A sociologist was writing a book about the difficulties of growing up in a large family, so he interviewed the mother of 13 children. After several questions, he asked, “Do you think all children deserve the full, impartial love and attention of a mother?”
“Of course,” said the mother.
“Well, which of your children do you love the most?” he asked, hoping to catch her in a contradiction.
She answered, “The one who is sick until he gets well, and the one who is away until he gets home.”
That mother’s response reminds me of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to seek the one that was lost (Luke 15:4), the woman who searched for the one coin (v. 8), and the father who threw a party when his wayward son returned (vv. 22-24).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day resented the way He gave so much attention to sinners (vv. 1-2). So He told those stories to emphasize God’s love for people who are lost in sin. God has more than enough love to go around. Besides, those who are “well” and are not “lost” experience the Father’s love as fully as those to whom He gives special attention (v. 31).
Father, forgive us for feeling slighted when You shower Your love on needy sinners. Help us to see how needy we are and to abide in Your boundless love. (Mart De Haan, Who Gets the Love? September 23, 2004)
NKJ Luke 15:1-3 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying ….
NKJ Luke 15:11-12a Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give [Aorist Imperative > δίδωμι] me the portion of goods that falls to me.’”
1) It communicates a lack of concern over his father’s welfare. If he wants to take a large portion of his father’s estate away from him and leave – which for the younger of two sons would have been about a third of his father’s money and possessions – then he shows little or no concern for his father’s future welfare.
2) It amounts to saying, “I’m really tired of living under your authority and waiting around for you to die.”
NKJ Luke 15:13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal [ἀσώτως] living.
NKJ Luke 15:14-16 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
NKJ Luke 15:17 But when he came to himself [or, as we might say, “when he came to his senses”], he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!”
NKJ Luke 15:18-19 “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’”
NKJ Luke 15:20a And he arose and came to his father.
NKJ Luke 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” So he divided to them his livelihood.
NKJ Luke 15:20b 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.
NKJ Luke 15:21-24 And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.
NKJ Luke 15:25-28a Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 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.” 28 But he was angry and would not go in.
NKJ Luke 15:29-30 So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving [δουλεύω, serve as a slave] you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”
There are several clues here that the way he relates to his father is dishonoring to his father and disuniting to his brother and destructive to himself.
How does he see himself and his father relating? Answer: as master and slave. “Look! For so many years I have been serving you.” “Serving.” The word is for what a servant or a slave does. This is not the identity of a son, but of a slave. “For so many years I have been serving you.”
Then he says, “And I have never neglected a command of yours.” How does he see his father? As an issuer of commands. He sees the father as a master giving commandments, and himself as a slave paying obedience. This is not the way the father wants his children to relate to him. This is a distortion of Christianity. It is not the Christian life. (The Blinding Effects of Serving God)
NKJ Luke 15:28 But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded [παρακαλέω] with him.
NKJ Luke 15:31-32 And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right [δεῖ , literally “it was necessary,” ESV = “it was fitting”] that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
Mr. Mactavish was gone. I wanted to wait until morning to see if he would come back on his own. But the look on the other family members’ faces vetoed that idea. So we climbed into the car to begin looking for our wayward Scottish terrier.
As we drove down street after street, calling his name and peering intently into the darkness, even I became sentimental. What if he got hit by a car? What if someone else picked him up? What if we never saw him again?
We eventually found him. And by the time we did, I was as happy as the rest of the family to see him. Even though he was a mess—mud-soaked and foul-smelling—Mac was a sight for sore eyes. In fact, at that moment my family appeared to be far happier about finding and being with that dirty dog than we were about being with one another.
Does that mean we loved Mac more than we loved one another? Of course not. Neither does showing special affection for a repentant alcoholic, adulterer, or enemy indicate that we love others any less. It means that we have enough of God’s love to celebrate with the kind of joy He feels when a dearly loved rebel comes home.