Andy Stanley - Your Place in the Story
So today I want to read what is perhaps Jesus' most well-known parable to you. And it's a parable about a homecoming. And the brilliance of this parable is lost on most of us because we've heard it so many times. It's iconic. People who weren't even raised in church have language around this, this parable, as is the case with several of Jesus parables. And because it's so brilliant, excuse me, because it's so familiar, we lose sight of how amazing it really is. And what makes this parable so amazing. And this is true of several of Jesus parables, but maybe this and two or three others more than the rest of them. What makes it so amazing is that we are all included in it. We're all in it. And like a good movie or a good book, you'll be tempted and I'm tempted to try to identify with the hero in the parable.
So let me just, you know, level of playing field, you're not the hero in this parable and I'm not the hero in the parable, although we wanna be, and there's something inspiring about the hero in the parable. And I'm gonna give you an opportunity later to maybe move in or try to lean in that direction because I certainly want to. And while I'm talking about me, I have been all the characters in this parable at some season and some season of my life. Like many of you have to. So here's the challenge today, I wanna ask you to try to be as honest as you possibly can be with yourself. I mean, nobody can read your mind just to be, you know, kind of rest your defenses, put down your defenses, be as honest as you can and to find yourself in the parable because that's what a parable is for.
And if you're not a Christian, no worries. Because when Jesus told this parable, this is really important. When Jesus told this parable, there weren't any Christians there, there wasn't a church. In fact, the term Christian didn't even exist. So this is pre-Christian, kind of non-Christian. This is an all skate. Everybody is partic, is invited to find themself in the parable. No judgment, you just listen and find yourself. So here we go, here first the setup, because the context for this parable, like most of Jesus parables is so important. So here's, here's how it begins. Luke, who thoroughly investigated everything and interviewed eyewitnesses, he's the one who documents this for us. He says, on one occasion the tax collectors and the sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.
I just think that's a remarkable statement. That the worst of the worst we're attracted to the best of the best. I mean, that should, that should cause all of us to go what's wrong with me and what's wrong with us? Something about Jesus was so attractive He that people who were nothing like him liked him. People who were nothing like him liked to hear him speak. I mean that, that's amazing. Now, tax gatherers and sinners, I've said this before, you've heard this before. The tax collectors were so despised the sinners didn't even want to be associated with the tax collectors. So they had their own category of bad. They were the worst of the worst. They were despised, they were traitors to their country and traitors to Judaism, tax collectors and sinners.
The sinners are those that are outside of God's ability to bless, either because of their jobs, not because they had sinful jobs, but they had jobs that made them ceremonially unclean. So they were just kind of always on the outside of formal religion or perhaps they just made life choices that they were just considered sinners. They're all gathering around to hear Jesus. And this is the group that according to Pharisaical teaching, again, were the, the outcast. These are the people that God kind of looked down on. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law. That's what they had communicated. And speaking of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, they're also a part of this conversation, which makes it so interesting.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, these are the flawless Torah keepers, based on their own interpretation of Torah, they pretty much got it right or right enough to be in favor with God. And they were the spokespeople from God to the people and represented to some extent the people to Rome at the time. And so they're in this crowd and they realize, once again, Jesus shows up and all the wrong people show up first and they can't understand if he's from God, why doesn't he spend time with us? godly people? He doesn't, he doesn't even, you know, invite us over. I mean it, it's just, it was baffling to them. And so they, I love this. They muttered, it's a word we don't use, right? They muttered. They were like, mutter, mutter, mutter, mutter, mutter, mutter, mutter because they're kind of on the outside 'cause all the bad people got there first and they're mutter mu and what are they muttering about? This man here?
He goes, I mean, everywhere we go, everywhere, everywhere he goes. Same thing. This man, he welcomes, he doesn't, they don't just follow him around. He doesn't even try to escape. He doesn't even try to distance himself. He actually welcomes these sinners and he eats with them. Which again, this was such a big deal in ancient times because there weren't restaurants and eating with somebody was a very, not just a formal thing, it was a very intimate thing. So the thing that bothered them about Jesus and the sinners is it's like, when is the other shoe gonna drop? I mean, it's one thing to get 'em close, but when's he gonna go? Okay, now that I've got you, here's the sin your your sinners.
When is he gonna tell 'em they're doing it wrong? When is he gonna tell 'em they're sinning? When is he gonna call out these specific behaviors and circle 'em and say, that's a sin, that's a sin, that's a sin. When is it gonna happen? Right Now, as it turns out, both of these groups, the religious people, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, and those men and women who were, you know, far from God, they both were confused about God. In fact, they both were suffering from the same confusion. Both groups were confused about how God views sinners. And Jesus wants to help them get this right. So before we jump into the parable though here, quick question. Don't raise your hand and no elbows, are you a sinner? 'cause he's about to help us understand how God views sinners.
So let's decide where we are in the parable. Are, are you a sinner? I, and let me define it for you because as soon as I said sinner, you thought of some things. But I'll make it real simple for you. This is how Jesus defines sin. We've talked about this. Have you ever mistreated someone you qualify? Are are, are you in a relationship now where if you're real honest, you are mistreating someone, you qualify? How about this one? Have you ever mistreated yourself? Or are you in, you have something going on where you're actually, you're being unkind to yourself that you know that's a sin That so you know, whether you've consider yourself a sinner or not, Jesus would smile on his face. Remember they're attracted to Jesus to go, yeah, you, you qualify, do, do you...
Again, this is silly and definitely no elbows do you know any sinners do, do you, do you wonder? Do you ever wonder how God views? And here it is. Here's where we all get guilty 'cause we're all in the parable. Do you ever wonder how God, or do you assume you know how God views them? Because it's not just an individual, it's them. It's those people. Why do they act that way? Why do they say that? Why do they dress that way? Why do they respond that way? Why did they vote that way? Why do they react that way? Why do they, you know, why are they the way they are? Do you ever wonder if God views them the way that you view them? And does it ever bother you that maybe the way you view them and those people, whoever those people are you?
Now, let me, I hate to break it to you, but did you know you are those people to some other people? Did you know that? And you're like, no, no, no, I'm not those people. Those are those people. Me and God are trying to figure those people out. And they're like, no, no, me and God, we're trying to figure those people out. And you're part of those people. Has it ever occurred to you? Because, you know, we're too busy to think about this. That, that maybe the way you view those people and the way that God views those people isn't the same. I've struggled with this. Now Jesus is brilliant. Instead of addressing these two groups separately, he, he addresses them simultaneously. He's gonna address both those that think they're really good and in with God. And those that think will never be good with God. And neither of 'em are clear. Neither of 'em understand how God view sinners. He's about to address 'em out the same at the same time, but they don't know it. He's gonna sneak up on 'em.
Now, the problem with this parable is this. He can't sneak up on us 'cause we already know the parable. But if he could sneak up on us, he's trying to sneak up on us, on our blind side for us to go, oh my goodness, that's me. I'm, I'm guilty. So if we allow him to, he's about, he's about to address us, but we've gotta be open to that. So he begins with two warmup parables and he begins with the guys. He says, man, let me a quick question. If a, if a man who has a hundred sheep is out in the wilderness somewhere, and as he's counting the sheep, he realizes uhoh, I'm missing a sheep. What does that guy do? Well, everybody, even the guys that didn't own sheep knew what you do. You, you, you go look for that one sheep because they're valuable. And for shepherds sheep are per, were oftentimes personal, especially if you only had a hundred, a hundred's, not a lot. So you can't afford to lose one.
And so he said, wouldn't you go look for the one? Well, you know, the flock is gonna continue to flock while the un flocked has wandered off. And you're gonna go look for the un flocked because sheep just naturally flock if you leave them alone, right? And they're like, well, yeah, that's exactly what we do. And then Jesus said, and isn't it true when you put 'em back in the pen at the end of the day and you went home, you would call all your friends over and have a party and celebrate the fact that you found your lost sheep? And they're like, no, we probably wouldn't. That's a little over the top. And Jesus is, is hyperbole.
I mean Jesus is the master storyteller. But his point is, you would be so grateful you would tell someone, Hey, you're not gonna believe what happened today. I was afraid wouldn't never see the sheep again. I was afraid of wolf will give, but I got the, you know, we're back. And they're like, yeah, yeah. And then now that he has their attention, all the men, not just the Pharisees of the sinners, all of them, he steps outside the parable to make a theological point that shocked them. He says, well, you know how that would feel? You know, you, Hey, I found it. I'm gonna look and look and look. And while you're looking for the one, you're not even thinking about the 99, they're the last thing on your mind. You never, you're not worried about the found, you're worried about the loss.
He says, I wanna tell you something about God that you didn't know. I tell you, in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner, it's us over one sinner who repents, who turns around and comes back than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent. And the Pharisees are like, see I told you he's crazy. This nobody, this is, this is completely wrong. You're wait, you're telling us that God isn't rejoicing over us, that God isn't rejoicing over our goodness and God isn't rejoicing over our obedience, that God isn't blessing us, the reason we're so wealthy and the reason things are going so well for us, isn't that God's blessing because God is rejoicing over us? What you mean there's, you don't, you're telling us God isn't rejoicing over us. Isn't that what God values?
Most people like us. Meanwhile the sinners are completely insulted, right? So you're telling us we're just dumb sheep who wandered off and need rescuing. So everybody's offended because Jesus is the master storyteller and everybody's paying attention. He has just rattled both of their categories with a single illustration. And then he takes it up a notch. Or suppose a woman and the women who are on the outskirts of this crowd stand up straight or sit up straight. It's like he included us. Whoa, whoa. I mean he, he's included us. What's he gonna say? And Jesus looks past the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and his own disciples and he finds the women in the, the group. And he says to the women, suppose suppose one of you had 10, 10 silver coins and you lost one. And they know exactly what he's talking about.
We have no clue that oftentimes the father would give their daughter coins more than 10 oftentimes and they would sew it into a necklace or to a head covering. And this was the promise to the man who was gonna marry him. Her, it was like a dowry. It was either the exact amount or sometimes it just represented what the man was gonna get. But these were very valuable and she knew exactly how many there were. And she got up one day and she put on her head dressers, her necklace and one's missing. He's like, you know, what would you do? And this would be ladies, it would be a little bit like when you got engaged or if you're engaged or when you get engaged, you get a, a diamond ring and one day you get up and the diamond's gone outta the ring. You have the setting but not the diamond. What do you do?
They are like, we know exactly what we would do. We, first of all, we wouldn't wear it. We wouldn't go outside not wearing it because everybody knows we're engaged. What would we do? We wouldn't do anything until we found that coin. Like you wouldn't do anything until you had lit up your house. They would light up their house and find that coin and Jesus smiles and says, and then when you found it, what would you do when you call your girlfriends over and say, you're not gonna believe this. I lost it. I spent the whole day looking and I found it and now I can go out again. I won't be embarrassed. Come celebrate with me. I lost my coin. And of course they're like, that's a little over the top. I don't know that I'd throw a party. And he smiles and he says, ladies, you know how relieved you would be.
This is how relieved your Heavenly Father is when one sinner verses course. So the Pharisees and the teachers of law are like, so you mean God isn't celebrating us? And the sinners and the tax collectors are like, you mean God hasn't forgotten us? God hasn't given up on us. Wait, like we're like a sheep. He's looking for, we're like a coin that's being searched for like something of value. He's got him and then the parable, the story, the one that we all know so well. And the thing is, I don't, I don't know how to factor this in. They, they could not, they could not appreciate the significance of this moment when he launches into this next story because this is gonna be one of his greatest hits. Okay? This is, you know, you can't, you can't name all 10 commandments. You can tell this story, right?
I mean this is like, this is epic. This goes generation after generation after generation. And I wonder if Jesus knew this one's going the distance, okay, this is, this is gonna survive the first century, right? He's got 'em right where he wants 'em. He loves 'em. He wants them to know how much the Heavenly Father loves them. He wants them to know how much the Heavenly Father loves those that are across the, the room from them, across the crowd from them. He wants them to know how much their Heavenly Father loves the people across from them. The ones that are nothing like him, that don't even like them. He wants them to know how much the Heavenly Father loves the people that they don't have anything in common with. And he wants you to know. And he wants me to know how much he loves the people across from us as well. He wants you to know how much he loves those people. And he wants those people to know how much he loves you. People and me people and us people.
And how much does he love them? And how much does he love us this much? There was a man he said, who had two sons, the younger one said to his father, father, give me my a share. Give me my share of the estate. And when Jesus, this is how brilliant he is, okay? Remember at the the beginning he divided him, then he brought 'em back together. Oh yeah, we know what we do. We divided them, brought 'em back together, insulted both groups. Now he's bringing 'em back together because when he says, father, give me my share of the estate, everybody in the crowd comes back together. Common ground, common emotion, and growls. Okay, this is lower than a tax collector. Nobody would do this. They, this is what they heard. It was as if the son said, dad, I've been waiting for you to die. You just won't die.
So could we pretend like you're dead already? And they're thinking he should be beaten, thrown out and disinherited. He's got 'em. Then Jesus surprises him. So the father divided his property between him. This goes from bad to bizarre. I mean, and again, they hear this, this is what they're thinking. Wait a minute. That's not a casual endeavor. You gotta sell stuff. You gotta divide stuff. This is property and sheep and cattle. This is a farm. This is buildings. This is, how would, how would the father even do this? This would take months. They're not leaving early. And the ones in the crowd who were following his stream of stories, here's what they're thinking. Lost sheep, lost coin. Rebellious son.
Wait, what did we change? The subject lost sheep followed. You lost coin. The rebellious son did. What are we talking about? They didn't see it coming. We see it coming. 'cause we know the story. They didn't see it coming. He totally blindsides him. It's so brilliant. What they didn't see cum was the boy. The younger son was lost to the father And the father wanted him back. So he chooses the shortest route back. He funded the boys' departure. He was willing, this is amazing. He was willing to let him go. He was willing to let him go. If that's what it took to get him back. How far would you go in order to get him back? The father would say, I would do anything to get him back. The audience.
And Jesus audience didn't hear that. Here's what they heard, you sentimental fool. Like what you're gonna ruin. I mean, you spent your whole life accumulating all of this wealth. And your rebellious son, who you can't trust it wants it, wants you dead and you're gonna go along with it. So you know this story. So not long after the younger son got all of it, got it all together, he cashed out. Basically. It's like, I know he sold everything for a bargain. 'cause I just want the cash and I want to go, I want stuff I can carry with me. I want portable wealth. I don't want to, you know, herd cattle to wherever it is I'm going. The younger son got it together, all that he had. And he set off for distant country. And this is representative.
This is a big idea in our English text and in our, our way that we talk. This is, that means very little to us. This meant this was a lot. This was, this meant he was gonna go wherever he needed to go to get as far away as he could from his home in order to do whatever he wanted to with nobody knowing. And no consequence he was gonna do his own thing. How far did he have to go? As far as he needed to? And there he, in other words, we don't use too much, he squandered, which means to scatter. He scattered, he threw away his wealth. It wasn't his wealth, it was his father's wealth that his father took a lifetime to accumulate with wild lawless law-breaking living, gone in months. And then after he had spent everything, there's a famine.
This is so interesting. We could come back to this idea. It's a big idea. Isn't it true that when things go bad because of decisions you've made, they go worse. It's like, I deserve this. I didn't deserve this. Yeah, but that's how it goes. So you make a bad decision and things get bad and then suddenly there's something completely outside of your control and it's like, boom. And it's like, yeah, but I'm not really, that's just, it's just kind of the nature of life. There's suddenly there's a famine. He's already broken. Now there's a famine. He begins to be in need. And the audience, Jesus' audience is like serves him, right? This is God's judgment.
You know, you sow and you reap and now he's reaping and they kind of hope he starves, right? And so then he went out and had to get A-J-A-J-A job. He never had one of these before. He had to go get a job. I mean, when you're a rich ex son of a rich kid with all this plane, you don't get a job. You just kind of work the farm, right? He had to get a job in a distant country working for somebody he did not know. And everybody in the crowd's like, yeah. And then Jesus just piles on 'cause he's the master teacher. He got a job feeding pigs and the crowd goes wild. It's like great. He's alienated from his parents, he's alienated from his community. And now he is alienated from God. He is ceremonially unclean forever. He has hopelessly lost to God. And now he's starving in this parable and nobody's gonna help him.
And of course nobody's gonna help him because there's a famine. And when there's a famine, you kind of, you know, batten down the hatches and you just sort of save that powder and you gotta take care of your family first. And I'm sorry we can't help you right now. There's a famine. Meanwhile, according to Jesus, we find out later in the parable that word is getting back home. What's going on with the younger brother? And the older brother knows what's going on with the younger brother. He could not be happier. So when reap him, he deserves it. He's a loser. He embarrassed our whole family. He embarrassed our father to his friends. And the whole community serves him right? But the father we discover later, every afternoon is going out to the corner of the property and looking down the road that the sun took when he left, hoping that this is the day that maybe the sun returns. And there we are, all of us right in the middle of this brilliant parable.
So here's the question. Who are you in the parable? Are you the, do you relate to the younger brother, kind of off in a distant country doing your own thing? No, you're not doing it right. There's things people don't know. If they found out you'd be in trouble, but hey, you're, you're just, you've kind of wandered off the older brother. You've, you know, you've just pretty much done things right your whole life and you can't understand those people. Why they don't just do things right? Or do you kind of relate to the father? 'cause maybe you've been one of those two and now you're there. Me, like I said earlier, I've definitely been these two. I spent time in the distant country.
And here's what I learned. I learned that nobody gets away with sin ever. We think they do. 'cause we look at 'em, we go look at 'em, go look at 'em, go. They just, everything just seems to be fine. That's because we don't know their own, their whole story. We just see the highlight reels. Nobody gets away with sin. So all sin comes prepackaged with a consequence. And all sin comes pre-packaged with regret. But when I came back from the distant country, and boy did I ever know better, I mean, goodness, the way I was raised, I had no excuse. When I came back from the distant country, I did not come back with the heart of the father. I came back like an older brother, judgemental. I got my life together. You should get your life together critical. Why are you doing that? Don't you know, don't you know, proud of my rightness and my devotion and my morality and my ethics and my bible study and I'm all buttoned up.
And I assumed that God was proud of me as well and celebrating me. 'cause look at me. Go. I used to be, but now I am. And I'm and those other people, one day, maybe God, they'll get their act together. But look at me, go. Right? I was so obedient. I was not very compassionate and it didn't even bother me. And then as life has a way of doing that began to break down. And I knew that what was on the outside wasn't what was on the inside. And over time, the circumstances that duplicity came to the surface and I had to deal with it. And through that and then beginning, and I know it's weird to hear me say this, and I'm not making this up, I began reading the gospels, not just the letters of Paul. I love the letters of Paul. They're so, they're, you know, there's appeal to that.
Do the right thing. Here's the things not to do, and here's the list and all this stuff. And then I begin doing what I've encouraged you to do all the time. And that is to not just read Bible verses, but to follow Jesus through the gospels. And when you follow Jesus through the gospels, you're confronted with the point of this parable. Because he didn't just teach it, he modeled it over and over and over and over and over. And I was confronted with my, my ugly self-righteousness. I was confronted with the fact that in some ways I had taken on God's role. I held the gavel. I knew who was in and who was out and what people needed to do to get their lives straightened out. And when I began to remove the, a log out of my own eye, what Jesus promise would happen began to happen.
Do you remember what Jesus promised would happen? When you remove the log from your own eye, you begin to see clearly. The reason you can't see clearly with a log in your eye is because there's a log in your eye. And I'm so worried about the speck in her eye and their eye. And the, those people look at the specks, look at the stuff in their eye. And Jesus is saying, yeah, you know what? If you get the log out of your own eye, you would see those people differently. Andy, you'll be, begin to see those people the way I see those people. I began to see the pharisee in me and I began to see more clearly. You know what I began to see? This is embarrassing. I began to see for the first time why this took so long. That people are complicated. You're complicated. Your life isn't, your life is multifaceted. I began to understand how silly of me to dangle some point of obedience or some verse over their head when I don't even know their story.
And I discovered, I wish I discovered it earlier. I discovered what many of you discovered. I discovered what we all discover eventually, when you hear somebody's entire story, do you know what? Do you know how you respond? We say, oh, oh, okay. Nevermind all that stuff. I think you oh, oh, oh, oh. I see, I just saw a slice of behavior and I judged you and now I know your whole story. And I'm looking at that slice of behavior within the context of what happened to you, where you were raised, how you were raised, what you were exposed to, what you weren't exposed to. Okay, my bad, my bad. You see your Heavenly Father, my Heavenly Father, imagine this knows everybody's story. There's no those people to your Heavenly Father and my Heavenly Father. There are not those people. We are all those people. And when I finally learn to try to take into consideration as Jesus models over and over and over, it's not a behavior, it's a person.
I was finally able to see what love required Of me. So I pray every day, multiple times a day. And I mean it multiple times a day. It's the first prayer I pray in the morning. It's, it's habitual. I'll be honest. It's like I just, just, Heavenly Father, help me to see the way you see, help me to see the way you see, help me to see the way you see and specifically help me to see people the way that you see people. Because if I can see them the way you see them, I will respond to them the way that you respond to them. And if I can see her the way that you see her, if I can see him the way that you see him, then I'm gonna respond to her and respond to him the way that you respond to them. And I won't take a behavior or something about them and def and define them by it.
Do do you wanna be defined by your worst moment? No. Do you wanna be defined by that public characteristic that has sort of defines you in the minds of people? No, there's more to you than that. And there's more to every single person you'll meet for the rest of your life. And this is why the gospel is so powerful. And this is why the message of Jesus is so powerful. And this is why thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in such a powerful prayer. And so I keep praying, God help me to see, help me to see like the father in the parable. So enough about me back to you. So who are you younger brother. You're in a season where you're like, you know what? I don't like who I see in the mirror. I don't know how I got here. Actually, I do you know how I got here? But I don't like the fact that I've arrived here.
It wasn't my intent. This isn't the life I wanted to live. This isn't the marriage I wanted to have. This isn't the guilt I wanted to live with. This isn't the habit that I wanted to control my life. It started as a pastime. You know, it was kind of magical. And now it's more medicinal. And, and now it's just destroying my life. And I don't like where I am. I don't like where I'm headed. It's not what I dreamed of is not what I planned of. I, you're right. I feel like I'm in a far away country. And here's what Jesus in the parable said, it happened to the younger son. And maybe this will happen to you. Maybe it'll happen to you today while I'm talking. He came to his senses. He, he woke up, he looked around and thought, acknowledged. He acknowledged what everybody else could see.
So lemme just tell you about you for a second. Those of you who are the younger brother right now, and you're in a kind of a distant country, did you know the people who love you the most can see what's going on? It's not a mystery. Then when you finally come to your senses and confess it and acknowledge it, nobody's gonna go, what? They're gonna say this. They're gonna say, we've been praying that you would see you the way we see you, and we're glad you're back. He finally said, what am I doing here? Abandoned his pride. And what did he, did he, he headed home. So I'm gonna ask you in 30 seconds to raise your hand. Not yet. Anybody here be willing to say, you know what? I don't like who I've become. I don't like who I'm becoming. I'm in a distant country and I need to go home and I don't care. Who knows? Even though after I raise my hand, it's gonna be an interesting conversation at lunch, but I don't care anymore. I'm ready to come home.
Anybody here willing to do that in public, in front of people, hands, anybody? And look at that. Yeah. Come on. Yeah. Look at all those honest people right here in church. That's right. Yeah. I can't see the balcony, I'm sure up there. Would anybody be willing to say Andy? Once upon a time? I totally get, I totally get this because I've been here, I've been here, I've been bounced back and forth. But right now, If I'm honest, and I'm not being, being arrogant, I'm just saying where I am right now, I kind of relate to the, to the father. I, God kind of crushed all the judgmental or most of the judgmental out outta me. And I feel like I'm in a place where I'm able to see people the way that our Heavenly Father sees. And that I'm just not the person I used to be anymore. I'm like the father. I tend to just, it's easier now for me to be like the father and just to see people and accept people and love people.
Anybody, I'm, you're not bragging. I'm asking you to raise your hand. You're like, I've gotten there. That's kind of me. That's kind of who I am. Come on. Yeah, yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. This is a hard one. Perhaps if you're honest, and this is hard to admit. You lean toward the did it right older brother. Right? You're the rule follower. You, you like holding the gavel. You're, you're not, you're not. It's just, it's just hard for you not to judge and draw conclusions. You feel a bit morally superior to other people. And if you're not sure that's you, because this is hard to see. If you're not sure that's you, maybe this will help. See in the, in the parable, the, you know, the younger brothers begins to make his way home. And the father's out there on the corner of the property looking for him day after day after day. And in the parable, Jesus says, but while the younger son was still a long way off, his father saw him.
So here's the question. If you are the father, not the father, but you're in his role and you see the rebel brother coming home, how would you be inclined to fill in this blank? He saw him and he was filled with resentment, suspicion. Oh sure. You're coming home, you've run outta options and you've run outta daddy's money. Oh sure. You're repenting. Oh sure. You're coming to church now. Oh, sure. You wanna get your life straightened out. Oh, sure. You want to go to counseling? Oh, sure. You're willing to acknowledge this. Of course you're acknowledging it. We found you out. Oh, sure. Oh sure. Oh, sure. You're crawling home. You're not sorry. You're just kind of sorry you got caught. This is hard. Anybody here willing to admit? Yep. I don't know if this as extreme as you just described, but I lean toward the older brother. Anybody come on way high. Just Yeah, yeah.
See, and all of Jesus' parables, this is important. When you read the New Testament in all of Jesus' parables, there's always a character that represents God. And of course, in this parable, the God character is the Father. Look up here. And the Father's response is the point of this parable. This is how God views sinners. This is how God views all those people. This is how God views that person. This is how God views the wicked that prosper. This is how God views them. He views them as lost and separated. He views them as having wandered away from home. And God's agenda is not payback. That's my agenda. God's agenda is not payback. God's agenda is bring back, win back, get 'em home, restore.
So in the parable where the Father represents God, this is the word that Jesus puts in the heart of the Father that I want in my heart all the time. And if you're a Jesus follower, you gotta get there. When the father saw him, he was filled with compassion. Wait a minute, time out. Hey, hey dad, are you paying attention to what just happened in this parable? Your, your whole community thinks you're a laughing stock. What? You were willing to do all of that in order to get the son back. Yes. That is the heart of your Heavenly Father. For years, I filled in that blank way different, which meant as good and as obedient and as moral and as ethical as I was, I was nothing like my Heavenly Father or my savior. You remember what happened next?
See, when I was growing up, and I'd hear this parable, I heard, you know, the father ran to the son, which is what the text says. He runs toward the sun. And I was always told that old men are fathers or dig, you know, that wasn't very dignified to run in public. I don't know if that's true or not. Maybe it is. But anyway, the father runs the sun, throws his arms around him, embraces him. Everybody in Jesus crowd, once again, they're all on the same page. Everybody in Jesus crowd is like, Ugh. And then Jesus just pours it on and he kissed him and they're like, oh, he is been feeding pigs and living outside. And the father kissed him. What is wrong with his father? Nothing. This is God's response to sinners who choose to come home. And the son remember this part, the son begins his speech.
You know, his dad's hugging him and kiss him like Father. 'cause he, he's rehearsed the speech all the way home. Father, I have a son against heaven and against you. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Just make me as one of your servants. And the dad's like, shh. And he says, no, no, no, no. We're not doing any of that. Bring sandals, bring sandals. I'm restoring him to his former status. And then the father throws a party and the older brother throws a gasket. Remember this part? He says, the older brother became angry and refused to go into the party for his brother. And so his father, what? This is amazing. This is, again, remember, you're we're all in the parable. This is the part maybe you're pushing back on. The father comes outside of the party and he pleads with the older brother. He pleads with the older brother.
Maybe God who loves you is pleading with you. Take the judgmental log outta your eye. I want you to see, like I see, I want you to see them the way I see them. I know they're sinners, but so are you. We we've settled that. I want you to see sinners, the way I see sinners, I'm pleading with you. And the older son begins to rehearse all the good things he's done for his dad and the fact he never left. And he's been obedient and he's faithful and he's served. And he goes on and on and on. And the dad's nodding and nodding. I know, I know, I know. Great. I'm not arguing with any of that. But son, you weren't lost to me. Someone I love was lost to me. And so we have to celebrate and be glad because this, he's your brother. He's your brother. This brother of yours was dead and he is alive again. He was lost like a sheep. Now he's found.
So for those of you who are Christians, that's most of us, maybe all of us today, I don't know. For those of you who are trying to be Jesus followers, here's here, here's the thing. This is the point of the parable. We will know that we are in sync with our Heavenly Father. And we will know we're walking in the spirit. And we will know that we're filled with the Spirit of God and living in the direction of our Heavenly Father. Her when we feel the way the Father felt toward those who are lost to God. And if we don't feel compassion for them, we have work to do. If sin and separation breaks the father's heart, it should break my heart. It should break your heart as well. And do you know why? Do you know why sin breaks your Heavenly Father's heart? 'cause sin breaks people and sin breaks the people he loves.
So where are you in the story? And where should you be? Why not just go there, get there, just deal with it. All the younger brothers, younger sisters, faraway country, distant country, got stuff going on. You're, in fact, you don't even normally come to church and you're like, why did I pick today? Oh my goodness, this is the worst decision of my life. Maybe. Or maybe your Heavenly Father is standing on the corner of the property saying, this is the day. Come back. And I know it's complicated, and yes, there will be consequences. But the longer you wait, the greater the consequences. And yes, it's gonna be complicated and there's gonna be things to sort out and things to explain and people won't understand. And you're not even sure how to take the next step. But you know you're not where you ought to be.
And your Heavenly Father who loves you says, I want you. I want this to be your homecoming. I want you to come back. I want you to come home. Repent. Own it. Own up to it. Stop with excuses. You're just hurting yourself and you're hurting the people that you love. And you're hurting the people that love you. I'm gonna give you opportunity to do that in a minute. And then maybe you're the older brother, the older sister, and you're Heavenly Father wants you to put the gavel down and to quit dangling things over people. Like this is what you're doing wrong. And if only you would do this. And those people, he wants you to be done with those people because those people are people God loves. Those people are lost sheep. And you used to be a lost sheep. And who are you? And who am I to take the gavel and play the role of God and God saying, Hey, I that that needs to come to an end.
You need to come home too. You need to join the party. You need to quit. You need to quit reminding me of what you haven't done and how good you are. I know, and I'm grateful. So join me in the search for the lost sheep and the lost coins. And the lost sons. And the lost daughters. Do what love requires of you. Stop playing judge. It makes you rist like love, like the Father loves. And remove anything that's an obstacle to that from your life, from your thinking, from your prayers. It's risky. People will take advantage of that. But you are risky. 'cause once upon a time you were a lost sheep and a lost coin, and a lost son and a lost daughter, and your Heavenly Father took a risk on you.
Get this. You know what he did for you? Listen, he sent his son to die for your sins, knowing you would not take advantage of that. Many times he sent his son to die for your sins, knowing you would repeat the same sin over and over and over and over and ask forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. And he sent his son to die for you. Anyway, announcing forgiveness ahead of time is risky. Announcing compassion ahead of time is risky. Announcing love ahead of time is risky. It's the risk our Heavenly Father took on us. And he's like, church people, followers join me. He says, do just do for others what? Once upon a time your Heavenly Father did for you.