Prodigal Son - Part 1

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32
This broadcast tells Jesus' parable of the prodigal son. In a powerful and beautiful way the story is re-told bringing out the deep love the father has for his lost son. So does our Heavenly Father have a great love for all of the sons and daughters in our world who have wandered from home.
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Jesus had the ability to tell a beautiful story and this is one of the most beautiful that He told. A certain man had two sons, and the younger of them (the more inexperienced) said to the father, "give me the portion of goods that falleth to me." Luke 15:12. The father knew that it wasn't best for him. The young man shouldn't have gotten the inheritance until the old man died. The father didn't have to give it to him, but if he refused the young man would complain, "My father is not sympathetic, he is hard, he is unkind, he doesn't understand the problems that a young man faces these days." So the father divided to the son the inheritance that he would normally have received when the father died. The young man began to plan what he was going to do with his money. "And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country." Verse 13. I want you to notice that little expression, "into a far country." He wanted to get away from his father. As long as he was in his father's house, there was still a tug on his heart strings to do that which was right. He couldn't bear to hurt his old dad. He didn't enjoy slipping out to the dances on Saturday night and out to the show houses, because he saw that look of sadness register on the old man's face. So he decided that the thing to do was to get away from the father's house, go into a far country where no one would know him. He could have a good time, he could let down and see what the world was like.

He had always wanted to do that. He had read about the world in the novels that he had hidden away in his bedroom under the mattress. He was so excited about it. He thought, "I will go into a far country and no one will know me. I will not hurt father's reputation. No one will know what I am doing. They can just take my name off the church books and I will live exactly as I please."

I think of the father and how it affected him as the son was enthusiastically laying his plans to go into the far country. I will tell you friends, while the boy was excited and enthusiastic about going to the far country, it brought untold anguish to the old father's heart just thinking of that hour when the son would be leaving him, and he might never see his boy again.

The day finally came. I have tried many times to picture in my imagination the hour of separation. The father tried everything he could to kindly, persuasively, dissuade him from the course of action that he had decided to take. He tried to get the boy to stay, but he did not try to force him. The son was of age and the father knew that he could not do that. Still, the poor old father is hoping in anguish that someway, somehow, the boy will decide to stay at home. The boy is to leave with the caravan in the late afternoon. I suppose we can never understand fully what a parent goes through until we have experienced separation ourselves. Nothing is quite so sad as when the children leave.

The old man's voice is choked with tears as he throws his arms around the boy, perhaps for the last time. I can hear him say, "Remember, son, if things go bad, if things go wrong, remember, son, if I am still alive and you want to come home, there will always be a welcome for you here. The door will always be open." The son pulls away. There is a strange tug at his heart strings and he knows that he ought to stay. He knows that this may kill the old man, but youth has to have its own way. A young man has to have a good time. So he makes his way up the little trail, over the hill, and then down and is lost-perhaps forever. I can see that father as he turns toward the home. He tries to putter around with a few things, but nothing seems the same. At last the supper hour comes, but he just toys with his food. Nothing tastes good. The worship hour comes. They have always gathered the servants with the family. The father reads from the scrolls of the prophets. He keeps looking over there at the empty chair, even worship doesn't seem right. They kneel and the father prays for his boy.

I have also tried to live over, in my imagination, the journey the son was making to the far country. I can imagine that first night, the caravan stops out there in the clear desert air. The stars are coming out now. They have had their supper and it is time for him to go to bed. He throws a little pallet on the sand. He looks up into the sky and the stars seem so close they seem like diamonds. He says to himself, "This is the freest that I have ever felt, it is wonderful even better than I thought." He thinks, "I wonder if I ought to kneel and pray before I go to bed tonight?" But then, "Why should I do that?" It is to get away from his father's prayers that he is going to the far country. He throws himself down on his pallet and soon is fast asleep. Day after day they travel.

At last the boy reaches the far country, and the record says, he wasted "his substance with riotous living." He led a fast, fast life, that prodigal. I suppose he had the fastest hot-rod chariot in town. He spent his money freely and had a host of friends. It is surprising how many friends you can have when you have a lot of money. He was surprised how friendly the young people of the town were. Why, after just a few minutes, after they have just been introduced, they are calling him by his first name. They are just wonderful. "I never realized that it was this way. I never realized that the girls would be so friendly and easy," he says to himself, "It is even better than I expected." I am not going to stand here and tell you that there isn't pleasure in sin. You know it, and I know it. The Bible says there is pleasure in sin. But it hastens to add that it is short-lived, it only lasts for a season. So it was with this boy. Before he could realize it, faster and faster down the toboggan slide of sin he went. At last he began to be in want, the record says. As soon as his money is gone, his friends leave. He discovers that they weren't his friends at all. All those young men whom he thought were so wonderful-their love isn't like the father's love. Those girls that used to flirt with him and he thought were so beautiful and wonderful-their love doesn't last like a father's love. This world that he thought so wonderful seems to collapse-it bursts like a balloon.

Out of money, he begins to look for a job. He tramps the streets. His shoes are worn, his clothes dirty, he is hungry, but he can't find anything to do to make a little money. There are signs up in all the little shops, "No help wanted." There is a famine in the country, the Bible reveals. He says to himself, "I think I will go out into the country. I am just a country boy. Perhaps I can get a job on a farm somewhere." At last, he tramps down a dusty road, he sees a sign, "Hog tender wanted." The Bible says, "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine." He never realized that he would sink that low. In fancy I see him sitting out there all by himself, with no one but the hogs. His eyes are sunken, his cheeks are hollow, his lips parched. He is hungry, but all he can see are those smelly hogs crunching away on the husks.

As he sits there thinking, he sees his father's face. He thinks of his father's home, his mother and her good home cooking. How wonderful it would be to be home. He thinks of the open door and the thought startles him. Why hadn't he thought of it before? His father had said, "If things get hard, if things go wrong, just come home. As long as I am living, there will always be a welcome. The door will always be open."

He thinks of how he has wronged his old dad. The sense of his sin sweeps over his soul and he begins to weep. He thinks to himself, "Oh, how different home was." He thinks of the servants. Dad was always so kind to the servants. He thinks how wonderful it would be even to be a servant for his father.

"Say, why not do this! Dad used to have hired servants. Some of them worked by the day and others stayed on year after year-they were permanently employed. Why don't I do this: Why don't I go home to my father and say, 'Dad, I know that I don't deserve anything, I have no right to be called your son. I flubbed my chance, I squandered my living, I have ruined my reputation. I don't deserve anything, but Dad, can't I be one of your servants? Better yet, Dad, can't I be one of your permanent employees? I don't ever expect to eat at your table, but can't I take my place with the servants? I will never expect to be your son again!'" He begins to think of what he is going to say when he goes home to see his dad again.

I often wish that I had a moving picture of the moment he came to that decision-when he decided, "I will arise and go to my father." That's a wonderful decision to make. No greater decision could ever be made in this world than that. I am so glad that he made it, aren't you? Another thing for which I am glad is that he didn't decide to stay there on the job a little longer to eke out a living in order to get fixed up before going home. It would have been a disgrace for him to go home to his father like that, but I am glad that he didn't decide to stick on the same old job until he got things straightened around and could clean himself up before going home to the father. Just as he was, he started home.

He is in a hurry. He takes the shortest, most direct route across the desert, wondering, of course, if father will still be living. Finally he comes to the fork of the hill, from the top of which he will be able to look down and see the father's house. He just plans to go around the back to the servants quarters. He never expects to eat from the father's table again. Just as the sun is setting in the west, he makes his way up over the hill and looks down toward the father's house.

I would like to have us think for a few moments of the father. Years have passed by and, oh, what a toll they have taken on this poor old frame. Night after night he goes out, after the chores are over, after supper, after worship has ended. He makes his way, slowly, quietly on his staff as he goes out to the old stone bench under the tree-there where he had last said good-bye to his son. All the neighbors around are saying, "The old man won't last long. He is just grieving his heart out after the boy. It isn't worth it. Why doesn't he forget it."

But, oh, friends, a father's love can never forget. So out there he goes each evening. He turns and looks up over the ridge just hoping against hope that someway, somehow, his boy will return-that he will see him coming back over that ridge where he last saw him. But as the sun sets he has to make his way back. One evening when supper is over, chores are done, worship is over, he makes his way out there to the stone bench. He sits there, leaning his head against his staff and communes with God. He is praying for his boy, and oh, how he longs in his heart to see his son again.

Dusk is coming on and the only thing that he can do is just to go back to the house. He must go to bed and try to get a little rest while he waits for another day. This evening he stands out there just ready to go back to the house, but before he goes, he can't help from looking back up over the trail. He says to himself, "Oh, if my boy, my boy would only come back." But there ... as he is looking ... he sees something coming up over the trail, up over the little ridge. Why, it looks just like his son-it is his son! Those eyes that cannot see like they used to see can still see the son. He lets out a shout of joy, drops his staff, and the Bible says that while the son was yet a great way off he ran. He began to run and the boy heard the shout and he began to run. They meet in a loving embrace.

The son realizes that he has no right to be called a son and begins that little speech through tear dimmed eyes, "Dad, I am no more worthy to be called thy son, I've squandered my living. ..." He tries to get it out, but the father won't let him. The father cries out, "Oh, this my boy that was lost is found." And what is more wonderful still, he takes his own outer cloak and wraps it around those filthy rags so that no one can see what his son is wearing. Together they start towards the house. The father is so anxious to share the good news with everyone. "Oh, this my boy was lost and is found." Oh, dear friends, such is the Father's love for you and me.

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