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The Self Righteous Prodigal

To understand the Parables of Jesus, it is best to understand the culture of the day. In the story of the Prodigal Son, as it is best known, we need to read and study the entire chapter of Luke 15 to get the full context of the parable. This Parable is often taught leaving out the beginning of the chapter and also leaving out the very last part. To leave out either part is to teach an incomplete lesson and study.
So let’s read the entire chapter again for the first time, with an open mind, and see what the Lord may have to say to you today.
As we read the opening verses of this chapter, we see that many publicans and sinners have come to hear Jesus speak. Also present in this crowd were Pharisees and Saducees. Luke 15:1-2
The Pharisees were self righteous teachers of the religeous community, whom mostly gained their positions by bribery and big money. They were wealthy and they loved to Lord it over the common people, looking down their noses at them with disdain. The common people to them were the dregs of society.
The tax collectors, and the sinners to Jesus were represented as lost sheep who were in need of a Savior. To the average Israeli, the tax collectors were the most hated of all, for they worked for the Romans who were the oppressors. The tax collectors were corrupt, taking from the people more taxes than they should have. They were for that matter stealing from their own.
To the Pharisees the common people, including the tax collectors were considered religiously unclean.
Jesus in the eyes of all was considered to be a "Good Man."  Yet in the mind of the Pharisees, Jesus was also unclean because He hung out with the tax collectors, and the sinners, and the common people, so therefore He was guilty by association.
We too are often just as guilty as the Pharisees. We too often stay far away from the dregs of society. Anyone seen to be near them is considered to be unclean, unrighteous. We would rather if we could associate with the elite of society, with those who hold power and money. If we are seen with these types of folks, we think that we are a "Somebody."
In the culture of the day, to share a meal with somebody was to accept and approve of them. So when the Pharisees saw Jesus hanging out with these unclean, unrighteous persons, in their mind, He also was like them, and therefore could not be a "Good Man." Their prejudice is no different than many of us today. Look at yourself closely. Are you also a prejudicial Pharisee?
Jesus, as we know was not shy to confront these self righteous Pharisees. One of His favourite ways to confront them was by way of parables. And so Jesus tells these folks several parables, aimed straight as an arrow to their hearts to make them see what kind of men they really were and to make them see that they did not know God and His ways at all. Each of these parables is a reflection mirroring these Pharisees showing them not only their self righteousness, but also a window looking at and reflecting God the Father.
These Pharisees thought that they knew God very well, but Jesus was going to show them that they did not know Him at all. They did not understand the awesome love of that the Father has for the lost and how His heart breaks when one goes astray.
Through these three parables in chapter 15, we learn that it is God Himself who initiates His love towards us in that. While we are still yet sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. Rom. 8 It is He whom searches out for us, while we are yet still lost sinners, desiring us to draw close to Him.
The point of these three parables is not so much about a lost shepherd, nor a lost coin, nor a lost son, but about a searching, loving Father who searches to seek and to save they which are lost. Luke 19:10; Matt. 18:11

Now lets read Luke 15:11-24 about a Wayward Son and a searching Father.
We have all at one time or another searched desperately for something which is lost, like a wife’s ring, a lost child, car keys etc. If one loses a child at a carnival, the pain that a father or mother would feel would be comparable to the hurt and pain our Father in heaven must feel when one of us becomes lost, becomes a prodigal running away from Him. Who else but a parent could feel the anguish of a lost child like our Father? We read how Jesus wept over Jerusalem as they continually turned away from Him, Matt. 23:37.That is how much He loves us.
The young prodigal son we being very self-centered when he asked his father for his inheritance. To hear such a request as this from a son whom he loved, was like hearing that your son was wishing you to be dead. The father likely tried to talk some sense into his sons head, and he also likely knew exactly what the boy would do with all this money. Eventually the father relented to the sons request and let him go. We today would refer to this as tough love. Sometimes a parent has to to let a son or daughter go their own way so that they can learn the error of their ways on their own, the hard way.

And so we read how the boy gathered up his inheritance and belongs and left for a far off country living a harlotous life boozing it up and throwing his money around like a big shot until it all ran out. And we learn that a famine came upon the country and he became hungry. He sought out a way to get food and money, but the best offered to him was working with pigs and eating the same scraps they got. This would have been terribly degrading, especially to a Jew. During a time of famine pigs would have been of more value than people, so  all the people turned their backs on him and gave him nothing.
Had the story ended here, the Pharisees would have said that he got just what he deserved. Fortunately, our Father is not like that. He wishes us to repent and coming running back to Him.
With his stomach grumbling, ragged and filthy, the son we read comes to his senses and realizes what a fool he had been. He realizes that he not only sinned against his own earthly father, but also again the Father in heaven. Unfortunately we often need to fall into the pig pen, to hit rock bottom before we come to our senses, repent and turn back to God.
We can know for sure the boy was sincere in how he felt because he did not desire to return to his father as a son, but as a meager hired servant. Do we not also feel that at times we are unworthy of the Father when we have sinned?
Thankfully our God's love for us is so great that He will not leave us in the dumps.
In true humiliation, the prodigal son returns home, hungry, likely smelling like the pigs, dirty, degraded with his head bowed rehearsing what he would say to his father.                                       
Many an earthly father would perhaps look up to their approaching prodigal son with disgust. But our Father who is represented in this parable as the boy’s father does not do that. Our Father in heaven does not shut us out, does not turn His back on us while we still draw breath. He awaits for us patiently, wooing us, searching for us, looking for us daily awaiting for us to repent, come to our senses and return to Him.
So it is, as in the story, the father does not just stand there on the door step when he sees the boy coming. But he runs with outstretched arms eager to hug us and welcome us home, even before the son has expressed his repentance. Our Father needs not wait to hear from our lips to know that we have repented. He already knows our heart. And yes, just as in the story, there is a party. Like wise when one on earth repents and comes to the Father, there is great joy in heaven.
In Middle East culture, older men do not run, nor do we ever see the elite run with emotion in our culture today. But this father runs to his son and immediately after embracing the boy he calls for a party. Bring out the best calf, a robe and sandals, "my son which was lost is found he says."
The father in this story brought out his best to honour his repentant, prodigal son. Our Father also gave His best when He gave His Son for us when were also lost. The son was once again recognized as a heir to the father's estate as we are to our Father in heaven.
The father was not treating his son so well because he deserved it, but because he loved him so much. He went out of his way showing grace and mercy upon the once wayward son.
God our Father likewise does not dispose grace and mercy upon us because we deserve it or because of anything we have done. He gives because He loves us so much. John 3:16
This is a God who runs and embraces, who accepts the filthy prodigal sons when they run and turn back to Him. This is a God who calls for a party in heaven, who cries out; "Welcome, welcome home!" (see Luke 15:7)
This is a God the Pharisees did not know and understand. That is why the story does not end here, but continues on to the end of the chapter. This ending part is the real key to this story.
Allow me suggest that the prodigal son represents the tax collectors and the sinners around Jesus. These folks know that they are lost and in need of a Savior. They are willing at least to come and sit at his feet and to listen to His teachings. And the angry elder son represents the hard nosed, know it all, non seeking Pharisees.
At first look the elder son looks like the respectable son, who is hard working, always obeying his father. He seemingly was doing the right thing. But may I suggest that his relationship with his father was likely strained. His righteousness was masked by the law, doing right outwardly, but perhaps inwardly rebelling against the father. The Pharisees also appear to have a form of godliness, but Jesus chastised them another time calling them blind guides, white sepulchers. Read Matt. 23:1-36; Luke 11:39-44. Jesus unmasked their self righteousness, those who thought they knew the Father and were doing His work. But, they were far, far from the Lord.
The elder son, upon hearing the celebration was angered and his thoughts towards his brother, rather than being joyful at his return, was anger and jealous. He was so angry that he refused to go to the party even after his father had pleaded with him to come and join the party and enjoy.
His rebelliousness would have been an insult to his father. This is like a teen picking a fight with a parent. It was terribly disrespectful. It was his duty to go and join in the celebration with his father. He chose to not even have fellowship with his father because the father had thrown a party for the one whom had lived with pigs, partied it up, losing all his money.
The Pharisees likewise chose to not have fellowship with Jesus, because Jesus fellowshipped with the dregs of society. They like the elder son chose to stay outside of the Fathers house. When one refuses to accept what the Father offers, what He accepts, it reveals ones true heart relationship to God.
Still the father pleads to the elder son, because he likewise loves his elder son as much as he loves the younger son. But for all his pleading, it was to no avail.
The elder brother contempt for his father showed clearly the true nature of his heart, just as the Pharisees had contempt for Jesus. Their hearts were far from God. Though the elder son worked hard for his father, he did not share his father’s heart. When he says: "This son of yours" (Luk 15: 30 New International Version ©2011), he clearly shows he neither loved his brother, nor his father.
His final statements show how self serving he really was, how self-righteous he truly was. He was not joyful of being the recipient of his fathers love. In reality, he like the Pharisees was far further from the Father than was the prodigal son.
Never-the-less, this father portrays the love of our Father God, despite the elders disrespectful outburst. He continues to plead to the elder son to come and join in and share the joy that the father has for him, for us. He is a gracious, merciful Father who perseveres, who holds out hope, pleading for us to come close to Him, despite our failures, despite our sins.
When our Father sees a repentant sinner returning, He cannot of Himself cancel the party, cancel His love for us who are all prodigals.
Jesus was showing these self righteous Pharisees His deity and God's grace. That after all is the true theme of this story.
This is yet one other part of this story which is still missing. from this story, we never really learn if the elder son ever repented. Did he enter or did he not? The end of the story leaves us ah ging. Likely as not he did not enter the joy of the Lord.
This is the sin of the Pharisees. As long as they do not enter into and accept the grace of the Father, they are left on the outside. Our Father offers us grace and mercy and eternal life. If we do not enter in, and accept His offer of the forgiveness of our sins and salvation, we will not enter in to His joy and rest.
If we cannot see the need for grace for others, how will we ever see the need for grace and mercy for ourselves. To do so is to forfiet fellowship with the Father. The Pharisees likewise remain outside as long as they have contempt for the least of these.
Whether you are in a far country and have fallen to the the bottom, to the very dregs of the barrel, or if you are standing on the outside, the Father is still calling, "Come on In, Come home."
How we relate to others, reveals how we relate to God. He aches and cries for you every day to come. Will you not come on in and enjoy His blessings, enjoy the rest He has prepared for you?
I am reminded of the hymn "Just As I am" Please come just as you are and enter the party and homecoming He has preparing for you. Will you?

Prodigal Son - An Email....

This is an email in response to a brother in a Christian online group. He has been away (or not participating) for a while and also fell back into his sinful life. Now he came back:

I kinda ben wondering where ya all got to. But, we here are much the same as the Lord and the Prodigal child. Though you may wander away, we are always here waiting for you to come back. No questions asked, no condemnation. We are all human and prone to wandering and falling away at times. No matter how far you have fallen you are always welcome to come back. If we could not welcome you back with open arms, what good would we be.
Staying out of the Word, is the same as staying out of fellowship with God. The two go hand in hand. Because if you stay out of the Word, you are not in daily fellowship with Him. That is to say, that one cannot continue a friendship with another, no matter whom it is ,if one does not maintain constant ,or at least a somewhat continuous conversation and contact with another. When the conversation is broken, so is the fellowship and friendship. It eventually breaks away.  I have been watching the Lord of the Rings this week. It is a reminder of just that. Some tried to go out on their own, and their friendship was broken, and at the end, they realized their folly and wished they had stayed with the fellowship. Like wise, so it is with the Lord, and with fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. God created us to have that bond to keep us strong together in Him and together with one another. And when we break that fellowship with our wanderings, we loose the harmony that binds us together with Him, and with one another. The chords that bind us together begin to unwind and eventually become weak when we are out of fellowship and out of the Word. The chords break and we are no longer one with our brothers and sister and with the Lord.
When that happens we also become sick in the sense that we are no longer able to be strong. We become weak and are unable any longer to stay the course upon we were once formally on. There is a verse in scripture at which at the moment I cannot quote or recall what it is, but it is a reminder than when two or more are together in the Word, or in Fellowship with the Lord, we are strong. I think it is in James.
But at the same time we become weak where we are no longer to be able to follow the path  upon which we were on. It is like losing sight. I am familiar with that. Though I am not that old, yet I find my sight growing weak. I can no longer read small print  and am need of glasses at all times. If not for my glasses, it would be only to easy for me to lose my way at times. And thus it is when we become weak. We are no longer enabled by the Lord to follow after Him. The Holy Spirit is our guiding light. When we are following after the Lord, He is there and is guiding us along the path. But when we fall away, the Holy Spirit is withdrawn and we soon become entangled and lost in the quagmire of mud and brier. We can no longer see our way onto the path of righteousness. I might suggest as I have done before to read the Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan. It is an analogy of just this very same thing. It is the analogy of the normal Christians walk. Most cannot keep the straight an narrow and fall by the wayside only to stray back onto the straight and narrow again, but to fall again and again.
But God is just and willing to forgive us our unrighteousness and is able and willing to take us by the hand and lead us back onto His path and into righteousness. The story of the prodigal son is just that story given us to help us to see the truth of this.1 John 1:9 tells us that if we will admit our sins, and turn back to Him, He will bring us back into fellowship with Him.
Many never come back into the fold because of pride. But God will overlook our weaknesses if we will but confess our sins  and take hold of His hand again. Will you take hold once again?
I pray you will and await your coming back again with open arms.
God Bless

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