Michael Youssef - The Real Hero in the Prodigal Son
Luke chapter 15, if you turn to it, beginning at verse 11, where our Lord Jesus Christ tells us what our heavenly Father is like. So many preachers when they preach from this story, they focus on the prodigal, and they stay on the prodigal. Everything is about the prodigal, but it is not. The prodigal is only an actor, he's only part of the story, and that is why we will not leave him out, but he's only part of the story. We'll look at both sons, as a matter of fact. The story primarily is about the father of those two boys.
The story is about our Heavenly Father, the story is about the heart of our Heavenly Father. The story is about the unique love of our Heavenly Father, the story is about the character of our heavenly Father. Jesus, who's God the Son who co-existed with God the Father since before eternity, he reveals to us the real heart of God the Father, tells us what it's like, what he's like. So he begins a story in verse 11 of Luke 15 by saying, "There was a father of two sons".
Now, if you want to know the focus of any church, any church, any church, any church, did you get that? Any church, find out where they begin. Do they begin with God or they begin with man? Do they begin where Jesus always began with God the Father, or they begin with man and their needs? Jesus always began with the Father and then applied it to their needs. To know the indescribable love of the Father is to be truly contented. To know the extravagant love of the Father is to be truly fulfilled. To experience the amazing grace of God that leads you to a life of obedience, and that is why the psalmist could say, "The Lord is my shepherd, therefore I need nothing".
That's a rough translation, but that's really what he meant to say. And that is why we need to comprehend, beloved, listen, we need to comprehend the depths of the love of the Father toward those two boys. And I'm gonna explain more about this in the coming messages. We need to examine closely the heart of the father in these two situations here. One was outwardly rebellious, and the other was inwardly rebellious. He kept it on the inside. One flaunted his rebellion, the other held it in. One took pride in his rebellion, the other took pride in hiding his resentment toward his father. One lived wishing his father was dead, the other lived believing that his father is just not fair. And the father loved them both. While they were still sinners, the father humiliated himself for the redemption of both boys. While they were still sinners, no wonder that the Bible said, "While we were still sinners, Christ," what? "Died for us".
One was openly rebellious, and the other went through the religious rituals. He went to church, sang in the choir, did all the right stuff but his heart was not right with God. Turn with me if you haven't already to Luke 15, again, just look at verse 11. We saw two parables and then this true story. The two parables, one was the lost sheep, and the other one was the lost coin, and I explained that in the last message.
Here's what I don't want you to miss, don't miss this. When the sheep wandered off in ignorance, did you get that, ignorance? He's a dumb sheep, right? He wandered off in ignorance, he wandered off in ignorance. The shepherd went after him, he went after him, he would not rest until he found him. When the woman lost her engagement coin, which I explained in the last message, she did not rest until she found it. That's why I want you to listen carefully 'cause this is important. But when the younger son deliberately, willfully rebelled against his father, what did the father do? He stayed home, he stayed home.
You say, "Well, why is that? Why is that? Why is that? Why didn't the father do this"? Well, first of all, let me tell you how it happened. The younger rebellious son woke up one day and walked up to his father, and he said, "Father, give me my inheritance now". I'll say a whole lot more about that next message, next Sunday. But to begin to comprehend this, how terrible, how awful, I cannot describe it in words, just trust me, okay. This request is beyond description to request his inheritance while the father still alive, this is the younger son too. You have to understand the Middle East mindset, okay. You have to be from the Middle East to really comprehend the awfulness of this request. The boy is basically saying, "Father, I wish you were dead. Father, hurry up and die".
I just want you to imagine the hurtful, that deep hurt that the father is feeling. And while you're at it, think about how many people and churches and whole denominations are living and behaving as God is dead, are wishing he's dead, by denying his perfect, infallible Word. By their action, by rejecting his infallible Word of God, how many are behaving as if God is dead? How many have rejected God's ordained marriages and family plan? How many have rejected God's will for fidelity in marriage? They're doing the same thing as this boy. So before you start condemning him, think about what's going around us right now. There're some of God's children, if you look at their calendar, look at their resources and how they use their resources, it's not reflecting any love for God the Heavenly Father.
When Jesus was describing this kind of a father to the Pharisees, I mean, they were sitting there looking at him incredulously. These Pharisees were listening, and they're not believing their ears. I have absolutely no doubt, no doubt they were in a state of shock. I mean, they could be electrocuted and wouldn't feel as bad. Now, let me explain this. If a son back then, who even now, I spent the first 18 years of my life there, right? So I'm telling you, trust me. If a younger son back then or even now would ask his father for his inheritance while the father is still living, about the only thing that son is gonna get, the back of the hand of the father. Trust me on this one. And I'm absolutely certain that these Pharisees, I mean, the jaws, "What! What are you talking about"? I mean, their eyes are popping out of their heads, as big as saucers, and they said, "The father did what? Are you kidding us? Are you for real? Is this father for real"? But it gets more hilarious, just calm down.
See, according to the Old Testament law of inheritance, Old Testament, not the New, the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 21, verse 17, the division of the inheritance goes this way. Two thirds of the estate goes to the older son, I'm gonna explain that in a minute. Then the other third will go to the younger or even the other, the rest. Why two thirds to the older boy? And this is after the father dies, not before, because the older boy supposed to take care of his widowed mother and all the affairs of the household. He has to be responsible for the rest of the family. And this is as I said after the death of the father, not before. And that's why what Jesus is saying here was absolutely designed to shock them. It's designed to shock them of how incomprehensible, how awesome, how unbelievable, how indescribable, how patient, how inexhaustible, how long suffering, how generous the love of the father is.
While the father going through the pain over his son's rebellion, while the father going through the crucible of rejection, while the father's going through that inward suffering, and yet he lets the son go with the money. Question, why would the father let them get away with that? Because the father knows, listen carefully, because the father knows that love only has what love lets go of. I'm gonna repeat this. Because the father knows that love only has what love lets go of. Did you get that? I know it's easy to hear, hard to practice. I know that. There may be someone here, watching around the world, maybe someone here who have for years taken all of God's blessings for granted. For years have been living in the far country. For years have been oblivious to the longing heart of the Heavenly Father. I want to invite you today. Come home to the Father, come home to the Father, come home to the Father.
I wanna invite you, come back home to your longing Father. Let me ask you this. What is your far country? What is your far country? Is it an unwholesome relationship? What is your far country? Is it a misplaced priority? What is your far country? Is it that constant continuing fear, worry, anxiety? Is it an inability to trust God? To trust God with your future, to trust God with the future of your family, to trust God with the future of your business? Well, the Father may let you go and let you keep going to your heart's content, but he's waiting. I know he let me go for 18 months. The worst 18 months of my life. And don't ever forget that your Heavenly Father is hurting as he is longing for you to come home. But let me run very quickly into focusing on the father's reaction to his wayward child when he came home. You know, that is my favorite part.
I gotta confess to you, that is absolutely my favorite part. I always hurry through to get to that part. The father said to him, "You stupid and foolish boy. You 'cause me all sorts of sorrow and pain. You show up now when you become desperate? You thought that you can live as a big shot living up, living it up on my money? You have disgraced my name, disgraced the family name. You have to earn my forgiveness. You have to work for the rest of your life to pay me back. You have to grovel in front of the village elders". No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. In fact, Jesus wanted his hearers who would've done exactly that, they would've done exactly that, he wanted his hearers who would've exactly, any respected Jewish man at that time would've done exactly that. That is the custom of the day, that is the usual thing. The boy, after he comes home, he would have him sit outside the house for a week until all the passersby come and make fun of him, "Hey, hey look at him".
And then eventually the village elders would come in and intercede and they say, "Look, he suffered enough, let him in". Only after that the father will let him in. Thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God that did not happen, and it did not happen to you or me when we came to Jesus. The father runs. I want you to say that with me, 'cause this is, some of you might know this, some of you might not. This is a huge part of the story, it's huge, it is huge. I know some of you, "Oh, you know, the Father run and got the boy". No, no, no, no, you don't understand. The father was not sitting in shorts and Nike and they said, "Oh yeah, I'll run after". No, no, no, no, no. In the Middle East to this day, not just by, to this day, a dignified man never runs, only boys, servants, slaves, and criminals, they're the only ones who run. Not a dignified man. The father did what? Yeah, he ran.
See, father running is big part of the story. Can you see the cross here? Can you see the cross? God in his Son humiliated himself, hung on a cross and died to reconcile us and redeem us. Question, what does the triune God in heaven does when a sinner confesses and repents? Rejoices. Several times rejoices, embraces, which is a sign of acceptance. Kisses, which is a sign of reconciliation. Washes and cleanses, which is assurance of forgiveness. He puts on his robe, which is an imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ on us sinners. For make no mistake about it, none of us had our own right standing with God, none of us. You see, God's eye is purer than to look upon sin, my sin, your sin. So Jesus had to impute his robe of righteousness on us, so that the Father can look upon us and through the prism of the righteousness of Jesus.
Let me ask you, are you in your own far country? Only you can answer that. Are you far from the security of your Heavenly Father's home? You can come home today. And you can walk down these aisles and say, "Father". I'm gonna elaborate on that in the next message. The boy didn't finish his speech. He just says, "Father". And the father said, "I heard enough". He knew what's in his heart, he knew what's coming. "I heard enough". Didn't finish the speech, and the father embraced him, forgave him. And the Father will forgive you if you truly repent and ask for his Holy Spirit to dwell in you, give you the strength so that the spirit may win against the flesh. We all have that, it's a war going on. And as you feed the spirit daily, he'll give you victory over the flesh.