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The Prodigal God

Part 6: The Feast of the Father or We Had to Celebrate

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/13) 11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 "But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’

20 "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 "But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 "And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"



Introduction: Well, we have come to the end of our 6 week study of the Prodigal God. What does the word Prodigal mean? It means to spend lavishly or even wastefully. We have looked at the story of the younger brother, then we put it into its context with the story of the elder brother. Then we put the story of the two brothers into the context of the whole chapter. Each time we saw another important part of Jesus’ message. But we are not quite done. We need to see the story in the context of the whole Bible. Jesus was immersed in the Scriptures, and in this story He is giving us the essence of the whole Biblical storyline in one vivid narrative. If we see that, we will get a 30,000 foot view of what the Bible is all about. We learn about 1) the human condition, 2) the divine solution, and 3) the new communion.

1. The human condition—verses 13-17.

Interaction – Close your eyes for a moment and think, what images or thoughts come to mind when you hear the word, "Home"? What are the sights, the sounds, the smells that you are imagining right now?

• The younger brother’s insulting sin against his father turned him into an exile from his home. He had disgraced his family and the entire community would have been outraged. He would have had to take his money, leave his home, and go far away, and so he did.

• When he did so, he became an image of the entire human race. For we were made for life in the Garden of Eden. Our true home is in the presence of God, not this world. But we have lost our home. We are all exiles. Like Cain or Abraham, or Jacob, or Joseph, or Moses, or David, or the Jews, who for centuries following the Assyrians and Babylonians were without their home land or their freedom.

• "Home" is the place that truly fits and suits us. We were made to know and serve God, to live in his presence and enjoy his love and beauty.

• However, because we wanted to be our own Saviors and Lords, we lost God, and therefore we wander in the world and experience what the philosopher Heidegger called unheimlichkeit. The word is translates as "eeriness" or "uncanniness" but literally it means "away from home." Heidegger is referring to the anxiety and spiritual nausea that comes from never feeling at home in the world. It is like the Country gospel song, Beulah Land. "I'm kind of homesick for a country

To which I've never been before. No sad goodbyes will there be spoken

for time won't matter anymore.


Beulah Land, I'm longing for you and some day on thee I'll stand.

There my home shall be eternal. Beulah Land -- Sweet Beulah Land"

• This world doesn’t address the needs of our heart. We long for a love that can’t be lost, for escape from death, for the triumph of justice over wrong, for peace, the absence of pain, and no more sickness or bad health. But such things will never be found here. Pastor Keller states on page 92, of the Prodigal God book, about how so many people in his church share their disappointments of Thanksgiving and Christmas. "They prepare for holidays hoping that finally, this year, the gathering of the family at that important place will deliver the experience of warmth, joy, comfort and love that they want from it. But these events almost always fail, crushed under the weight of our impossible expectations."

• When the younger brother "came to his senses" he realized that he needed to go home, but how? I imagine that he had a breakdown, a time of weeping like a child. His foolishness and sin that he thought would make him free, became his prison and he just wanted to go home. But, he realized he was an outcast, so why would they receive him. Yet, perhaps he believed as the poet Robert Frost that home is, "the place that when you go there, they have to take you in." That’s what he hoped for, so, he went home.

And what does he find when he gets there? An angry, disappointed, finger shaking dad? No, he finds a jubilant dad, who runs to hug his son. Only a parent can relate to this dad. It is his son, not the sin that he cares about. It is the son, not the lost inheritance that Father is concerned with. My son is home, and that is all that matters.

2. The divine solution—verses 31-32.

• The centerpiece of the parable is a feast. The father throws a feast, filled with "music and dancing" and the greatest delicacies, to mark the reconciliation and restoration of his son. He says that when the younger son came home, "we had to celebrate." The lost was found, the dead is alive again. There was no choice. Why is the feast so important?

• In the Old Testament, meals ratified covenants, celebrated victories, and marked all special family occasions and transitions, such as births, weddings, and funerals. Also, a feast was established to mark the greatest event in the salvation history of God’s people to that time—the Passover. Why were meals so important?

• In ancient times, meals were prolonged affairs that lasted all evening, usually until bedtime— since there was little else to do after the sun went down and after a strenuous day of labor. So evening meals became the center of family life and therefore both a symbol and practice of intimacy. By the way, it is sad, how few families sit at the table together anymore.

• But we don’t need to be people of the first century to grasp all this. It is at meals that you most feel at home. In a meal your body is getting what it needs—the pleasure and nourishment of food and rest. But also, at meals your heart is getting what it needs— laughter, communion, and friendship. Even today, if you have a family reunion or some kind of homecoming—you eat. Barbeques, cook-outs, Family dinners, And it is at those great feasts that no matter what else is going wrong in our lives, we feel almost at home. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving are around meals that say, "It’s good to be home."

• The feast means that God will bring us home someday. And when He does there will be a huge table and we will all be seated around it.

• As Jesus says: "Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 8:11). Because of our true elder brother, God will someday make this world home again. He’s going to wipe away death, suffering, and tears, and will give us bodies that run and are never weary. In Luke 16 Jesus describes the beggar Lazarus as being escorted to the place of honor at this dinner (Abraham’s Bosom)

• And when we get there, we will say something like what Jewel the Unicorn said at the end of the Chronicles of Narnia: "I’ve come home at last! I belong here. This is the land I’ve been looking for all my life, though I never knew it!" And God will throw a feast for us.

• Isaiah 25:6-9 speaks of our Homecoming feast, "On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;

8he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.

The Lord has spoken. 9 In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

• John Speaks of it as well in Revelation 19:6-9, "Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean,

was given her to wear."(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)9 Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

• Jesus our Lord also speaks of it in Luke 12:35-38, 35 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak."

• Can you imagine a meal prepared by God who will ask you to be seated and then Jesus, the Lord God Almighty will wrap an apron on and will serve us; us, sinners, saved by grace and adopted into the family.

• The younger brother did not expect to be brought back into the family, he did not expect a feast, since he had sinned. But that is what he gets. And the elder brother objects. Why? • Because meals signified acceptance and relationship, the religious leaders forbid believers from eating with "sinners." To eat with someone was to receive him, virtually as family. How could you do that for someone who has rejected God? Besides that, didn’t everyone know that you become like the people you love and spend the most time with? If you eat with sinners, it was reasoned, you would become a sinner. You might get sinner cooties or something.

• The Jewish dietary laws were extremely elaborate. They were seen as quite effective in keeping Jews from being polluted by the pagan practices of their neighbors. In fact, during the time between testaments, those 400 years leading up to Jesus’ day, preoccupation with ritual purity increased, as Judea came under the boot of one set of pagan masters after another. Meals more and more became boundary markers between the righteous and sinners.

• But Jesus shattered this practice, as we see in Luke 15:2 as He does in 5:29 when he eats with Matthew and his friends & 19:5 where He eats with Zachaeus. He eats with the notoriously wicked and the marginalized. How can he do this? How can sinners be included in the feast?

3. The new communion—"your brother was dead and is a live again." (v. 32)

• Jesus leaves his own true home (Phil. 2), wanders without a home (no place to lay his head, Matt 8:20), and is finally crucified outside the gate of Jerusalem, a sign of exile and rejection (Heb. 13:11-12). Jesus experienced the exile that the human race deserves. He is alienated and cast out so we can be brought home.

• On the cross, Jesus loses fellowship and communion with the father. He cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:45). He is forsaken and "cast out" of the family, so that we can be brought in. He is stripped of all his clothing so we can be given shoes, and a robe of his own righteousness. He is alienated so we can be adopted and given the family ring, and the honor of doing business in His name.

• As we can see from the parable itself, Jesus calls younger brothers to repent. He does not only eat with them for the sake of "inclusiveness" or just to defy convention—rather he calls people to change; to repent; to go and stop sinning, and follow or imitate Him; to fish for men and make disciples.

• And he gives us the foretaste of that great feast, what we call "The Lord’s Supper" or Communion. To sit at the Communion table you don’t have to be perfect, only repentant. So anyone can come, and anyone does come. We will remember that again, Thursday evening.

• Think of it like this—the ultimate son, who was dead and cut off, is now alive again. So we have to celebrate! And the way we celebrate what he has done for us, is to create a new community of forgiven sinners, in which anyone can be a part. This is what the Church really is. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter what your race or class or background is. Any repentant sinner can come and be a brother and a sister, because of the death and resurrection of our true elder brother, who took our exile and punishment upon himself.

• The death and resurrection of the Son, and the love of the Father, create a new community of men and women who regularly break bread together to celebrate the new life and common union they have through Jesus. It is not enough just to have an individual personal relationship with God through Christ. You have to be an active part of the feast, the new community, the family of God. That is where together we become conformed into the image of the one who did all this for us. It is absurd for anyone to ever say, I love Jesus but not the Church. That is like saying. I love you Wayne, but I don’t like your wife or children. The church is His community, His bride, His family. His assembly of sinners saved by grace and adopted into His family. Are you part of the family?

This ends the story and the series of the Prodigal Son and the Picture of the Prodigal God, who lavishes, almost it seems wastefully, His grace upon children who don’t deserve it. Jesus shows us a young man who recognized his wasted life and wanted to come home and he found grace beyond his wildest dreams, and so can you.

And then He shows us a jealous and self-righteous rule keeper, who stubbornly refuses to go to the party, as it didn’t seem fair, so the benevolent Father goes out to him to beg him to come into the party. But Jesus never tells us what the elder son decides to do. We can only imagine. What have you done? What will you do?

Once again I ask, Are there any younger sons here, wondering how I can ever be forgiven and come home and be accepted by God? Jesus simply says, "Come to me, come home, be part of the family."

Any elder sons here, resisting the idea of rubbing shoulders with sinners because it shouldn’t be that easy? Jesus says, "Come home and let’s celebrate together" Because the reality is, we are all, with no exceptions, just sinners saved by grace.

(Parts of this sermon are used by permission © 2009 by Timothy Keller, who said, "You are permitted and encouraged to use this outline as the basis for your own preaching and teaching.")

If this sermon or any from our Prodigal God series has blessed your heart, please let me know, or if you have any questions about God, the Bible or how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, please write to me at or Pastor Gary c/o ECBC, P.O. Box 1201 Emmitsburg, Md. 21727

May our Lord bless you as seek to know and do His will!

Pastor Gary

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman