Dealing with Disappointment

Explore the Bible Series

December 12, 2004

 

Background Passage: Luke 15:1-32

Lesson Passage: Luke 15:18-32

 

Introduction: Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), the great Baroque Era Dutch Master, completed his Return of the Prodigal in the aftermath of a near-fatal illness in 1662.It was one of the last paintings of his remarkable life. The images he created are striking, and several Rembrandt experts believe the painting has an autobiographical element.In his young manhood, the artist indulged every base passion in his heart: arrogance, sensuality, greed, restlessness, and self-indulgence.Thankfully, like one of the sons in the Parable of the Two Sons, Rembrandt came to himself and rediscovered his Dutch Reformation heritage. This unparalleled chapter in the Gospel of Luke calls all of us to humble gratitude and repentance at the feet of a marvelous Savior who still seeks and receives sinners.Three striking parables in Luke 15 depict our sinful condition telling the stories of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.Bless the Lord, he came to seek and save that which is lost.

 

In Luke 15 each of the three stories focuses on something that was lost, and, in every case, someone sought and rejoiced in finding the lost object.Obviously, the lost objects (a sheep, a silver coin, and a son) symbolize sinners, and the seeking and celebrative characters (the shepherd, the woman, and the father) represent the Lord Jesus.

 

I. The Occasion of These Parables (Luke 15:1-2)

A.     Tax Collectors and Sinners (Luke 15:1): The Jewish people, in general, hated tax collectors.The populous rejected them because they worked for the despised Romans and often took unfair economic advantage of the people.The religious leaders looked down on them because of the publicanís constant contact with Gentiles; an interaction that Jews believed defiled the tax collectors.In contrast to the religious leaders, Jesus frequently associated with ďsinners.ĒThis term described notorious transgressors, people of conspicuously bad report in the community.

Personal Note: Several years ago, I preached through the Gospel of Matthew, and similar references to Jesusí interaction with social outcasts and notorious people struck me as never before. The Scriptures give clear warnings against certain kinds of associations with the ungodly (See, for instance, Psalm 1:1), but this aspect of the Lordís ministry caused me to rethink my attitudes toward the lost.A wicked, arrogant superiority characterized my heart toward people who did not share my faith in Christ and views on moral issues.I sought every opportunity to separate myself and my family from people who did not measure up to my self-determined standards.The study of the life of Jesus convinced me that I was wrong.In passages like this, I found myself represented by the Pharisees. If Jesus had the same attitude toward sinners that I had, I would have perished in my sins.I, for one, am eternally grateful that Jesus is a friend of sinners.

B.     The Pharisees and Scribes Luke 15:2): The Gospels constantly portray the Pharisees and the scribes as arrogant, self-righteous separatists. Unlike Jesus, they refused to identify with sinners. Frankly, much of this haughtiness probably grew from social and economic status rather than mere religious prejudice.The Bible has much to say about Godís concern for the poor, helpless, and disinherited. The Pharisees faulted Jesus for his welcoming spirit toward these notorious people and his willingness to have social interaction with them.Please note that the three parables that follow reveal Jesusí response to the conceit of the Pharisees.

 

 

II. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7)

A.     The lost sheep: Sheep are stupid animals.They easily go astray without the slightest awareness that they have placed themselves in grave danger.Tender shoots of grass draw them, step by step, away from the protective care of the shepherd and the safety of the flock.Furthermore, they remain complacent and unalarmed by their perilous position.

B.     The Shepherd: The shepherd, of course, took note that one of his beloved sheep had wandered away.The hazardous wilderness enveloped the sheep, and the shepherd ventured into the untamed terrain to recover his precious possession.He spared no effort and counted no danger too great as he undertook his mission of mercy.Most notably, the shepherd persevered in his task until he had recovered his sheep. Also, he rejoiced when he succeeded in his gracious task.The recalcitrant sheep was not scolded; rather, the Master called for a great celebration when the sheep was returned to the fold.

 

III. The Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10): This parable has a similar emphasis to the first.The woman in the story searched carefully and thoroughly for a valuable lost coin.The loss of the valuable coin distressed the woman. Married women often wore necklaces made of ten silver coins.This adornment marked prosperity and blessing; indeed, these necklaces often came to women as part of their wedding gifts.Clearly, this coin held both monetary and sentimental value for the woman.Notice the spirit of joy and merriment that attended the recovery of the coin.Jesus concluded this parable with a similar observation to the first story; that is, the woman called her friends and neighbors to a great celebration when she found her lost silver piece.

 

IV. The Parable of the Two Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

A.     The Younger Son

1.      His character

a.       Restless: seething with lust, unsettled, untethered

b.      Greedy: money was more important than relationships

c.       Foolish: unaware of the destination to which his path would take him

d.      Cruel: wished his father ďdeadĒ to him in order that he might receive his inheritance, and he reject the place of security, wisdom guidance and, provision

2. His demise: Jews regarded pigs as unclean animals, and work in a sty was a demeaning task.This, of course, was not what he intended when he left the fatherís house.Visions of unmingled pleasure and delight, no doubt, blinded him to the dangers of the path he had chosen.

 

Note: This manís foolish choices and unseemly behavior left him destitute, deserted, demeaned, despised, and disillusioned. Unlike the previous parables, in this case, the wayward one seeks restoration and reconciliation with the father.These parables provide a balanced view of the sinnerís ďroleĒ in salvation.The first two stories reveal the Masterís gracious seeking of sinners, and the sheep and coin are passive in the process.The Book of Romans tells us that no man seeks after God, and these parables reflect the sinnerís helplessness against his sin.However, the Scriptures also call sinners to seek the Savior just as the wayward son retuned to the father.No doubt, no man will seek the Lord unlessgraciously drawn by the Holy Spirit; nevertheless, we must ever call upon men to seek the Savior with every confidence that those who seek will find.

 

††††††††††† B. The Elder Son

1.      His character:

a.       arrogance toward his repentant brother

b.      judgmental

c.       resentful

d.      unforgiving

e.       unthankful

f.        bitter toward his father

2.      His demise: This parable ends with the elder son angry and estranged from his father.Read the story carefully, and you will discover the object of his anger. He seethed with resentment toward his father!Self-righteous men know little of the Fatherís mercy.

 

C.     The Father:

1.      He loved both sons readily, earnestly, generously, and affectionately.What great pity he poured upon the prodigal.

2.      He forgave the wayward son immediately, unreservedly, unconditionally, and sacrificially.He met the sonís cruel with fatherly kindness.The wasteful living of the son was greeted with unmerited generosity.