************ Sermon on Luke 15:32 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 25, 2018
Mission Emphasis Service
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk 15:2). That's the complaint of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk 15:2).
What does it mean to welcome someone? In our culture most people shake hands; but some also give hugs. In the Middle East you hold the other person by the shoulder and give a kiss on both cheeks. And, to eat with someone means entering their home, having table fellowship, sharing their food, enjoying their hospitality.
Jesus welcomed sinners. He touched sinners. He kissed sinners. He ate with sinners.
Who are these sinners? Luke identifies one group: tax collectors (Lk 15:1) -- like Zacchaeus (Lk 19). Other sinners include immoral women: like the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well (Jn 4) and the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet (Lk 7). Also included in the category of "sinners" are the diseased and the lame.
If you are a Pharisee, you don't welcome sinners and eat with them because that contaminates you, because that makes you unfit for worship, because that makes you unclean. The Pharisees despised tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees believed no forgiveness and no compassion should be given to those who lived wickedly. And, if such people did repent, they needed to show proof over a long period of time that theirs is genuine reform; in other words, they wanted their pound of flesh before accepting them.
"This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk 15:2). How horrible of Jesus! Isn't He concerned about purity? Isn't He concerned about contamination? Isn't He concerned about the Law?
In our Bible reading today we see Jesus teaching the Pharisees and teachers of the law about the love of God. And, Jesus is also teaching us. He is teaching that He came to save sinners (Lk 19:10), that He is the Shepherd Who seeks the lost. That's our joy and our message on this Mission Emphasis Sunday. That's why He welcomed and ate with the outcasts of society. More particularly, Jesus teaches that God loves younger brother sinners and that God loves older brother sinners. Let's listen to both brothers and see the love of Jesus.
I Younger Brother Sinners
[My thanks to David Murray for what follows on the younger brother.]
We start with the younger brother sinner. Listen to what he has to say.
A I’M FED UP (vs 12)
Dad’s a good guy, a wise guy, and, thankfully, a forgiving guy. He’s gracious and generous to everyone in our family, especially to me, and even to his servants. I should have no complaints, and I don’t, apart from the fact that, well, life here is so boring.
My friends come back from their city jobs with such amazing experiences and exciting stories to tell. I’ve got nothing on that. Life here is so predictable, so routine, so ordinary, so boring.
But that’s all going to change, and today’s the day. I’m going to ask Dad for an advance on my inheritance, and then I’ll be off to a bigger and better life. He’ll probably say no, but I’ve got a few levers to pull.
B I’M FREE (vs 13)
I can’t believe it. I’m on the road. Free at last. No more Sunday worship, no more family devotions, no more "home by midnight," no more Dad watching over my shoulder, no more boredom.
I’m free to choose my friends, free to choose my own girlfriends, free to try whatever I want, free to be me, free to be whoever I want to be.
Yes, it was painful to see dad’s face when I told him. But the money is mine, after all. I’m just getting it a few years early. It’s not as if I’m going to spend it all at once. I’m not that dumb. I’ll invest some and save some, but I’m definitely also going to spend some and enjoy myself.
Sure, the last couple of days were a bit of a nightmare, with Dad and Mom moping around all day and talking long into the night. But not my brother -- he was happy to see me gone. "Mr. Perfect" has never made a wrong step in his life.
Anyway, watch out world, here I come.
C I’M FAMISHED (vs 13–14, 16)
I’m sure I had more money in my purse. Where did it go? I couldn’t have spent it already, could I? I wish I hadn’t loaned out my savings to Joe. Haven’t seen him since. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen anyone since I started having to cut back last week.
I was kind of hoping to get an invitation to a party this weekend and get some good food and drink inside me -- the cost of food is soaring in this famine. I am so hungry. How can I get something to eat?
D I’M FILTHY (vs 15–16)
I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe it. From the beautiful people to pigs. From parties to a pigsty. I never thought pig slop could look so tasty. Some friends they were -- wouldn’t even help me through my little downturn.
Someone else is enjoying all their "attention." Just think of all that I gave and shared. And what do I get back? A big fat zero. And mud. And manure. It’s just disgusting.
These guys disgust me. In fact, I disgust myself. My "friends" make me sick. The pigs make me sick. I make myself sick. But what else can I do?
E I’M FOOLISH (vs 17)
What am I doing? Look at yourself, you dummy. Look at what you’ve given up. And look at what you "gained." I’ve been such a fool. I’ve spent all my money. No, let’s be honest: I’ve wasted it, threw it all away. And for what? What do I have to show for it? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Come on, think, man. Even Dad’s servants have a better life than this. They’ve got plenty of food, and I’m simply starving. Maybe I should … no, I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
F I’M FINISHED (vs 18)
Okay, I’m done. I can’t take any more of this. I’ve got to risk it and go home to Dad. The thought of seeing my brother smirking is agony, but I’ve got a chance with my father, especially if I ask his forgiveness and beg for mercy. Even if he takes me on as a servant, that would be more than I could hope for. Maybe he can even help me spiritually, because I’ve sinned against God as well. In fact, I’ve sinned against Him above all.
I have no idea what lies ahead, but I’m finished with this so-called "life." Whatever the future holds back home, it’s got to be better than this, even if I could be a servant. Perhaps Dad will give me a place with the hired help.
G I’M FORGIVEN (vs 19-24)
Who’s that on the hill? Looks like Dad. Must have lost a sheep. Oh, now he’s running in this direction. I wonder if he saw me?
Wait, I think I hear him yelling, "My son, my son, my son. Welcome home, my son, my son." Am I hearing this right?
"Dad, please. Please, Dad! Dad, can you hold off on the kisses? Dad, Dad, please don’t call me your son. I don’t deserve that. I am so, so sorry. I’ve sinned against God and I’ve sinned against you. Listen, I know I don’t deserve even this, but if I could even be one of your servants, that would be huge."
"Servant? Never, never, never. You’re my son. Always and ever my son."
"No, Dad, it’s not right."
"If you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place, my son. You were lost and dead. You are found and alive. You most certainly are and always shall be my son.
"Hey there, servant. Get the best cloak, best ring, and best meat for my son. Fix it -- fast. We’re going to celebrate and have such a good time. My son, my son, my son."
H Surely you see, congregation, that the younger brother sinner represents sinners everywhere. That he represents you and me. That we are the ones who forsake the Father for loose living in a godless and immoral world. That we are the ones forgiven because of the love of the Father in Christ.
Your Father has already left home to find you. And others too. He's coming, He's running, He's hugging, He's kissing, He's calling, He's celebrating. And on this Mission Emphasis Sunday we celebrate there is nothing He enjoys more than forgiving because of the death and resurrection of His Son!
II Older Brother Sinners
Now, let's listen to the older brother sinner and what he has to say.
A I'M WORKING HARD (vs 25-27)
Boy, is it ever hot work in the field today. I am glad it is quitting time. "Let's go, men. Let's go back to the house."
"Hey, servant, what's going on? I hear music and it looks like dad and mom are dancing."
"Your brother has come home and your father has ordered a party."
B I'M ANGRY (vs 28)
Can you believe it? My worthless brother has come home and dad throws a party. Forget it. Forget him. I'd rather die than go inside and party.
Now what is he doing? Why is dad leaving the party? Why, he is coming over to me! I'm gonna give him a piece of my mind! I'm gonna let him know how I feel!
"My Son, my Son, you know how your mother cried herself to sleep every night. You know how upset I was when your brother left home. Come on, join the party. Celebrate with us."
Dad really sounds upset that I didn't come into the house. Doesn't he realize I have the right to be mad?
C I'M SLAVING (vs 29-30)
Here goes, let me give him both barrels.
"Your other son has been hanging around with sinners and prostitutes. He has thrown away your property on parties. Yet when he comes home you give him another party."
"Remember me? I'm the good son. I work hard all day long in the fields. Just as hard as any of the servants. I obeyed you while your other son showed disrespect. I'm the one who deserves a party. Yet, you don't let me have a party. It is not fair. It is not right. How can you reward him? How can you dance about him?"
There, that will make him think twice.
I don't think I've ever talked to dad that way before. But I have a right to be mad. I've been slaving away while the worthless dog has been partying.
I wonder if I went overboard? Too late now, I suppose.
D I'M SHOWN LOVE (vs 31-32)
"My son, my son, my son. I love you so much. I am so thankful for all you do. I am so thankful you remained home. You know all of this is yours."
The old man means this. Is that a tear I see in the corner of his eye? He doesn't want to hurt me.
"Your mother and I have to celebrate. As the weeks and months went by we never heard from your brother. You know how bad the famine got. We were sure your brother was dead. But he is alive! He was lost and now is found! Come. Dance. Eat. Celebrate!"
E I NEED TO RESPOND (vs 33)
I say verse 33 but there is no verse 33. So what happened? Did the older son join the party? Did he forgive his brother? Did he bury his unholy attitude?
We aren't told how the older brother sinner responds.
Do you know why? So the Pharisees are left wondering. So they are left asking.
Jesus wants the Pharisees to see themselves in the older brother. Jesus wants the Pharisees to realize they have the same attitude as the older brother. The attitude of the older brother towards the younger brother is the same as the attitude of the Pharisees towards the sinners welcomed by Jesus. On this Mission Emphasis Sunday let me ask: Is this our attitude towards those sinners who join the church?
III Come, Celebrate
[My thanks to Dr. J. Mark Beach for the ideas under this point.]
A Have you ever noticed that some people are more like younger brother sinners while others are more like older brother sinners?
Younger brother sinners are the sinners we easily recognize and warn our children and youth about. They are scandalous sinners. At their worst, they abandon the faith. They take to the road. They move away from the covenant home and stay away from church. Their lives are sexually promiscuous with one broken relationship after another. They descend into substance abuse. They run into financial problems. They end up in prison or on welfare. A lot of sorrow in their lives.
B Older brother sinners are different. They are not easy to recognize. Nor do we warn our children about them. They are sinners like most of us are sinners. They aren't rebellious, really. As teens they didn't trouble their parents much. They didn't go away or stay away from home. They remain in the church and make good church members and are ready to serve. The wreckage of sin seldom breaks in on their relationships and activities.
C Younger brother sinners embarrass us, while older brother sinners fly under the radar. But in the parable of Jesus, the older brother's sin is exposed and what exposes it is grace. When younger brother sinners come seeking refuge and forgiveness, older brother sinners want a price to be paid -- forgetting that Jesus paid it all. To their way of thinking, re-admittance into the Kingdom of God comes with a fee and grace comes with a price-tag. Older brother sinners resent the grace and generosity of the Father to younger brother sinners.
The father in the parable doesn't lay down conditions before he welcomes back his son. He doesn't ask for repayment. He doesn't insist on household rules. He isn't even interested in hearing the wayward son's confession. All he is interested in is showing grace and having a party! A big party! A feast! A celebration!
This is what the older brother sinner objects to. He objects to the party for the younger brother sinner who has come home.
D Rejoice and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. On this Mission Emphasis Sunday are we willing to do that? Are we wanting to do that? Or, are we older brother sinners who don't want to celebrate when a younger brother sinner comes to Jesus?
The Gospel is at stake, my brothers and sisters. The Gospel of grace. The Gospel of the Father's love for us in Christ Jesus.
Remember how we began this message? "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk 15:2).
I say, rejoice. Be glad. Come, celebrate the goodness and grace of the Father towards us in Jesus Christ.
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