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The Son Returns
Luke 15:11-24 (Missionary Seo)
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ‘ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Last year, we went to Mongolia in August. We got a call from my university and they said, “We have no more time. Come to China quickly, pack everything, and go back to your home country quickly.”
We contacted the head of Paul Mission and decided not to go back to China. After our retreat, we came back to Korea – about 2 months. Then we went to the US for a sabbatical year. We always prayed “Why were we expelled from China?”
My daughter Haneul is asking “We want to go back home.” We ask, “Where is your home?” She said, “China.” We came back to Korea last month and are very uncomfortable staying here because this is not our home.
This concept forms the basis for this sermon.
- Where is your home?
- Who is your father?
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Today’s passage goes like this:
One younger son asked his father: “Give me my inheritance.” The father divided the estate, the son went away with all his money and possessions to a foreign land – where he WASTED it.
At that time, a severe famine came, and he was starving. He was hired to feed pigs, and here at his lowest point, he realized “Hey, my father’s hired men have food to eat!”
So, he went back home with this idea, “I’ve sinned against God and against my father and I’m no longer worthy to be called his son.”
But when he was still a long way off, the father saw him coming and ran to meet him and kiss him. The son confessed his poverty of spirit to his father, and the father brushed it aside and said, “Bring the best robe and my ring and the fattened calf! Let’s celebrate my son’s return!”
The story goes like this:
“Give me my portion” – at this time I think of my younger daughter. From a few months ago, she always said, “No!” and “Mine!” This is life with a two-year-old 🙂 “That’s mine! Give me now!”
At this time, in the 21st century, if we go to our own fathers and say like this, then how do our fathers think? Rude! In the Jewish society at this time, was this rude or not? In that time, if that happened, it meant “Father, I consider you DEAD. Please die!” So, this younger one is VERY rude.
In the spiritual concept of this, the portion the second son has taken is NOT actually his. This is his father’s portion. If the father divides his portion before he dies, still the estate belongs to the father. Only after death, the estate will transfer ownership to the sons.
We, as Christians, always say, “Everything comes from our Father God.” We say this about materials, time, relationships. Everything is from God. But, how about you?
When I prepared this sermon, I was thinking, “Of course, everything is from God, so everything is yours!” But when I spend my hard-earned money on something, I think, “Oh, no. That now belongs to me.” It’s very hard for me to share something I buy.
In this story, let’s not only consider the son who left, but WHY he left.
Why would he leave his father’s love? Have you ever experienced this leaving?
Let me share my story:
I was in China for 3.5 years. At that time, I was really happy because I saw several students lives changed and many people accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. BUT, then they accept him again, and again. Up to 5 times! Something is wrong here. Why do they do 5 times what is accomplished in 1 time? It’s because they do not doubt who Jesus is.
Some other students accept Christ and devote themselves to him and want to become missionaries too. “Wow! God is working and alive in this situation!” At that time, this was the situation in my life. So, I prepared for another journey that God prepared.
The second son said “bring all the things” and he packed all his bags and went to another country.
Actually, he left already BEFORE he was leaving.
Spiritually and emotionally, he was GONE before his body left his father’s estate.
The foreign country in this story = this life.
He wastes money on bars, nightlife, possessions. He thinks, “Great! My money! I’ll do whatever I want with it!”
He loved the world (yes, he “loved” his father too… but the world MORE).
He set his priorities:
- The world
- His father’s love
What are your priorities? Which is #1?
- God, Family, Work?
- Church, God, Work, Money, Family?
If we love money, we cannot serve God. “A man cannot serve two Masters.” (Jesus)
He loved the world more than his father at that time.
There is a similar parable in the book of Luke 18:18-30 – the Parable of the Rich Official:
“One day, the rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, ‘How can I get eternal life?’ Jesus said, ‘You know the Law and the Prophets, keep all the commandments and you’ll get eternal life.’ The rich young ruler said, ‘From childhood I’ve done this.’ So Jesus said, ‘Then do this one more thing: Sell all you have and give to the poor.’ The man walked away sad.”
His priorities were also on Money first, and Eternal Life secondly.
#3: Let’s see the rest of this parable.
The second son said, “Father, I’ve sinned against you and against God. I’m no longer worthy to be called you son.” This was repeated twice in the parable. Was this important? No – the son thought that with the third part (”I’m no longer worthy to be called your son”) he just wanted to please his father.
As a father, I know that the relationship between a father and son CANNOT be broken easily.
The second son thinks, “I’ll go to be a slave.”
The father doesn’t even listen to what his son says. He accepts him back into his arms readily.
The son didn’t truly understand his father.
“If I do this, father will be pleased. If I buy this, or have a good body, father will be pleased.” No. Your Father is pleased JUST WITH YOU. You need to nothing but be you, just to exist, your Father is pleased with you. Just to be in his presence, and he’ll be pleased. Let us not be confused any longer.
In conclusion, I think we should go back to our place. Our rightful place is in our Father’s arms.
“From a LONG distance away, he recognized him and RAN to meet him.” If we go back to our Father, even taking a single step, the Father will see and RUN to meet us.
Before closing, here’s a final story:
A couple days ago, a graduate student came to my house and has spent two days with us. I saw two lives: a graduate student of Yonsei, and a graduate student of another school. One had a hard time, the other, Hyansun-In, had parents who had a high rank in the Communist Party – doctors in the hospital. Usually, with that kind of family background, the student hates or doesn’t accept Christianity, but I was very happy that he accepted Christ.
During that time, there was a big life event: he went to Hanyang university as an exchange student. Every class, the professor began with a prayer. During that single semester, she accepted Christ as she was in the church doing as other members were doing.
Now, she remembers everything. At that time, she came to Jeonju and we went to Hanok village, but we forgot everything. We went back again and she remembered everything.
In her life, that was very precious. At that time, and also this time, I also have some kind of problem with priorities.
We are staying here for just one month and preparing things. My wife will go to China for 5 days from Monday. Also, my student came to town. I have much to do, and some burden – but spending time with that student was happy.
- What’s your priority? Money or God?
- Do you still think you can serve both?
- Then how can we spend our money and time and relationships (in a godly manner)?