Read Luke 15:11-32
This is one of those parables that you must hear again and again. Its message is clear; yet sometimes we miss the main message when we focus only on the two sons. Many have tried to be too representative, metaphorical, and even allegorical. Could the younger son be the Gentiles and the older son the Jews? Sure.
Could you just read the whole story and preach only the younger son? It seems to have a happier ending? Sure.
But this time I ask that we focus on the father. I ask that we delineate the dad in this dynamic. We are going to do some dad dynamics.
What did dad do in this parable?
He granted his younger son’s request and gave him the things that would have been his when dad died.
Dad took care of everyone is his household. The servants were treated well and well fed.
Dad was looking for his lost son to come home.
Dad did not wait for his lost son to make it to the house.
Dad ran to his son who was as good as dead for so long.
Dad embraced his son who had come home.
Dad kissed his son who had come home.
Dad seemed to be a little deaf as he didn’t pay much attention to this lost son’s well prepared speech.
Dad clothed his son as his son.
Dad knew when it was time to celebrate.
Dad knows how to throw a good party.
Dad did not forget about his other son.
Dad went looking for his other son.
Dad let his older son get some things off of his chest.
Dad never held anything back from his older son.
Dad told his older son that all that he had has always been his.
Dad was full of compassion for both sons.
Dad knew what was important and it wasn’t stuff or money.
Dad wanted his older son to understand what it is to have something that was lost come back to you once more.
Dad wanted his older son to understand what it was to have lost a son and have been given him back once more.
Dad wanted his older son to know what it is to come from death to life.
Dad was full of love.
Dad loved both sons, not because of what they did or did not do, but because he was dad and they were his sons.
The dad dynamic is love.
It’s not love plus or minus what each son did. The dad dynamic is love.
A parable sets two things or concepts or ways side by side—in parallel. Jesus understood things about his Father and his Father’s Kingdom that people did not know first hand.
The people had the Law of Moses. They had been sent prophets. They had psalms and proverbs but they were yet to discern the divine dynamic that is our Father in heaven.
I might have a little alliterative fun because I want to consider what we know about Dad’s Divine Dynamic. Jesus tells a story about a human father so we can better understand our heavenly Father.
Too often, the image of God is of an old man with a long, white beard and a big stick. Picture Father Time on steroids with a big stick.
This god sits on a throne far above the earth and just looks for us to make a mistake, and then whacks us on the head with his big stick.
He is entitled to do this. He is in charge of everything. He made the rules and they are righteous rules so it is just when he enforces them.
Some people think that this god’s name is Karma.
Some construct a god that sends lightning and fire and punishment out of anger.
You can’t blame people too much for having those images. God is all powerful. He is the rule maker. He does what is just. His anger does burn against sin and rebellion. He is even known as a jealous God by his own revelation. He put that one in stone the first time he announced it.
Maybe we should be walking around worried about getting struck by lightning every time we miss the mark—every time that we transgress.
If that were the case, there would be a lot of lightning strikes all around us all the time.
This god who desires punishment over mercy is a god of our own creation.
This god who decides who gets into heaven by how hard they work is a god of our own design.
This god who discards people who have made a big mess of their lives is a god that is not the one true God.
The God of the Bible that we know so well because of Jesus desires mercy more than justice and sacrifice and offerings.
The God that we know--remember Jesus told his closest friends that if you want to know the Father, then you must know him through me—this is a God who desires none to be lost and to perish.
The God that is truly God is Love. God is love.
We are taught that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and that fools despise wisdom, but the key word in this proverb is beginning. Fearing the Lord is the only starting point that points us in the right direction.
The route that we travel and the destination are Love. God is love. His perfect love casts out fear.
Dad’s divine dynamic is love.
Jesus has compared our fathers with our heavenly Father before. Consider the words of Jesus that we find in Matthew’s gospel.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
God is good! God gives good gifts. Our Father in heaven is good!
God is love and he is good and he has good plans for us and those plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, and he lets us make our own decisions. Oops! We were on a roll up to that point.
In his love and in his goodness and in his mercy and in his longsuffering—his patience—he lets us make our own decisions.
We are the variable. God and his love are the constant.
We can work like crazy trying to earn what has been so freely given or we can live as selfishly and foolishly as we want, but God’s love is always there for us.
He is a good, good Father. The song touches us in ways that sometimes simple words can’t.
The world and everything that we know are not defined by rules and regulations, or by science and nature, or by things that can be displayed on a scoreboard.
Our reality is defined by a Father who is in his very nature love. That is who he is and he is good.
He loves us with an everlasting love.
He loves us in the sacrifice of his own blood to atone for our sins.
He loves us so much that he longs for us to take on his nature which is love so that our lives become full when we love him by loving one another.
I have often labeled Luke’s 15th chapter as lost and found It’s a good title, but wholly incomplete. It is completely incomplete.
Whether it is a lost sheep or lost coin or lost son or a son who is disgruntled about his brother who was surely lost; the story that Jesus gave to the lost and the self-righteous and gives to us was one that clearly set forth the divine dynamic of his Dad, who by the way is our Dad.
Dad is love. Dad is good. Dad desires the best for us.
He gives us peace in the middle of chaos.
He celebrates when the lost come home.
He provisions us while we are under attack.
He gives us rest and nourishment.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow us for all the days of our lives because that’s what Dad has in store for us.
We know our good, good Father through Jesus Christ his Son who has given us an easy yoke and a light burden.
Jesus is not only the way and the truth and the life, he is how we come to know our good, good Father.
We are blessed to know him more and more and more with every step that we take in faith following Jesus.
Know with certainty this day that your Father in heaven is love and he is good.
Knowing this, as many of us do, what are we to do in response?
Love him, mostly by loving one another.
These things seem difficult if we are estimating our value to God by what we do or do not do. They seem overwhelming if we take on the role of one who must earn our Father’s love or one who thinks that we have done so many things wrong that he could never love us again.
Trust, obedience, and love for God and for others is much more natural when we know with certainty that God is Love and that he is a good, good, Father.
Know with certainty this day that your Father in heaven is love and that he is good.
Our Father in heaven is so many things, many of which go beyond our comprehension; but today, know that he is Love and he is Good.