Note: This is #3 in a series of posts. If you have not read the Foreword to the series, I hope you will do that first: Foreward
Luke 15:31 “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
Whenever we receive guests we often say, “Make yourself at home.” However, whenever we have guests who are going to spend the night with us, or maybe longer, then we may say, “Make yourself at home. Just do whatever you want to, just act like this is your own home. Perhaps there is no better text in the Bible than this very one, which for tonight we can rename, “The parable of the One who shares everything He has.”
We start off with the younger son. Everything the Father had, was in a sense, already his to use, to enjoy. But he had a problem with that. He wanted to live a life style that did not meet with his Father’s approval. If this were truly his own house, his own kitchen, his own wine cellar, then he would invite over to his house a different class of people than his father would approve of. And the hours he would have kept, would not be acceptable either. Neither would the amount of wine they would consume. And so the only thing he could do was to get his hands on his share of the property and take off for a distant country, out of sight.
And not only must the country be out of sight from his father, but from all the Jews, for to simply move from one Jewish village to another, albeit, away from his father, would not do. For all the Jews lived by the same code, the same moral law. And so it had to be the distant country.
And yes, the father would not have approved of the young boy’s “friends” coming over, for they were no friends at all. These were the dregs of society, those who would take, but not give back. What does the parable say? “When he had spent everything in loose living, he was in want. … And no one gave him anything.”
That is not the mark of friendship. That is certainly not the way of the Jews. It has always been said, and I believe it to be true, that Jews stick together and they take care of their own. The Proverbs talk about opening your hands to the needy. The Levitical laws talk about how the Jews are to help the needy. It is clear that God wanted His Jewish people to be the conduit for His aid. But those people of a different law were not so. They could see a man starving to death, hungry enough to want to live on pig’s food, and they would give them nothing.
And if this sounds strange to you, then go back a couple of years ago in the Reader’s Digest, and there you will find a story of a teenage boy who was arrested in North Korea for what they imagined was treason, and he was placed in one of their Gulags and there indeed, he became so hungry that he wanted to eat the pig’s food. In one instance he actually took a hand full of it and put it in his mouth and was clubbed down by his guards. He said, however, it was worth it, just to get that amount of food! Such was his hunger! And such was the hunger of the prodigal son!
“Father, give me the share of your property that will become mine, not when you die—but give it to me now!” What he had was really the father’s. What he squandered away was really the father’s. What he wanted to earn again with a second chance was really the father’s.
And then we go to the older brother and the home coming. The Father received his younger son safe and sound, and now he wants to receive his older son into the party to help celebrate. But the older son refuses. He is offended. This is not brotherly love—but a fear that the younger son will get another share of the property. And if the father has already given the younger son his share, then whatever the boy gets now while the father is alive and then later on, will come directly out of the older brother’s share. “This isn’t fair! You already gave him all that is coming to him. I have worked hard and I wanted the fatted calf for myself and my friends. I thought that you would have thrown an appreciation banquet for me, for I have worked hard for you all these years and I have kept all your rules. I have lived by the code of the Jewish people, and received no thanks, not even a baby goat. Now this son of yours will get some of what is to be mine.”
But then here comes the secret, “My son, all that is mine, is yours!” “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof!” “And God saw that everything He had made was very good.” And God said, ‘Be fruitful and multiple and have dominion over all the earth and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, and the animals that move upon the earth.’”
If the son had really wanted to have had a party and invite all the neighboring older sons to come and celebrate their fine upstanding ways, he could have. If he would have really wanted the fatted calf, he could have had it. All that was the father’s was his.
To the younger son who asked, “Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me”, he gave it! The elder brother could have asked and he would have received. How does James put it? “Let him who asks, ask in faith and without doubting.” He could have had his own party, invited his own friends. They could have had dancing and feasting—or they could have simply had a pity party and all sat around and bemoan how badly their younger brothers were behaving!
And what would the father ask in return? What he really wanted was for the younger brother and the older brother to party together. How did Jesus put it? “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” How did our old communion prayer put it? “In faith toward Thee and in fervent love toward one another.”
And so it comes down to us, this evening, as we are gathered together here in God’s house of prayer, and more than that, around the communion table! We have come to party—to celebrate our own life—our new life in Christ. And we have come to celebrate each other’s new life—as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus. We come together as family, in faith toward Him and in fervent love for each other. Amen.
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