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Repentance, Restoration & Rejoicing!

March 6, 2016

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Fourth Sunday in Lent                                         Trinity Lutheran Church

6 March 2016                                                         Murdock, NE

 

+Jesu Juva +

 

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

 

Quite a parable Jesus tells. Leave it to Jesus to spin a story like this. The entire Christian faith is summed up in this story with three “R” words: repentance, restoration and rejoicing.

 

Check it out. A father has two sons.

 

The younger one rebels. Prodigal. Like most young men on their own with too much cash and absolutely no responsibility he blows all of it in wild, raucous, irresponsible living. However, he repents. Comes to his senses. Has a change of mind. Returns home.   Confesses his sin: “Father I have sinned against heaven [that’s God] and against you. I’m not worthy to be called your son.”

 

The father, filled with incredible compassion, runs out to his lost-for-dead-son, restores him to sonship with his forgiveness. Hugs him. Kisses him. The best robe. Signet ring. Sandals.  And there is much rejoicing. Kill the fattened calf. Start the BBQ. Uncork the kegs. Pour the vintage wine. Let the big blow out party begin. For this son of mine who was dead is alive. He was lost but now is found.

 

All this illustrates the three “r’s” repentance, restoration and rejoicing. It also shows how our heavenly Father deals with you too. His desire is to seek and to save the lost. His joy is over one sinner that repents and desires forgiveness. While you were yet sinners the Father sent His only begotten Son to die for you. Once you were dead – dead in sin – dead in rebellion.

 

But God the Father has raised you to life in the forgiveness that comes from Good Friday Jesus. The Father gives you the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. He puts His signet ring on your finger. He puts sandals on your feet. He sets a banquet table that gives you His Son’s Good Friday Body and Blood to celebrate the return of His repentant rebel children. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents that over ninety-nine religious ones who have no need of the Father’s forgiveness that comes in and through the death of Jesus on the cross.

The father has an older son. He never left home. But he’s just as rebellious. Just as sinful. He refuses to rejoice. Rolls his eyes and sneers in revolt as His father’s party of forgiveness and joy. He keeps score. Does the comparison job. Compared to his brother he’s the perfect son. The obedient son. Always did what Daddy wanted. Not out of love, but out of constrained duty. Not because he wanted to, but because he had to.

 

He justifies himself. “Look, old man, I’ve served you for years and I’ve never disobeyed you once!” He runs his relationship with his father in the way of the law. Commandment keeping. Obedience. He’s been working relentlessly for years trying TO EARN his father’s love and MERIT a place in the family. As if he lives not in a home but a PRISON! As if he lives not in a family but behind enemy lines.

 

When he realizes that the old man’s cup of tea is grace, forgiveness and mercy, he comes unglued: “All that I’ve done for you and you never have given me anything. You’ve never thrown a party for me and my friends!”

 

Then he ratchets up the flaming rhetoric. Disowns his father. Slanders his brother. “When this son of YOURS comes home, who wasted your living with prostitutes (who said anything about prostitutes? – Jesus didn’t), you throw a block party. And you expect me to come? Forget it! Get lost old man! You make me sick!”

 

Incredibly, the father remains as gracious as ever. Just as God is always gracious with you and me. “Son.” He stills calls him that! Staggering! Mind-blowing! “Son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours. But it was fitting to make merry and be glad; for this YOUR BROTHER was dead and is alive; he was lost but now is found.”

 

So, let’s back up the bus. The father had two sons. Both sinners. One rebelled openly. The other rebelled secretly. Both break their father’s heart. Both wind up in a far away country. One physically. The other in his heart. Both receive the same fatherly kindness, acceptance and love. BOTH are forgiven by their father. BOTH are received and treated as sons – members of the family. Both were in need of repentance – a change of heart and mind – to confess their sin against their father and to receive his forgiveness.

 

One son repented. One son confessed his sin against God and his father. One sin received his father’s undeserved love and kindness. The other? Well, Jesus deliberately leaves the parable open-ended. Will the older son repent? Will he finally enter the joy of the party of forgiveness, life and salvation? Will he rejoice in the repentance of his brother and the forgiveness of his father? Will you?

 

I’ve been at this pastoring gig now for quite a while. Almost 25 years. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I’m not a green horn or wet behind the ears. And here is what I observe. I think we are more like the older son. We tend to define our relationship to God the Father in the way of the law – by what we do or by what we don’t do. By our dutiful obedience. Not because we want to but because we believe we have to. We desperately try to earn God’s favor. We keep score. Always trying to put God in a full nelson in order to get Him to submit. As if God somehow owes us something – even heaven.

 

No wonder then that we’re bitter, resentful, legalistic, and judgmental in our relationship to God the Father. No wonder we don’t love God. No wonder we resent His forgiveness. After all, when we see Him abundantly give absolution to our brothers and sisters, we contend they don’t deserve it! We look down on and even despise our brothers and sisters. We refuse to rejoice in their repentance. We always point out the supposed wrongs and warts of everyone else but we never once think that we ever need to repent. Consequently, we have no need to beg our Father for the same forgiveness. Therefore, we risk missing out the eternal feast of heaven with Jesus who died for us.

 

Only as you repent can you rejoice in the repentance of another. When you see yourself as a sinner that cannot save yourself, then you learn to rejoice in Jesus who welcomes penitent sinners to His table. Only as you experience the Father’s embrace of forgiveness in your own life, can you rejoice in His mercy to those fellow sinners around you.

 

Brothers and sisters, the Father sent His Son Jesus to die for all people. For the worst of sinners. For each one of you. No exceptions. Today He calls every one of you to humble yourself, to confess your sin, to receive His robe, His ring, His sandals, His inheritance as God’s children. Of course you deserve none of it. Of course you don’t earn or merit any of it. God the Father’s forgiveness is His pure unadulterated gift of Good Friday. It flows freely from the bloody death of His Son Jesus who died FOR YOU. God’s love seeks all. It suffers all. To save all. Even you.

 

The three words that summarize the parable are: repentance, restoration and rejoicing.

 

Repentance, the heart of which is faith in Jesus, is the ticket to God’s banquet hall. Repentance is the pass to the party prepared in your honor. Jesus is the Passover Lamb that has been slain. The feast is ready. Confess your sin. Humble yourself before God. It doesn’t matter if you’re the prodigal son or the obedient son. You all need to repent. Receive His mercy in Jesus.

 

Restoration. As the father restored his repentant rebellious son, so He restores you. Once you were rebels, lost and dead. Now you are sons and daughters of the Father – alive in Jesus – co-heirs with Him of eternal life.

 

Rejoicing. The angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. Jesus rejoices to welcome repentant sinners to His table. The lost are found. The dead are raised. Jesus our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Rejoice.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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