today, on Father’s day it
is quite fitting to look at the father. 
So let’s start at the beginning
because that is usually the best place to start.  Jesus has been telling his followers how much
God loves lost people and after he tells a story about a man finding his lost
sheep and a woman finding her lost coin and then we read.  Luke 15:11-12 To
illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you
die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
He
Hoped for the Best for his Children 
I’m
not sure what the father’s first reaction was when he heard his son’s request,
but he decided that this might be a good thing for his sons.  Maybe it was time that they took control of
their own destiny.  And that is something
we often long for; it’s part of growing up. 
I grew up in a home full of poetry, my dad
loves poetry and was often reciting bits and pieces of poems, many of them
nonsensical, like: I never saw a Purple Cow, I
never hope to see one; But I can tell you, anyhow, I’d rather see than be
one.  Or Last
night I saw upon the stairs, A little man who wasn’t there, He wasn’t there
again today, Oh how I wish he’d go away
But the one that seemed to resonate most with
Dad was a poem called Invictus by William Ernest Henley and part of it says:
It matters not how
strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
That is the desire for most of us, to be the
master of our fate and the captain of our souls.  And while as parents we know that and we
experienced it ourselves there is this desire for many of us to hold on as long
as we can before we let go.  But
eventually we need to let go.  And it’s
not easy, ever.  I googled “Letting your
children go” and I got 40,300 hits.
Malcolm
Forbes reminds us “Let your children go if
you want to keep them.”  You
understand that you can’t hold unto them forever?  That was never the plan.  Way back in the book of Genesis we are told Genesis
2:24
This explains why a man leaves his father
and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. And
then Jesus reiterates it in Matthew 19:5 And
Jesus said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined
to his wife, and the two are united into one.’   And remember this wasn’t after he
graduated from high school and then did his undergraduate work, got a master’s
degree and got settle in a career.  I
would imagine that this wasn’t long after he became a teen and started tending
his own field.
And we can and should do everything we can to prepare our kids and ourselves
for that day.  But finally you have to
take your hands off and hope for the best. 
How many of you as a kid ever rode your bike
with no hands?  Do you remember the
feeling?  You would take them off a
little bit and put them right back on and then take them further back and wait
a little longer before you put them back on the handlebars. 
And eventually you got to the place that you
could take them off, but you still hoped for the best.
We don’t know what happened
before the story began but we would suspect that he had brought his boys up
right, that he had taught them spiritual values and prayed for them.  He did what he could, remember Solomon’s
advice in  Proverbs 22:6 Direct
your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave
it.
He did what he could do.  But there were things he couldn’t do, he
couldn’t make the choices.  And we want
to do that for our kids, mine are grown up and I still want to do that.  A few years ago Great Big Sea had a song out
called Captain Kidd.  Listen to the
words.   My
father taught me well, To shun the gates of hell, But against him I rebelled as
I sailed, He shoved a bible in my hand But I left it in the sand.
And so he took his hands off and hoped for the
best.  And one of the boys settled in,
joined the family business and acted responsibly.  The other not so much.  And I’m sure that there were times the father
wished that he could turn back the clock? Or flip over the hour glass or
whatever he would have used.
There were probably times that he wondered
what would have happened if he had of waited a little longer, perhaps his
younger son would have matured.  Perhaps
he thought about what would have happened if he had of put conditions on how
the money was spent. Or if he of just simply said “You’ll have to wait until I
die”
He probably knew his son’s character, but he
was willing to take a chance and hope for the best. 
Luke 15:20 “So
he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his
father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son,
embraced him, and kissed him.
He Believed
for the Best for his Children 
I
wonder how many days he had waited and watched for his son’s return?  This was a time without Skype or face time,
no email or telephones.  So he probably
didn’t know for sure where his son was or what he was doing. 
For the matter he didn’t know if his son was
dead or alive.  But there was a belief
deep in his heart that someday his son would return and when that happened he
wanted to be ready. 
And so he prayed and he waited.  But more than that, he prayed believing.  He had prepared for the day that his son
would come home. 
He had his robe waiting, he had his ring
waiting and a new pair of sandals waiting. 
I wonder if the calf had been fattened for this particular moment, if
there was always a calf ready for the celebration.  And how many calves had become full grown
cows through the time the father had waited for his son to return? 
When we pray for our kid’s
salvation do we pray believing? Or do we pray hoping?  You might remember a story in the book of
Acts.  It’s in Acts chapter 12, King
Herod has had James the brother of John executed and now he was Peter arrested
and thrown into prison to await his execution. 
And the church comes together to pray for their leader.  We are told in Acts 12:12 that they had
gathered in the home of John Mark’s mother Mary, specifically to pray for
Peter.
Well if you know the story
Peter is miraculously delivered from prison and shows up at Mary’s house, listen
to the response of those praying for his deliverance.  Acts 12:12-15 When
he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where
many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a
servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice,
she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and
told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” “You’re out of your mind!” they
said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”
They were hoping he would be
delivered but didn’t actually believe it would happen. 
The father knew that one day
his son would return and he was ready. 
We don’t know how long he had watched and how long he waited but when
his son returned he was ready.  I wonder
what would have happened if the day before he decided that it was never going
to happen and he gave away the robe, the ring and the sandals and released the
fattened calf?
If your prodigal child showed up in church
today would you be surprised?
Let’s go on with the story.
Luke 15:28 “The
older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him
. . .   
He Worked
for the Best for his Children 
So we
know the story, younger brother asks for his inheritance and the father divides
his estate between the two boys.  The
younger brother heads for the big city and over a period of time blows his
inheritance on cigarettes and whisky and wild wild women, or the like.  A famine comes across the land and he is now
broke and friendless ends up working for a pig farmer where he comes to his
senses and returns home where he is welcomed back with open arms and a
celebration.  But not by everyone.
The older brother, the faithful brother gets
his nose out of joint and gets a pout on. 
Now the father could have said “well boys will be boys, they’ll get over
it.”  But he knew how important this was
and he wasn’t leaving this one to chance, Cain and Abel didn’t get over it. 
He knew that this was a relationship that
needed to be mended.  They would live
together and work together.  And sibling
relationships are complicated.  Love the
story of the Sunday School teacher who was teaching her class the Ten
Commandments and after talking about honour your mother and your father asked
the kids if there were any commandments that applied to the children’s brothers
and sisters.  To which one little guy
responded “do not kill”. 
I would suspect that until you move out and
get married there isn’t anyone that you spend as much time with as your
siblings.  You play with them, you fight
with them, you go to school with them, you even might share a room with them. 
And in most cases it will be the relationship
that last longer than any other.  I was
talking to a gentleman the other day who was in a dispute with his brothers and
sisters over the division of their mother’s estate.  And lifelong relationships are in danger
because of stuff.
And I’ve seen that happen over and over again.
And this is a tangent but make sure you have a
will and make sure that your kids know what’s in it.  And don’t make promises or allude to promises
that you don’t intend to keep.  In our
case we are going to make it simple, we are going to spend it all before we
die.
There are times that we can’t just hope and
believe for our kids, sometimes we need to intervene.  And the father knew he couldn’t force the
older brother to like his younger brother, but he could show him the truth of
the relationship. 
So listen to the conversation
that the Father has with his eldest.  Luke
15:28-30
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t
go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years
I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to.
And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my
friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on
prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
Now listen to the father’s
response in the next two verses.  Luke
15:31-32
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son,
you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to
celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life!
He was lost, but now he is found!’”
Did you catch what I missed for
years?  When the older brother is airing
his complaints he makes this statement.  Yet
when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes .
. .This son of yours, your son did this. 
But listen to the father’s response, For your brother was
dead and has come back to life!  He
not just my son, he’s your brother.  The
brother you played with, the brother that you shared a room with, the brother
that you fought with and fought for.
It probably wasn’t an easy
conversation for the father to have, but because he wanted the very best for
his sons he was willing to have it.
Sometimes we hope for the best
for our kids and we pray and believe for the best for our kids, but do we
actually take the time and do the work? 
Have you ever talked to your
kids about their spiritual needs?  Have
you ever asked them the hard questions about their eternity or do you hope
Pastor Marilyn and her crew will do it on Sunday in Jr. Church, or Pastor Ben
will do it Wednesday nights at youth group or I will do it on Sunday Morning?
So we are we today, on this
Father’s Day 2014?  And really this isn’t
just for fathers it for parents and it’s not just for parents it for any one of
you who has a loved one or friend who doesn’t have a relationship with
Jesus. 
Do you pray in expectation that
one day they will cross over the line to begin a relationship with Jesus?  And have you invited them to.