The Prodigal Son (Jesus vs. Pharisees) by John Kinney

Luke 15: 11-32 (NIIV)

There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “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. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “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! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 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.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’”

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. With parables I think familiarity breeds, “Isn’t that nice.”

I don’t think the targeted audience would have found it “nice”. I think they would have concluded that Jesus was mad and a potential threat.

So here we go. Chapter 15 vs 1-3 gets the ball rolling. “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Why are they upset? To them religion is a meritocracy, a reward and punishment system.  If you are good, God loves you. If you are bad, God despises you and will punish you. You need to earn God’s love, become worthy. The Pharisees are all about who’s in, who’s out, winners and losers. Achievers and failures.  Sinners are lost causes. Rubbish. A waste of time. So bad that contact with them makes you unclean. Associating with “those kind of people” will damage your reputation. Let’s update it. Who are “those kind of people to you? Drug pushers, Gang members. Meth heads. Any group that makes you cringe. Yes them. Yes me.  Yes you.

In the parable Jesus spells out how his Father deals with “those kind of people”. “So he told them this parable”

The son asks for his inheritance. The oldest son always gets a double share. Oldest son gets 2 shares, youngest 1. That is three shares. Oldest will get 2/3 and youngest 1/3. Assume it is a farm of 150 acres with 60 sheep and 30 goats. Young son gets 50 acres, 20 sheep and 10 goats. Bad thing 1. For farms there is an economy of scale. By taking his share the youngest son has jeopardized the continued successful operation of the farm. Bad thing number 2. He sells it all for cash. You give a cherished prize possession to someone and they sell it. Awful, hurtful thing number 3.  We all know when we would normally get an inheritance so it is as if the son goes to the father and says, “Father, I hate this lousy farm and I am tired of waiting for you to die. I want my share and I want it now! “

Pharisees. Figure the next line will be,” And the father has his son stoned”. Deuteronomy 21 18

No, the father gives it to him. The Pharisees are dumb founded.  SOMETHING TO PONDER.  WHY DOES THE FATHER GIVE THE ESTATE SHARE TO THE SON?

Son goes to Vegas. Hits all the strip clubs, is a high roller, throws lavish parties, invests in dubious get richer quick schemes. Losses it all. Hits the bottom. Worst job imaginable for a Jew.  He thinks about how well his father treats his servants. Obviously a good man to work for. He is not sorry about hurting his father. Just wants a job. Formulates an insincere fake confession, starts rehearsing it sa he heads home.

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’

Notice the son just hasn’t gotten it.  He is making a demand in his statement of remorse.  MAKE ME A SERVANT.

Father has heard about the plight of his son and

Pharisees: Serves the jerk right. About time he got his comeuppance. God punishes the wicked.

No, father is worried sick. Longs for the return of his son. Hikes to the top of the hill everyday watching. “He saw his son from afar.”

Pharisees. What a poor excuse for a father.

One day he sees a figure in the distance disheveled, in rags, barefoot. Realizes it is his son and

Pharisees: finally mans up disowns him and banishes him.

RUNS TO Him, embraces and kisses him. Take the characteristics of the best father and mother and you have the father.

Pharisees:  Are disgusted.

The sons starts his speech,”Father I have sinned… “and the father isn’t even interested. He is filled with joy. The son is confused.

Father:  You are back. You are back. Starts an immediate restoration with not a speck of retribution. Gets him a cloak and sandels and a ring (signet ring symbol of family heritage, authority.

Son, “No father, you can’t do this.   I hurt you so badly.  Couldn’t wait for you to die.”

Father Throws!! a party. Fatted calf pull out all the stops. The youngest son has just been overwhelmed by a tidal wave of unconditional love. Unmerited, unearned and in the warmth of yet another of his father’s embraces his heart melts.

The older brother is like the Pharisees. ‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him He earned, he deserves.  Unconditional love makes no sense. There has to be winners and losers.  The older son is more upset with his father than his brother.  His father is “breaking all the rules.”

Yet the father reaches out to him.

Pharisees: Jesus is mad and his undermining of the established order is a threat.

Think back to when the ball got rolling “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him.

It isn’t just the Pharisees that are listening to the parable.  The tax collectors and sinners are also listening and as they listen their hearts are melting.

Query:  Who are “those kind of people” to you?  Does your attitude towards them need to soften?

This message was given by John Kinney to Spokane Friends Meeting on Sunday, October 17, 2021

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