What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?
Jesus often spoke in parables. Earthly stories with deep heavenly meanings. There are those in the world who are like lost sheep. Those who need to be restored back to the fold. As Jesus told these few parables, He spoke in the presence of the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees. They, like many religious leaders today, thought they had the monopoly on the grace of God and believed their place was secure in heaven. But Jesus came to challenge their self-righteous beliefs and call the ones who felt they had been forgotten. The parable of the lost son – Part 2.
Sons of Glory Never for a moment, Do I stand still If you act in accordance, with My will. If you My promptings, choose to ignore Just for a time from you, must I withdraw. To you I may seem far away, but you have no occasion to fear For when indeed you are afar off, I am still very near. You have been called according to My purpose. I have called you by name. Throughout life’s changing journey I remain the same. You may not understand My methods But I indeed have set you apart. You have been put right with Me Trust in Me with all your heart. I am always with you. You are never out of My care. I have chosen you My glory to share. I am with you in times of trouble I bring forth beauty from the tiniest bud You know in your heart that in all things I am working for your good. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
The Prodigal Son
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
Everything I have is yours
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32
There is enough and to spare
Henry says – the wayward son considered how bad his condition was: I perish with hunger. Not only, “I am hungry,” but, “I perish with hunger, for I cannot see how I can expect relief.” Sinners will not come to the service of Christ till they are brought to see themselves just about ready to perish in the service of sin. This consideration drive us to Christ. Master, save us for we perish. And if we be so driven to Christ, He will not reject us, nor think Himself dishonoured by our being forced to Him. But rather honoured by our appeals to Him in a desperate case.
He considered how much better it might be made if he would return to his father. How many hired servants of my father’s, the lowest in his family have enough bread and to spare. Such a good house does he keep! First, in our Father’s house there is bread for all His family. This was taught by the twelve loaves of showbread, that were constantly upon the holy table in the sanctuary, a loaf for every tribe. Secondly, There is enough and to spare, enough for all and enough to spare for those who will join themselves to Him and enough to spare for charity.
And there is room. There are crumbs that fall from His table, which many would be glad of, and thankful for. Thirdly, Even the hired servants in God’s family are well provided for. The lowest who will hire themselves into His family, to do His work, and depend upon His rewards, shall be well provided for. Fourthly, The consideration of this should encourage sinners, who have gone astray from God, to think of returning to Him.
I will arise, and go to my father
Since his condition is so bad, and he realises that it would be better to return to his father, he concludes: I will arise, and go to my father. Good intentions are good things, but good performances are everything.
He decided what to do: I will arise and go to my father. He will not take any longer to consider it, but will promptly arise and go. Though he was in a far country, a great way off from his father’s house, yet he will return. Every step of backsliding from God must be a step back again in return to Him. Though he was joined to a citizen of another country, he makes no difficulty of breaking his agreement with him. We are not debtors to the flesh. We are under no obligation at all to our task-masters to give them warning, but are at liberty to quit the service when we will.
He now speaks with resolution: “I will arise, and go to my father. Whatever the issue be I am resolved to go rather than stay here and starve.” True repentance is a rising, and coming to God: Behold, we come to You. But what words shall we say? In all our addresses to God, it is good to deliberate with ourselves beforehand what we shall say, that we may order our cause before Him, and fill our mouth with arguments. We have liberty of speech, and we ought to consider seriously how we may use that liberty to the utmost.
He is exalted above us
He confessed his faults and folly: I have sinned. We have all sinned and it well becomes us to own that we have sinned. The confession of sin is required as a necessary condition of peace and pardon. If we plead not guilty, we put ourselves on a trial that will certainly condemn us. If when we are guilty, confess our sins with a contrite and obedient heart, we are offered forgiveness.
He was so far from excusing the issue that he laid a load upon himself – I have sinned against Heaven, and before you. Let those who are undutiful to their earthly parents know that they sin against heaven, and before God. Offences against them are offences against God. This renders our sin exceedingly sinful, and so should render us exceedingly sorrowful. The sin is committed in contempt of God’s authority over us: We have sinned against Heaven. We are reminded that God is in Heaven, to signify how highly He is exalted above us, and the dominion He has over us, for the Heavens do rule.
The daring sinner is said to set his mouth against the heavens, Ps. 63:9. Yet it is powerless malice, for we cannot hurt the heavens. What is shot against the heavens will return upon the head of him who shoots it, Ps. 7:16. Sin causes us to forfeit the glories and joys of heaven, and goes against the designs of the Kingdom of heaven. Sin is committed in contempt of God’s eye upon us: “I have sinned against Heaven and yet before You, and under Your eye.”
May I show my love to my father
He judged and condemned himself for it, and acknowledged that he had forfeited all the privileges of the family. I am no more worthy to be called your son, Luke 15:19. He does not deny the relation (for that was all he had to rely on), but he admits that his father might justly deny the relationship, and shut his door against him. He had, at his own demand, the portion of goods that belonged to him, and had reason to expect no more. It fares best for sinners to acknowledge themselves unworthy to receive any favour from God, and to humble themselves before Him.
He did however petition for admission into the family, though it were into the lowest post: “Make me as one of your hired servants. That is good enough, even too good for me.” True penitents have a high value for God’s house, and the privileges of it, and will be glad of any place, even if it be as a door-keeper, Ps. 84:10. If it be imposed on him to sit with the servants, he will count it a preferment, in comparison with his present state. Those who return to God cannot but desire to be put into some capacity of serving and honouring Him. “Make me as a hired servant, that I may show I love my father’s house even though I did it wrong.”
He is ready to forgive
In all this he would have an eye to his father as a father. “I will arise, and go to my father, and will say to him, Father...” Eyeing God as a Father, and our Father, will be of great use in our repentance and return to Him. It will make our sorrow for sin genuine, our resolutions against it strong, and encourage us to hope for pardon. God delights to be called Father both by penitents and petitioners. Is not Ephraim a dear son?
He arose, and came to his father. Executing his good resolve without delay. He struck while the iron was hot, and did not put aside the thought to some more convenient season. It is our interest to speedily act upon our convictions. Have we said that we will arise and go? He did not come halfway, and then pretend that he was tired and could get no further. But, weak and weary as he was, he made a quick business of it. If you will return, O Israel, return unto Me, and do your first works.
He came to his father, but was he welcomed? Yes, heartily welcomed. This is an example to parents whose children have been foolish and disobedient. If they repent, and submit themselves to not be harsh and severe with them, but to be governed by the wisdom that is from above, which is gentle and full of mercy. But this ultimately sets forth the grace and mercy of God to poor sinners who repent and return to Him, and His readiness to forgive them.
He forgets the sin and remembers them no more
When he was yet a great way off his father saw him, 15:20. He expressed his kindness before the son expressed his repentance. Just as with God. Even before we call He answers, for He knows what is in our hearts. I said, I will confess, and You forgave me. Here were eyes of mercy, which were constantly searching. When he was yet a great way off his father saw him, even before any other of the family were aware of him. It was as if from the top of some high tower he had been looking at the way which his son had gone. All the while thinking, “O that I could see that son of mine coming home!”
This intimates God’s desire for the conversion of sinners, and His readiness to meet them who are coming towards Him. He looks on men, when they have gone astray from Him, to see whether they will return to Him, and He is aware of the first inclination towards Him. Here were depths of mercy turning within him, and yearning for the sight of his son: He had compassion. Even when the sinner has brought misery upon himself, yet God is full of compassion. His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel, Hos. 11:8; Jdg. 10:16.
God is swift to show mercy
Here were quick-paced feet of mercy: He ran. This denotes how swift God is to show mercy. The prodigal son came slowly, under a burden of shame and fear. But the tender father ran to meet him with his encouragements. Here were arms of mercy stretched out to embrace him: He fell on his neck. Though guilty and deserving to be beaten, though dirty having just come from feeding swine yet he takes him in his arms, and lays him in his bosom. Only the strongest and tenderest compassions of a father would be willing to even go near him.
Equally dear are true penitents to God. Here were lips of mercy: He kissed him. This kiss not only assured him of his welcome, but sealed his pardon. His former foolishness all forgiven, and not mentioned against him. This was like David’s kissing Absalom, 2 Sam. 14:33. And this intimates how ready, and free the Lord Jesus is to receive and entertain poor, returning, repenting sinners, according to his Father’s will.
He said to him, Father, I have sinned. When he had received the kiss which sealed his pardon, then he said, Father, I have sinned. Even those who have received the pardon for their sins must have in their hearts a sincere contrition for it. With their mouths they must make a penitent confession of it. Even of those sins which they have reason to hope are forgiven. David penned Ps. 51:1-19 after Nathan had said, The Lord has taken away your sin, you shall not die.
You are heartily welcome
The more confident we are of the forgiveness of our sin the more our sorrow for it should increase. See Ezek. 16:63; you shall be ashamed and confounded, when I am pacified towards you. The more we see of God’s readiness to forgive us, the more difficult it should be to us to forgive ourselves.
Make me as one of your hired servants. But his father interrupted him, “Stop, son, talk no more of your unworthiness, you are heartily welcome, and shall be treated as a dear son, as a pleasant child.” Thus when Ephraim bemoaned himself God comforted him, Jer. 31:18-20.
It is strange that here is not one word of rebuke. When God forgives the sins of true penitents, He forgets the sin and remembers them no more, they shall not be mentioned against them, Ezek. 18:22. But this is not all. There was rich provision made for him, according to his birth far beyond what he did or could expect. He would have thought it sufficient, and been very thankful, if his father had but taken notice of him, and bid him go to the kitchen, and get his dinner with his servants. But for those who return to their duty, and cast themselves upon His mercy, He does abundantly above what they are able to ask or think.
The prodigal came home with hope and fear, fear of being rejected and hope of being received. But his father was not only better to him than his fears, but better to him than his hopes—not only received him, but received him with respect.
Sealed for the day of redemption
He came home in rags, and his father not only clothed him, but adorned him. He said to the servants, who all attended their master, bring the best robe, and put it on him. The worst old clothes in the house might have been good enough for him, but the father calls for the best robe, the garment of princes and great men and put a signet ring on his finger with the arms of the family, in token of his being part of the family.”
His father here signified that though he had spent one portion, upon his repentance, he intended to give him another. He came home barefoot, his feet perhaps sore with travel, “Put shoes on his feet, to make him at ease.” So does the grace of God provide for true penitents. The righteousness of Christ is the robe, that principal robe, with which they are clothed. They put on the Lord Jesus Christ and are clothed with that Sun. The robe of righteousness is the garment of salvation, Isa. 61:10.
True penitents are clothed with the new nature of the best robe and are being sanctified throughout. The ring on the hand is the Spirit, by whom we are sealed for the day of redemption. After you believed you were sealed. Those who are sanctified are adorned and dignified and put in positions of power. Just as Joseph was given a ring by Pharaoh: “Put a ring on his hand, to be before him a constant memorial of his father’s kindness, that he may never forget it.”
Christ Himself is the Bread of Life
The preparation of the gospel of peace is as shoes for our feet (Eph. 6:15). This signifies that when God receives true penitents into His favour, He makes use of them for the converting of others by their examples. David, when pardoned, taught transgressors the ways of God and Peter, when converted, strengthened his brothers. Or it intimates that they shall go on cheerfully, and with resolution, in the way of faith as a man does when he has shoes on his feet, beyond what he does when he is barefoot.
He came home hungry, and his father not only fed him, but feasted him. (Luke 15:23): “Bring the fatted calf, that has been stall-fed, and reserved for a special occasion. Kill it, that my son may be satisfied with the best we have.” Cold meat might have served well or the leaftovers of the last meal. But instead he had the fresh, hot meat of the fatted calf. There is excellent food provided for us by our heavenly Father for all those who arise and come to Him. Christ Himself is the Bread of Life. His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. In Him there is a feast for the soul.
It was a great change for the prodigal, who just before wanted to fill his belly with husks for the pigs. How sweet are the supplies of the new covenant and the enjoyments of its comforts, to those who have been labouring in vain for satisfaction from the creature! Now he found his own words made good, In my father’s house there is bread enough and to spare.
Life from the dead
The bringing of the fatted calf was designed to be a festival for the family. “Let us all eat, and be merry, for it is a good day, for my son was dead, when he was in his wanderings, but his return is as life from the dead. We thought that he was dead, having heard nothing from him for a long time, but behold he lives. He was lost, but now he is found.” The conversion of a soul from sin to God is the raising of that soul from death to life, and the finding of that which seemed to be lost. It is a great, wonderful and happy change.
What was in itself dead is made alive, what was lost to God and His church is found, and what was unprofitable becomes profitable, Phlm. 1:11. It is such a change as that of the face of the earth when the spring returns. The conversion of sinners is greatly pleasing to the God of heaven, and all who belong to His family ought to rejoice in it.
It was the father who began the joy, and set all the rest rejoicing. Therefore we should be glad of the repentance of sinners, because it accomplishes God’s design. It is the bringing of those to Christ whom the Father had given Him, and in whom He will be glorified forever. We joy for your sakes before our God, with an eye to Him (1 Thess. 3:9), and you are our rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Master of the family, 1 Thess. 2:19. The family complied with the master: They began to be merry. God’s children and servants ought to be affected with things as He is.
Son, you are ever with me
Now comes the grumbling of the elder brother. When Christ reproved the religious leaders for their faults, He did so mildly, to smooth them into a good temper towards poor sinners. But by the elder brother here we may understand those who are really good, and have been so from their youth upwards. They never went astray into any vicious course of living, who comparatively need no repentance. To such these words end with, Son, you are ever with me.
The elder brother was foolish and cross of his brother’s reception, even disgusted at it. It seems he was in the field, when his brother came. By the time he had returned home the party had begun. When he drew near to the house he heard music and dancing, either while the dinner was getting ready, or rather after they had eaten and were full, Luke 15:25. He enquired what these things meant (Luke 15:26), and was informed that his brother had come, and his father had made him a feast to welcome him home.
There was great joy because he had received him safe and sound, Luke 15:27. He had received him in health, well both in body and mind. Not only well in body, but as a penitent, returned to his right mind. He was now reconciled to his father’s house, cured of his vices or else he would not have been received safe and sound.
This offended the elder brother to the highest degree. He was angry, and would not go in (Luke 15:28). So resolved was he to not join in with the mirth that he wanted to show his displeasure and would intimate to his father that he should have kept his younger brother out.
He had been fed at his father’s table
This shows what is a common fault. Those who have always been a comfort to their parents think they should have the monopoly of their parents’ favours. They are apt to be too sharp upon those who have transgressed, and to grudge their parents’ kindness to them.
In God’s family those who are comparatively innocent seldom know how to be compassionate towards those who are manifestly penitent. What he said is written as a warning to those who by the grace of God are kept from such scandalous sin, and kept in the way of virtue. Firstly, he boasted of himself and his own virtue and obedience. He had not only not run from his father’s house, as his brother did, but had made himself as a servant in it. These many years have I served you, neither did I transgress at any time your commandment.
What need have good men to take heed of pride, a corruption that arises out of the ashes of other corruptions! Those who have long served God, and been kept from gross sins, have a great deal to be humbly thankful for, but nothing proudly to boast of. Secondly, He complained of his father, as if he had not been so kind as he ought to have been to him, who had been so dutiful. You never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. He was put out now, or else he would not have made this complaint.
The happiness of God’s children is with their Father
If he had asked for such a thing at any time, he might have had it at the first word. However we have reason to think that he did not desire it. When men are upset they are apt to reflect in a way they would not if they were in their right mind. The younger had been fed at his father’s table, and had many a time been merry with him and the family. But his father had never given him so much as a baby goat, which was but a small token of love compared with the fatted calf. Those who think highly of themselves and their services are apt to think poorly of their master and miserly of his favours.
We ought to think of ourselves utterly unworthy of those mercies which God has thought fit to give us. Therefore we must not complain. He would have had a kid, to make merry with his friends. But the fatted calf was given to his brother, not to make merry with his friends but with the family at home. The happiness of God’s children should be with their Father and His family, in communion with God and His saints, and not with any other friends.
Thirdly, He was very ill-humoured towards his younger brother, and harsh in what he thought and said concerning him. Some good people are apt to be overtaken in this fault and to indulge themselves too much in it. They look with disdain upon those who have not preserved their reputation so clean as they have done. They can be sour towards them even though they have given very good evidence of their repentance and reformation. This is not the Spirit of Christ, but of religious leaders.
Let the rich call the poor ‘brothers’
He would not go in, unless his brother was turned out. He did not want to be under the same roof as his own brother. The language of this was that of the Pharisee (Isa. 65:5): Do not come near me, for I am holier than you. (Luke 18:11) I am not as other men are, nor even as this sinner. Though we are to shun the lifestyle of those sinners by whom we are in danger of being infected, yet we must not be shy of the company of penitent sinners. He saw that his father had taken him in, and yet he would not go in himself.
If we cannot find it in our hearts to receive those whom God has received, then we think too much of ourselves. We ought to admit those into our favour, friendship and fellowship those whom we have reason to think God has favoured. He would not call him brother; but this your son, which sounds arrogant, and reflected on his father, as if his indulgence had made him a prodigal. “He is your son, your darling.”
Forgetting and disowning relationships with our brethren is at the bottom of all our neglects of our duty to them. Let us give our relations, both in the flesh and in the Lord, the titles that belong to them. Let the rich call the poor brothers, and let the innocents call the penitents also.
They glorified God in him
He aggravated his brother’s faults, and made the worst of them, endeavouring to incense his father against him. He is your son, who has devoured your money with harlots. It is true, he had spent his own portion foolishly enough (whether upon harlots or not we are not told perhaps that was only in the language of the elder brother’s jealousy and ill will). But he had not devoured all his father’s money, the father still had a good estate. This shows how apt we are, in censuring our brothers to make the worst of everything. It sets out the darkest faults, which is not doing as we would have done to us, or as our heavenly Father does to us.
He begrudged him the kindness that his father showed him. You have killed the fatted calf for him. It is a wrong to envy penitents the grace of God, and to have our eye evil because He is good. We must not envy those who have been the worst of sinners when they are given the gifts of covenant love upon their repentance. We must not envy them their pardon, peace and comfort, nor any extraordinary gift which God gives to them. Before his conversion, Paul, had been a prodigal, had devoured his heavenly Father’s living by the havoc he made of the church. Yet after his conversion he had greater measures of grace given to him, and more honour given him, than the other apostles.
They who were the ‘elder brothers’, who had been serving Christ when he was persecuting them, and had not transgressed at any time his commandment. Yet they did not envy his visions and revelations, nor his more extensive usefulness, but glorified God in him, which ought to be an example to us.
How strangely gentle and winning He has been toward us
Yet his father behaved very favourably and friendly towards him even though he was sour and ill-humoured. The mercy and grace of our God in Christ shines almost as brightly in His tender and gentle bearing with crabby saints. The disciples of Christ themselves had many weaknesses and were subject to the same passions as others, yet Christ bore with them, as a nurse with her children. See 1 Thess. 2:7.
When he would not come in, his father came out, and pleaded with him. He could’ve said, “If he will not come in, let him stay out, shut the doors against him, and send him to seek a lodging elsewhere. No just as he went to meet the younger son, so now he goes to meet with the older one. He did not send a servant out with a kind message, but went himself. This is designed to represent to us the goodness of God. How strangely gentle and winning He has been towards those who were provoking.
They are not unlike these complaints of the father with the elder brother here. Secondly, It is to teach all superiors to be mild and gentle with their inferiors, even when they are at fault. They may feel they can justify themselves yet even in that case let fathers not provoke their children to more wrath, and let masters abstain from threatening, and show all meekness.
All that I have is yours
His father assured him that the kind welcome he had given his younger brother had no ill consequences for him. (Luke 15:31): “You shall not fare the worse for it, nor have the less for it. Son, you are ever with me. You shall still remain entitled to the double portion: all that I have is yours, by an incontestable title.” Although he had not given him a kid to make merry with his friends, he had allowed him to eat bread at his table continually. It is by far better to be happy with our Father in heaven than merry with any friend we have in this world.
It is the unspeakable happiness of all the children of God, who keep close to their Father’s house, that they are, and shall be, ever with Him. They are in this world by faith and shall be so in the other world when it comes to fruition. All that He has is theirs for, if we are children, then we are heirs, Rom. 8:17. Therefore we ought not to envy others when God’s grace is given to them. For we shall not have the less for their sharing in it.
If we are true believers, all that God is, all that He has, is ours. If others come to be true believers, all that He is, and all that He has, is theirs too. They who walk in the light and warmth of the sun have all the benefit they can have from it, and yet not the less for others having the same. Christ in His church is the same as what is said of the soul in the body: it is tota in toto—the whole in the whole and yet—the whole in each part.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. When I am guilty of sin may I promptly refer myself to the covenant of grace. For I know that when I confess my sins with a contrite and obedient heart, You freely offer forgiveness. I am utterly unworthy of the mercies which You have thought fit to give me. Help me never complain.
May I be reminded through this parable to be mild and gentle with all those around me. Especially my inferiors, even when they are at fault.
May I be in pursuit of Your presence and to be with Your family. It is far better to be happy with You than merry with any friend we have in this world.
Thank You that in my many weaknesses Christ bears with me, as a nurse with her children.
It is the unspeakable happiness of all Your children, that they are and shall be, ever with You. We are in this world by faith and shall be so in the other world when it comes to fruition. Thank You that all that You have is ours. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.