Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 34
Have you ever had the thought that your sin was so terrible that maybe God would be unable to forgive you? I know I have. In today’s podcast I am going to prove without a shadow of a doubt that your greatest sin is forgivable.
Luke 15:20 – “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 repeatedly.”
This is Lee Whitman and for many years I believed that my sin was so great, so horrible that God could never forgive me. You see much of my sin was committed after becoming a Christian which in my mind made my sin unforgivable. The story found in Luke 15 is one we call the story of the prodigal son. When I looked at this story in the context of the time it was written it changed my life forever and I hope it will bring you peace. This story however, is not as much about the prodigal son, as it is about the great love and forgiveness of the father. This is a story that Jesus told so that we could know what Father God is like.
I encourage you to read the whole story found in Luke 15:11-32. Let’s begin our podcast by looking at the sons actions and putting them into context. In the process, I want you to recognize that each of these things are sins against his father. Look at the amount of sin this boy committed against his father.
1. The first thing the son does is think that his way of living life would be better than living in his fathers house. “I know how to live my life better than you do”. I’m glad we never do that!
2. The second thing he does is ask his father for the portion of the inheritance that is due him right now. It would have been normal for the eldest son to ask his father for his portion of the estate, but it was completely out of the custom for the younger son to do so. In essence he was saying to his father, “I wish you were dead. I want what is coming to me”.
3. Third, he takes the money and leaves. This says two things. First it says that he is rejecting his heritage. He is rejecting everything that his father stands for. He is leaving his family and the family property.
This also says that this father was a very wealthy man. Most people of that
day had their wealth tied up in property and livestock. For this father to
have wealth that he could give this son meant that he was very wealthy.
This boy took the money that this father had worked all of his life to earn
and left home.
4. The fourth thing we see is that he takes his newfound wealth and leaves the country. He not only turns his back on his family heritage, but he turns his back on his national heritage. This was not something that a Jewish boy would ever think of doing. Leaving his family was one offense, but leaving his country was another offense altogether.
5. Fifth, he spends his father’s hard earned inheritance on wine, women and song. He lives the life of a playboy. I am sure that while he had money, he had all kinds of friends who helped him party his money away.
6. Sixth, when he had run out of money he hired on with a citizen of that foreign country. We don’t understand this in our culture, but for him to “work for” someone of another culture was forbidden. This was the son of a wealthy Jewish landowner. To submit himself to someone of another country was something no self-respecting Jewish man would do.
7. Seventh, he hired on to feed this foreigners pigs. Not only was this a job that was way below this boys status in life, but it was also something that would have made him religiously unclean. This boy would have been raised knowing the religious laws. He would know that this activity was forbidden. Yet, he had fallen so low that he allowed himself to stoop to this unclean job.In doing so he turned his back on his religion.
So let’s look at all that this boy had done. If these were sins, look at the amount of sin that he committed against his father.
– He rebelled against his father
– He told his father he wished he were dead
– He turned his back on his family and the family heritage
– He turned his back on his country and the national heritage
– He disrespected his fathers hard work by blowing his inheritance on loose living.
– He hires on to work for a foreigner, stooping way below his upbringing.
– He turns his back on his religion.
In my mind, I don’t know that this boy could have done anything more offensive towards his father. When you add up all of his sins, this list would be hard for us to equal.
Before we look at how the father responded, I want to point out two really important aspects of this story. First is the grace of God found in a famine. What? Grace in a famine? Your betcha. It says when the famine hit the boy came to his senses. In other words this boy was out of his mind when he ran away and blew all of his fathers money. Not literally out of his physical mind but he was under the influence of deception which made this rebellious behavior seem reasonable. That is the power of sin. It can distort our thinking so that we can’t think clearly. This distortion can become so strong that we justify our sinful behavior. The famine caused him to wake up and think clearly again.
The second thing that happened is that when he came to his senses, the first thing he thought of was returning to his father. Sin had distorted his view of his father causing him to rebel. But once the deception was removed, the boy was drawn back to his father. He knew that in his father’s house he would be taken care of. He was drawn back home by the love of his father.
Now let’s look at how the father responded. Remember that this is a story showing us what Father God is really like.
1. The father gave him the money and allowed him to leave. By all rights he could have told his son to go jump in a lake, but in the father’s wisdom, he knew that in order to have this son’s whole heart, he needed to allow him to take the money and leave. Isn’t that just like our Father God as well. Sometimes He allows us to have things that are not necessarily good for us because we need to get something out of our system and come to our senses.
2. The father never stopped waiting and watching for the son’s return. I can just see this father sitting on the front porch day after day looking off in the distance for his son’s return.
3. When he spotted his son coming up the road, he ran down the driveway to greet him. The was a wealthy landowner. Running down the driveway was not something a man in his position should do. He should have sent one of his servants to fetch the boy, but no!, he abandoned his dignity and the opinion of all the slaves and servants and ran because his son had returned home.
4. He threw himself on the boy (read bear hug) and kissed him repeatedly. Where had this boy just come from? He had been living with the swine. If you have ever been around a pig farm, you know the smell is unfathomable. So how many kisses do you think it took the father to figure out what this boy had been doing? But the pig slop on his son did not stop him from kissing his son repeatedly. For the father to touch the pig slop stained son would have made the father religiously unclean. Did he allow that to stop him from kissing his son? Nope! That did not stop his father from lavishing affection on this pig slop stained son.
5. He told the servants to bring three things from the house; a robe, a ring, and sandals. Each one of these items represents something very important.
The first thing he told his servants to bring was the best robe. This speaks of the robe of righteousness that we are given. The son was covered in his sinful behavior. Instead of bringing the boy into the house to change his filthy clothes and be seen by all the slaves and servants, he covered his filth with his robe. He told his servant to get his best robe out of his closet. He could have told the servant to get that old worn-out thread bare green robe from the back of his closet and it would have covered the dirt. No, I think he told them to get his best robe because he had to convince his son of his value. This son came home saying he didn’t deserve to even be his son again. He asked his father to make him as one of the hired servants. In the father’s house there would have been slaves and hired servants. Slaves would have been treated almost like family. They would have lived on the estate their entire life and everything they needed would have been provided by the landowner. Hired servants on the other hand were only paid for their labor. This boy thought so little of himself that he was hoping that he could hire himself on to his father as a hired servant, knowing that the hired servants were given better care than what he had just experienced. By putting the best robe on him to cover his shame, the father was communicating to his son the boys value and identity. I can almost hear the father put the robe on this boy and say, “No one in that house will know of the dirt you got into. That is just between you and me, and I ain’t telling anyone!” (That’s the southern translation)
The second thing the servants brought was the ring. The ring would have been the signate ring of the estate. It represented authority. Whoever wore the ring was in charge on this property. Wow! What an amazing statement this makes. The son walked away from his father and his father’s house, but he never stopped being his father’s son. Many have said this is a story of someone repenting and coming to faith in Christ for the first time. I think it is a story of a son, a born again believer in Jesus getting off into sin and God the Father’s response. Because this boy was still a son, he was put back in authority over the family property. Did he deserve to have his authority back? No way. But being a son meant he was still in authority.
The third thing the servants brought were sandals. This speaks to the depth of poverty this boy had sunk to. He became so poor that he sold his sandals. I just imagine the father giving his son a hug and saying, “Your poverty is just between you and me. When we go back into the house, you can keep your head up because you are my son.”
6. The last thing the father does is have them kill the fatted calf and throw a party. The fatted calf was raised especially for when dignitaries came to visit their home. To kill the fatted calf was an extraordinary event.
Before we leave this story, we must mention the father’s older son. He had been home faithfully working in his father’s fields. When he discovered that his worthless younger brother was home and his father was throwing him a party, he was mad. He confronted his father and told him off by saying that he had faithful served his father all of his life and the father never even given him a goat to have a party with his friends. I am going to put the fathers response into my own words as a father myself. (but read it for yourself in verses 31-32)
With great pain in his heart he looks in his sons eyes and says, “my son, we have always been together. Everything I have is also yours. You could have had a party with your friends anytime you wanted.” The sad part about the older son was that he spent all of his life working for his father and he missed enjoying a relationship with him.
It would be almost impossible for us to equal the list of sin committed by this son towards his father. Yet Jesus told this story so that we would know what His Father is like. He is a Father who runs to forgive us and cover our sin and shame with his best robe of righteousness.