Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
The call to discipleship remains the focus of this week’s lesson. Last week the lesson came from Mark 1 and Luke 14. The passage in Mark reminded us of how Jesus chose four disciples. The passage in Luke helped us understand the cost of discipleship for those disciples and how being a disciple of Jesus today will necessarily cost us today. Key points of the lesson included:
1) Jesus called disciples that were already busy when Jesus called them to a higher purpose.
2) We are not called to hate our relatives. And certainly not in the way we understand the word “hate” today. Hate was more of a behavior than an emotion.
3) The true cost of discipleship is placing the spirit and teachings of Jesus ahead of our own desires.
This week we consider the ideas of restoration, how we are restored to God, and how we should be guided by love as we restore others. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Calling the Lost”. Standard Commentary titles it “Called to Return”. The Scripture text comes from Luke 15:11-24.
Luke the companion of Paul is credited with writing both The Gospel according to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Luke’s gospel is likely written shortly after 70 C.E. Nelson’s Bible Handbook says “He is an educated Gentile with a better command of Greek than any of the other New Testament writers. He portrays Jesus as a man with compassion for all people and he is the most socially minded of the gospels. This 15th chapter records events of Jesus while on his final trip to Jerusalem. In this chapter Jesus teaches three parables concerning the lost and found. There is the lost sheep, whom the shepherd abandons the ninety-nine to find the one that is lost. There is the woman who loses one of ten coins and calls her friends to celebrate when it is found. And then there is today’s passage, the lost son who is eventually found and celebrated.
What takes place in this passage:
Most people refer to this passage as the parable of the prodigal son. But the full story is really about the prodigal and his brother. Jesus tells this parable to reinforce (for the third time) the idea of God’s love for the lost.
This parable runs the spectrum of emotion. A son essentially betrays his father by asking for his inheritance before his father’s death. The father divides his property between the brothers and soon the younger brother departs with all he has to a faraway country. The younger brother while living a wild and immoral life squanders all he has. When he spent all he had, life came at him fast. A severe famine came. A situation for which he had no control and he could not change. When he spends all his money he hires himself out to work. It is in this situation that he realizes he would gladly eat what the pigs are eating that he comes to himself. He is hungry, far from home, and now living worse than his father’s servants. While he contemplates eating what the pigs are eating, he realizes his father’s servants have bread to spare. No doubt feeling defeated and broken, he decides to return home and humbly ask to work as a hired hand.
He is still a long way off when his father saw him coming. Filled with compassion the father runs to meet the repentant son. The father orders his slaves to bring the best robe for his son, a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet, and a fatted calf to eat. The father does this because his son “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found”.
YOLO! You only live once. Maybe that’s what the prodigal son was thinking when he asked for his inheritance. While it is certainly a true statement, it does not account for the surprising, unexpected, and unforeseen situations that so often throw us off track. One could argue the prodigal didn’t intend to end up hungry, broken, and defeated. No one does. But sometimes that’s exactly what happens when bad choices are made. Choices have consequences. The prodigal’s choices brought him to the pigs before he came to himself and realized there was a better way.
When the prodigal left home he was free from the moral gaze of his family and community. He could live any way he wanted. But sometimes life comes at you fast. In these situations you face circumstances you can’t control (famine) and problems for which you have no solution (money spent and hungry). Even after all of his failures the prodigal was wise to humble himself and go back home. But what should not be overlooked is that he knew he could go back. Here’s the point. It’s okay to leave home. But leave in a way that you know you will be able to return if you need to.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ: Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30). His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Call (calling) – God’s summons to salvation or to a particular work of service, implying a divine selection. God called Moses (Ex 3:4) and prophets (Jer. 1:5). Jesus called apostles (Matt 4:21) Rom 1:1) and others (Matt 9:13); 22:14).
Call, general – A term used by John Calvin to indicate the invitation God extends to all people to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Parable of Jesus – The stories told by Jesus throughout the synoptic gospels as a way of teaching. They convey meaning, particularly about the major subject of the reign (kingdom) of God (See Matt. 13).
Prodigal – characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure: LAVISH
Grace – Unmerited favor. God’s grace is extended to sinful humanity in providing salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ that is not deserved, and withholding the judgement that is deserved (Rom 3:24, Eph. 1:17; Titus 2:11)
Themes, topics, discussion, or sermon preparation ideas:
- Life comes at you fast.
- You only live once – YOLO!
- Wildin out
Question: This week’s lesson revolves around restoring what was lost and God’s radical grace toward us. In what ways, have you had to show grace or even radical grace?
The good news is that God chooses love. That’s the point Jesus is making in this parable. This parable is a picture of God’s love for us. Even when we are lost, God patiently and lovingly awaits our return. And upon our return God treats us to radical grace; a grace that forgives, a grace that loves and a grace that restores.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we continue in Luke. As Jesus continues the march to Jerusalem he dines with a chief publican. A rich man named Zacchaeus. This caused the crowd to murmur but Jesus calls Zacchaeus a son of Abraham. In this lesson we will again see the theme of restoring what was lost.