In Isolation Thoughts 2

Hymn:       Who can cheer the heart like Jesus

Bible Reading: Luke 15. 11-24

THE RUNAWAY RETURNS

In Luke 15, we have a trilogy of parables on the same theme, lost and found. Jesus is teaching the crowds including his disciples, the real message of the gospel. The truth is evident, going away is natural, accidental and deliberate. In the first story, the sheep followed its nature and wandered away until finally it was hopelessly lost and not able to help itself. It needed the intervention of the shepherd to restore it to the flock. In the second incident, the coin of the dowry lust fell off, it happened without any thought or action. There was a realisation that something was amiss and there had to be an action to retrieve the lost coin. Here it was an individual seeking a restoration and finding it. The third story is the life history of a family with two sons, they had a family farm which appeared to be prosperous. All three of these stories that Jesus told would have been quite common and believable to people standing and listening, they were real possibilities not at all far-fetched.

GREED IN HIS HEAD

Like any young person, the son became adventurous. He fancied doing exciting things, who can blame him, things were good at home, he was well looked after, he worked on the farm, there were servants doing the worst tasks. It was so good he got bored. In his imagination, he thought beyond the farm and the local community, there was a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Sadly, all his money was tied up in the farm, one day he would have an inheritance, but like so many people, he wanted it now! He plucked up courage and approached his father. No doubt using carefully rehearsed arguments, he convinced his father to assess the value of the estate, show how much he would be entitled to receive and obtained a useful document. Part one was complete, he knew the value of his part of the inheritance, part two was to realise it into cash and part three was to set out into the world. He was going to have fun!

GAIN FOR A HERO

He left home and went abroad, in Jewish terms a far country was anywhere that was not within the borders of Israel. He had arrived! A young man with money to burn, he soon found friends, he was a hero to them. He could do what he wanted to do, buy anything he wanted, clothes, women, fast camels… no wonder there was always a crowd around him, he was the top man, their hero. Suddenly things began to go wrong, there was a famine, food was in short supply and expensive, he had been so wasteful with his wealth that he found his assets were rapidly declining to the extent that one day he was bankrupt, all gone. He turned to all his friends; they had gone too! How long would it last, he thought to himself? Things must get better, I’ll get over it, I’ll get a loan. No-one would give him a loan; he had no assets to guarantee any loan. He sold what he could but that didn’t help much. In desperation he looked for a job, well he was young, quite fit and capable as a farm hand, he had been brought up on a farm. At last someone gave him a job, it was not well paid, it was not a nice job, it was feeding the pigs.

GRAFT FOR HIS HAND

Here he was, out in the fields again, not as the son of the boss but as an odd job pig feeder. The pigs were in their element, food, mud and water, what more could they need? They wallowed and ate, ate and wallowed, thoroughly satisfied. As he watched them, as he fed them, their satisfaction only emphasised his own position, he was alone, he had no money and was so hungry! If the pigs enjoyed the food, perhaps he could sneak a bit for himself.

GUILT IN HIS HEART

Reflection and realisation brought him to his senses. “What was he doing here? If I had been at home, there would be no pigs to feed, they were animals that were unclean under the law, there were sheep and cattle at home, fields of crops and plenty to eat and spare- that brought the income to the farm, while I am here, starving and dirty, no friends, no money and no hope.” He thought about this for days, what could he do. In his heart he knew he had been really foolish, he had been easily influenced by the wealth he had, he had lost everything. He longed for home and its comforts. Part three of his plan for life had come crashing down around him, what could be part four? He was an employee in another country, what if he went home and tried to get employment at home, would his Dad give him a job? He could be a servant with accommodation and food. He weighed it up for some days, he got thinner and hungrier, in the end he decided he had to see if it was possible, anything at home would be better than this. He got up and left the farm and trudged along the road to home.

GREETING AT HOME

As the boy was walking the long miles home, we move to the home and are watching for him to come over the horizon. We go back to the future! Days after the boy left, the father came out to the end of the road and looked wistfully into the distance, when was his boy coming home, he asked himself? Every day he spent some time looking into the distance. Some days he saw someone coming, it was the delivery man, it was his neighbour coming round for a chat, it was his wife coming home from town with the latest fashions but no son. One afternoon he went out and looked, in the distance he saw a lone figure slowly coming down the road, his heart missed a beat, was it his son, he recognised the walk, yes it was, he was coming home! He began to walk towards him, then as he came nearer, he started to run towards him. He met him and threw his arms around him. His son pushed him away. As he looked at his son, he could see he was thin, his clothes were worn and torn, what a state. Then he heard the familiar voice. ‘Sir, I have been foolish, I have offended you and God by what I did, could I be one of you hired servants, please?’ The father couldn’t believe what he was hearing, his son was sorry and repentant. Without hesitating, he turned and called to the nearby servant, ‘go and fetch one of my best robes, bring some new sandals and get a ring from the treasury, quick do it.’ To another he gave the instructions to begin preparators for a feast. He shouted for all to hear, ‘My lost son has returned, let’s rejoice!’

What was Jesus saying to the crowd? What was he teaching them? God is the eternal forgiver, God is always looking for the repentant returner, God will not turn away anyone, whatever state they are in. The father gave him three things, a robe to cover his rags and dirty body, sandals for his feet as a sign of not being a servant, the ring showing he was given authority.

For us, if we repent and come to Christ, He gives us a robe of righteousness, purity in His sight, He gives us sandals or shoes, His protection and guidance for the road and a ring, His authority is now vested in us, we are His and act on His authority.

Where are you today?

In a far country having a great time with no worries or cares?

In the field, desperate with seemingly no way out?

Coming back to the father repenting and asking for forgiveness?

Resting in the Father’s arms, clothed, shod and enjoying His presence?

Prayer

Hymn When we walk with the Lord

 


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