♪ [music] ♪ – [D. A. Carson] The farther on that Jesus
proceeds with his ministry, the more in some ways he is a polarizing figure.
Some people love to gather around him. And some people really hate him with
increasing malice. One of the things that they liked least about him was the fact
that he didn’t associate only with the “good folk” in society. He seemed
constantly to be associating with public centres and disgraceful people. And they
criticized him because of it. The three parables that Jesus tells in Luke 15 are
designed in some ways to overcome that particular criticism. For in each case,
what is outlined is the sheer grace of God manifested in the life and ministry of
Jesus as he is on his way to the cross. The first is sometimes called simply the
Parable of the Lost Sheep. In this parable, although a shepherd has
many, many sheep in his flock, there’s one in particular that has got
lost somewhere. And the shepherd is actively seeking that sheep out and
rescuing it. The others as it were, look after themselves, they’re safe
enough while he goes after them. But he is seeking out the one
that is lost, that is in danger, not fussing with the ones that seem like
the goody, goody two-shoes types. And then the next one is the Parable of
the Lost Coin where a woman loses a coin and then sweeps up the house to try to
find it. And eventually, finds the coin. And this coin is so valuable that she
throws a little party to celebrate its recovery. And in both cases,
Jesus says, “So it is in heaven.” The very angels of God rejoice more
greatly over the one that was lost and is now found than over those who are simply
putzing along and acceptable conduct from beginning to end,
because God specializes in hopeless cases. God specializes in the lost.
As a doctor, he specializes in the sick. He’s not simply coming to hold the hands
of those who seem to be healthy, he’s coming to raise the dead,
heal the sick, forgive the guilty, this out of sheer grace. So of course he’s
going to spend time with people who are broken. But perhaps the most moving of
these three stories is the one we usually call the Parable of the
Prodigal Son. In fact, in many ways, there are two prodigal sons here.
The one son is wasteful. He’s prodigal in the sense that he wastes
all his inheritance. He squanders it, seeking endless pleasure until
he’s burned through his inheritance. He’s got nothing left.
And he comes back and begs for mercy from his father. At east that’s his
intention. But God is himself prodigal in another way. He is prodigal in his
mercy, prodigal in his grace, prodigal in his forbearance,
prodigal in his “Welcome home, kill the fattened calf,
accept this wayward son.” And then there’s another son who is
prodigal a bit like the first one. He’s not prodigal in grace,
nor is he prodigal, like the first one, in wastefulness, he’s prodigal in his
self-righteousness. He’s prodigal in his upright, uptight,
self-righteousness. He cannot stand the fact that the father has thrown a lavish
party for this son who’s coming back. Instead of rejoicing that this rotten son
has come back and is restored to the family, his nose is out of joint
because he’s not getting a big party and because the father seems to be much
happier about this son who was prodigal and is back than this son who has been
faithful all of these years. But then, that reveals his own heart as being
malicious, unforgiving. As a result, he shows himself to be as alienated from
his father, as distanced from his father as the other son. So two sons who are
prodigal, one in wastefulness, and the other in self-righteousness.
But over them both is another figure in this parable. God himself,
the Heavenly Father who is prodigal in mercy, who pours out grace where it is
not deserved, and not only welcomes back the wasteful son but actually, humbly,
entreats the self-righteous son to change his
heart and repent. ♪ [music] ♪