2. The Parable of the Boy Who Died

Note: This is #2 in a series of posts. If you have not read the Foreword to the series, I hope you will do that first: Foreward

Luke 15:24 “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

There was a man who had two sons and one of them came to His father and said, “Father, I wish you were dead!” You say, “Wait a minute—that is not what he said. He only said, ‘Give me the share of the property that falls to me.'” 1Yes, that is true, that is exactly what he said, but we have a problem here. The way a Jewish boy receive his share is only when the father dies. You see, this is his land, his property and he depends upon it to make his living. In most situations the property cannot be divided without doing a lot of harm, if the man is still alive.

Consider your own holdings, your own income, whether you are retired or are still working. Don’t you pretty much depend on most of your income to get along? If you had two children and had to take half of what you have and give it to one child, how well would you do with the other half? Or if you had three children, or four, could you get by on 1/3 or 1/4 or less?

Now of course, things were different back then in as much as the eldest boy got a very large portion and the younger son, or sons got only a small portion. Still the idea was, this was going to take away from the father.

There is another element to it. Junior is saying that he doesn’t want to live under the father’s roof, doesn’t want to abide by his father’s ways, doesn’t want the father to be a father to him any longer. He evidently wants a life style that conflicts with the way in which he was raised.

Consider: When a Jewish child accepts a different religion, he becomes dead to his parents. Some will actually have a funeral service for him and refuse to acknowledge that he is even alive. Communication is entirely cut off. Phone calls are not accepted. Face to face confrontations are one sided and abruptly terminated. I.e. Moshe Rosen, the head of the Jews for Jesus movement clearly demonstrates this. Steve Cohen, the head of Jewish evangelism in our LCMS came to my church in California and said he was excommunicated from his family when he accepted Christ. Monty Horowitz, a friend of mine also from California said that one of the crosses he was made to carry was the loss of his mother and father, who deemed him dead when he accepted Christ. And so when this young son turned his back on his father, turned his back on the way he was raised, the religion of his youth, the faith of his fathers, he became morally and spiritually dead. The Father confirms this to us twice as he explains, This my son, was dead,…..”

St. Paul also uses this same terminology in Ephesians. “We were dead in the sins and trespasses in which we once walked.” He also said, “The wages of sin is death!” God said in the Old Testament, “The soul that sins shall die.” , that is walking not with God, is walking away from God. It is living apart from the teachings He taught us. He wants us to read, learn and inwardly digest the Word, wants us to write them down as frontlets and put them on us as bracelets, wants us to write them over the door posts of our homes, wants us to live by them. (a side note: The area where my folks came from still does this. Over my grandfather’s house are these words, We shall reap if we do not lose heart. Gal 6:9”)

Trespasses are clearly defined by the 10 commandments. These are the things we are to do and not to do. In Luther’s explanations they list not only the negatives but, unlike so many other denominations, also the positives. For example, we are not only not to tell lies, but we are to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We are to always put a positive construction on what people say and what they do. We are not only not to harm our neighbor in his body, but we are not supposed to pass by on the other side, as did the priest and the Levite, but we are to help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need. We are not only not supposed to skip church on Sunday, but as we attend, we are to go with a mind which wants to gladly hear the Word of God and learn from it. And when we don’t, we trespass, that is, we walk away from God.

This parable then, is about you and me. For we have all, at times, become like the younger son. We have said, “Father, I don’t want to live under Your roof and abide by Your rules. I don’t want to be near You, I want to go my own way.” The Bible says, We all, like sheep, have gone astray. We have all gone our own way. …”

You and I have sinned. These are not just words, but reality. And these were not just a slippage, like sliding off a path because it’s muddy and you really didn’t want to. These were intentional. I am reminded of what a good friend of mine, Pastor Dennis Brech, once said in a sermon at a pastors’ conference. “You and your wife are in an intense argument. You are really shouting at each other. And then the phone rings. And you pick it up. And in a very cheerful voice you say, ‘Pastor Brech speaking.'” Which proves you are really in control of yourself, you simply turn it on and off as you want to. Dr. Laura says the same thing.

“For we all, like sheep, have gone astray, we each one go our own way.” But do you know what the rest of that verse says in Isaiah? It goes on to say, “And the LORD has laid on Him (Christl) the iniquity of us all.”

Yes, we are sinners and we have sinned by thought, word and deed. But Jesus Christ came to be the Sin Bearer. He came to be the very Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. And He did that! And now God can look at us, and rejoice. He can say of us, who have come to ourselves, and confessed our sins, as we did in the first part of this service, and He can now say, “This my son (my daughter) was lost, Come, eat and drink and be merry.“ And so we are sons and daughters; and so we do eat and drink! Amen.

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