Lost and Found

by Sean Foster on March 16, 2014

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’

Have you ever lost something? Something important?
• Your keys
• Purse
• Wallet
• Wedding ring?
Have you ever lost one of your children?

If you have never lost one of your children, it is possible that you don’t have children. I’m telling you, they are little ninja’s.

Not long after our son was diagnosed with Leukemia, my wife brought our daughter to the hospital. After a visit, I took her home with me.
• We got onto the elevator.
• Down to the parking garage.
• We got off the elevator together
• And then suddenly, Shannon jumped back in, just as the elevator doors were closing again.
It was the longest 12 minutes of my life. However, I remembered that even Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days. (Luke 2:41-51)

In our reading from Luke’s Gospel today; Luke chapter 15 is a chapter containing three parables about the lost being found.
• A lost coin.
• A lost sheep.
• And the one we will look at today, a lost son.

All three parables in Luke 15 teach us about God’s heart. In all three of the parables found in chapter 15, the lost is found and there is great rejoicing. That is God’s heart. There is great rejoicing when we are found by God.

The parable about the prodigal son is perhaps the best known story told by Jesus. Jesus was a great story teller. He told parables that would parallel, or illustrate our relationship with God, or the kingdom of heaven, or how we should live our lives.

One of the main characters in the story is a father who is to reveal to us God the Father. But as a pastor, I am very aware that when that word father is mentioned it can either be a positive or negative word for people. Not everyone was fortunate to have a good father.
• Some fathers were distant.
• Some completely absent.
• Some may have been present, but showed no affection at all.
• Some were only disciplinarians.
• Lots of Dads that were not available emotionally or spiritually.

Now this is an assumption, but I think fathers have improved a bit. Fathers seem to be much more active in the life of the family and in their children’s lives.
• Dad’s who help their children with homework.
• Dad’s who play with their children.
• Dad’s who pray with their children.
• Dad’s who hug and kiss their children.
You older Dad’s – just because your children are grown up – make sure you hug and kiss them. Make sure your kids know that Daddy loves them.

OK, so as we get into the text today, we have a story about an amazing father who has a son that is wayward and rebellious. Some kids no matter how much you love them and provide a good foundation for them – they can still fall into trouble and fall into sin.

This father is a really good Dad. He saves so that he can provide an inheritance to his sons. But then, one of his sons does the unthinkable. He approaches his father and basically say’s to his Dad – I wish you were dead. He knows that when his father dies he will receive one-third of the inheritance. The son say’s to his Dad, I love your wealth more than I love you. He dishonors and disgraces his father.

But this father – he’s amazing. He extends grace, love and compassion. He liquidates so that he can give the younger son his share of the inheritance. I mean, this must have been done at a great cost to the father. It is possible that in order to provide the inheritance owed to the youngest son, it is possible he may have had to go into debt for a season. Regardless, giving one third of everything he owns would put the father and the rest of his family at great risk.
• What if he or his wife gets sick?
• What if there is a drought or a famine?
One third, of what he owns, he gives to his youngest son as his inheritance.

Please know that he didn’t have to. At the very mention of wanting his inheritance early, he could have disowned his son. And in doing so, the son would get nothing. At the very least, the father could have had his son beaten for the disrespect shown to him. But he doesn’t.

The father gives the inheritance to this foolish son. And the son leaves. He turns his back on his father – and he walks away.

I see the father weeping watching his son leave.
• But in the sons heart, the father is dead.

So the son moves to the big city. He starts spending his inheritance. He’s reckless. He goes through his inheritance like water. Our text reads: he squandered his property in dissolute living. So, you can read into that:
• He drinks too much.
• He gets into drugs.
• He sleeps with prostitutes.
• He wastes his money.
And then a severe famine hits the country where he is living. It is the equivalent to the economy taking a dive. It is so bad that he has lost everything. And whatever he had – he has to sell or pawn in order to make ends meet.

It goes from bad to worse. The only job he can secure is to work for Gentiles. And not only is he working for a God forsaken heathen, his job is feeding pigs. Jews were of course not to eat pigs, but they were not to look at them or touch them either. They were unclean.

I love the detail that Jesus gives to this story. It is the boys job to feed the pigs pods, and as he feeds them he realizes that the pigs eat better than he does. And he starts to think – you know, my father’s servants have it better than I do. They have security. A roof over their heads. They have three square meals a day. I will go to my father. Father, I have sinned against you and I have sinned against heaven. I do not deserve to be called your son, but please let me be one of your hired hands. The son is hopeful that if he returns home, the father will give him work and a place to live.

So, the boy heads home. And I mean, this is amazing. The text reads: while the son is still far off, his father [sees] him and was filled with compassion; he ran, he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. That is is description of incredible Grace. Loving this son … despite his sin. The father runs to embrace and to be reconciled with this rebellious son. But again, according to my reading, in this ancient time and elder would never run to a younger. The only time an elder would run was if they were in some kind of danger. Luke includes this detail about to the Father to show the extravagant love of the father. When he sees his sons off in the distance approaching the house, he runs out to meet him.

The father runs and puts his arms around him and kissed him. If you go back to the original Greek our English language does not fully capture how lavish the love of this father is for his son.
• There is a sense of relief for this father.
• What was lost is now found.
• This precious son has returned.
• The father has prayed for this day.
But it is also an image of how much God loves us. We should be able to see ourselves in this image that Luke describes. Of how our heavenly father welcomes us into his family. We who were once lost because of our sin, because of the redemptive work of Christ – we have been found. And God welcomes us with open arms. There is great rejoicing as we are welcomed home.

The other thing that our English language does describe well is this moment of the father embracing his son. Our text reads that the father simply kissed him. But the Greek describes a father lavishing his son with kisses.

Immediately the father requests his slaves: Quickly bring out a robe – the best one, and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger. Put sandals on his feet.

A robe:
• To honor his son.
• To signify protection.
A ring:
• You are part of the family again.
• Shows that the sone belongs.
• In this ancient world, slaves went without sandals.
• You are my son.
• You are no slave.
• Get him some sandals.
The father has reinstated his son. He is Home!

Get the fatted calf and kill it.
Start the barbecue and lets celebrate!
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.

Question. Does he deserve it?
• Does this boy who wished his father dead
• Who squandered his who inheritance.
• Who sinned against his father, his family and God
Does he deserve to be welcomed home?

No. He doesn’t deserve it!

But neither do we.
• We do not deserve the Grace and Love of our God.
• We do not deserve the gift of God’s only Son.
• We do not deserve the gift of Christ’s sacrifice.
• Dying on the cross so that our sin be forgiven.
But God doesn’t look at us that way. He loves us so much that with open arms he welcomes us home. Sending his son to the world to die for us is God running towards us with tears of joy and love in his eyes. Embracing us with big hugs. Kissing us everywhere.

I’m so glad you’re back!

As people who are created in the image and likeness of God – we are people who know justice. We know we do not deserve this amazing grace and love. But that’s Grace! I like Calvin’s acronym:

What an amazing God!

There is one last part to this story…

The oldest son…
The faithful son…
• He’s out in the field working.
• Faithfully working since he was a young man.
• Faithfully contributing to the family income.
• He has never waivered.
• He loves his father, and would never disgrace him.

As he comes in from the field, he can hear music and dancing. The smell of barbecue drifts into his nose. What’s going on he wonders? Cooking meat was a big deal. These folk were for the most part vegetarians. Eating meat was for special celebrations and for sacrifices to the Lord. What’s going on?

Your brother has come home!
Your father has killed the fatted calf because he is back safe.

Now, the older brother’s reaction is understandable. The text teaches us that the older son gets angry and refuses to join the party. I mean, we all understand why. His younger brother was a selfish jerk – putting it in plain English. He sinned against his father and disgraced his family.

I refuse to celebrate something that does not deserve to be celebrated!
The older son becomes indignant, bitter and critical. But watch the father.
The father goes out to his eldest son and pleads with him.
Son, please come and celebrate.
Your brother has come home.
I never thought I would see him again.
He’s back!
And, he sorry for what he did.
He’s repented his sin.
Please son.
Please come in and join the celebration.
I know he would love to see you.

There’s no way I will celebrate his return.
I will not reconcile with him.
I will not forgive him.
He is dead to me.
He turned his back on us!
He walked away from us!
He’s no hero.
He is dead.

Do you know that I have always be faithful to you?
I work hard for you Dad.
I have never disgraced you!
I have never sinned against you.
I have never turned my back.
I didn’t blow one-third of your estate.
I don’t spend your hard earned money on foolishness.

Notice verse 30. He basically say’s: Dad, I’m still a virgin. I haven’t disgraced you or our family by going out and sleeping with prostitutes.

He comes home – and you congratulate him.
You throw him a party.

You need to rebuke him.
You need to make him pay for his sin.
The law say’s he should at least be beaten.
But no.
You throw him a party.
You have taught him that it is OK to sin against you and our family.
You welcome him back like he has done nothing wrong.

But again, the father pleads with his son.
I love you son!
You know that.
And I love your brother too.
And I am overjoyed that he came home.

You’re right!
He disgraced us.
He sinned against us.
But he has asked for forgiveness.
He has turned from his sin.
He has repented.
I forgive him.
Son, forgive him.

Everything that I have is now yours.
He blew his inheritance.
But he’s still my son.
I love him.
He was lost, but now found.
He was dead, but now alive.
Celebration is right!
I hope you can forgive him.

I want you to know today that God’s heart is to forgive.

Some of you here today need to forgive…

In the story that Jesus tells, even before the son asks for forgiveness – the father had already forgiven him. The father wanted to be reconciled with his son. he wanted to be in relationship with his son again.

But some of us here today… need to forgive.
• A sister.
• Brother.
• Mother.
• Father.
• A brother or sister in the church.
• A co-worker
• A friend.


You’re absolutely right!
They do not deserve to be forgiven.
• I know they hurt you.
• They sinned against you.
• What they said was wrong.
• What they did was wrong.

Forgive them.
Even if at first it is just for your own health.

Or even better…
Because, we have an amazing God who forgives us.
Who keeps forgiving us.

Extend Grace.

A verse I share to conclude today:
II Corinthians 5:21: God made Him who knew no sin to become sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Some theologians call this verse the great exchange.
• The Lord Jesus
• The Son of God.
• Goes to the cross.
• And there is an exchange.
• Jesus takes our sin upon himself.
• We are forgiven.
• We are reconciled to God.

title=”The Great Exchange”>

It is God’s heart to forgive us.

In this season of Lent….
If we give up anything…
Let us give up sinning.
Let us forgive, as we have been forgiven.


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