Luke Chapter 15
There are three stories being told in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, but the moral of each of these stories is clear: Lost things matter to God.
To really understand this story, you must pay careful attention to the first couple of verses. If you read intently, you will see that there is a great deal of tension in these verses. Jesus was given many titles in the New Testament: The Door, The Light of the World, The Alpha and Omega, but in this passage, we see him labeled, though not with affection, “Friend of Sinners.”
In the first story, a farmer has one-hundred sheep and one gets lost. Jesus shows us how the Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes on a search and rescue mission for the one. In the second story, a widow loses one of her coins and then turns the house upside down to find it. And when the lost son returns home, he finds the father not just waiting on him, but running to meet the son he has been eagerly watching for in the distance. There are many things we could point out about these three stories but there’s really one common thread: Whenever the lost are found, there is rejoicing.
In verse six the farmer calls his friends together and he says, “rejoice with me, I have found my lost lamb.”
In verse nine the widow says, “rejoice with me, I have found my lost coin.”
And when the lost son returns home the father throws a party, and again, they all rejoice.
I relate more to the son, so that is what I want to focus on today. He wants his inheritance and he wants it while his father is still alive. This was the same as saying, “Father, I’m eager for you to die.”
Normally in this situation a father would disown the son for making such a request. But instead the father gives it to him. He takes the money, leaves home and goes to a place the Bible refers to as a distant country. And there he spends his money down to the last cent. A famine comes in so not having any cash, he finds work. And the only thing he can find is to slop hogs. I’m pretty sure this was not the job he dreamed of, growing up as a Jew.
So how did he get to this place? How do you move from a life of luxury to living in a pigpen? Well actually it’s not as difficult as it may sound. The explanation, in my assessment, is simple: He was selfish, we all are to some degree because it’s in our nature, but he allowed his selfish desires to rule his heart.
Here’s why I relate to this story so much – I got lost the same way. After decades of preaching about the nature of all sin being rooted in selfishness, I forgot to ‘beat my body, and make it my slave.’
These are the words of the Apostle Paul, he says that we must do this as ministers of the Gospel, ‘so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
One decision of selfishness, led to another, and before long I was on the road to a distant country. A place I didn’t have any business going, because it led me away from the Father’s house.
I made a long string of bad decisions. This is the way sin works its way into our lives - one bad decision leads to another. You tell yourself, “I’m in pain, so it’s okay to take more of the medication than the doctor prescribed... Grandpa used to drink whiskey when he was sick... it’s not a sin to medicate yourself, and it just continues. Pretty soon you’re about 15 bad decisions down the road and then it’s just easier to keep traveling in the wrong direction.
Notice now what happens in verse 14. There was a famine in the distant country. That’s what happens when we lose our direction and we stray away. Everything looks good, plenty of opportunity; soon the money runs out, the road runs out and then you’ve lost everything. One who had it all, has now lost everything. He has bottomed out, and he realizes it. He came to his senses.
Philip Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grew up in a small town in Michigan. Fed up with her old-fashioned parents who didn’t like the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. She calls him boss. He recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay a premium for her so she goes to work for him. For a while she thinks life is good. But she gets sick for a few days and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns on her. Before she knows that she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She earns very little and all the money goes to support her drug habit. One night while sleeping outside, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl again. She begins to cry. God, “why did I leave?” My dog back home eats better than I do now. She knows that more than anything in the world she wants to go home. She calls home…three straight phone calls home and she is connected with the answering machine every time. Finally, she leaves a message. Mom, dad, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I’ll understand.
It was a seven-hour bus ride so she has plenty of time to prepare her speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in a small town where she was raised the driver announces the 15 minutes stop. 15 minutes to decide her life. She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousands seems that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal stands a group of 40 brothers and sisters and great aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing party hats and blowing noisemakers and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a large banner that reads-'Welcome Home!'
I remember when I came to my senses. I had left the ministry, moved to a city about 90 miles from home to work, I eventually called my wife one night and told her, “I think we should get a divorce. I’m never coming home.”
I had been living a double life. The next evening my phone rang, I saw it was my father-in-law, I hit the ignore button. He kept calling, so I just answered so he would stop bothering me. He said, “What is going on?”
I knew he had been told. I responded, “I am tired of not getting what I need, I do not want to be married anymore, I am going to do what I want from now on.”
Then he spoke words to me that I will never forget, “Where was God in anything that just came out of your mouth? Did you mean anything that you have preached for the last 20 years?”
I hung up on him. About a week later I found myself lying in the middle of the hi-way, unable to move my legs after a head on collision with a minivan, on my motorcycle. I knew I was about to die, and I was going to hell.
I called my wife, while lying in the middle of that road, and told her I just wrecked the bike and I don’t think I’m going to make it. When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, she was already there.
I didn’t see anger in her face, I didn’t see happiness either, I seen love – I got a glimpse of the face of Jesus, “Friend of Sinners.”
I repented and asked the Lord to forgive me. Three days later, broken back and all, I walked out of that hospital. And the next day I called her and asked if I could come home. She had every right to say no. I had given her grounds to divorce me, but she didn’t hesitate to drive that 90 miles and get me. She brought me home. There was some healing that needed to take place, but that was years ago - it hasn't been perfect and neither am I, but I have been completely sober for 4 years now, I was baptized in Jesus' name, and filled with the Holy Ghost three years ago, God is good!
Friends I shared this today, got up out of bed a 3 a.m., to tell you this: it doesn’t matter how far down the road you’ve traveled from the Father’s house, He’s waiting, He’s watching for you in the distance, and as soon as He sees that you have turned around and are headed home, He will run to meet you and walk you to His house.