November 10, 2022 – Luke 15: 11-32 – Mercy Came Running

Today we will be reading from Luke 15:11-32:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 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. 21 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.’  22 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. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 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.’ ”

I mentioned yesterday that Luke 15 is the chapter of lost things. We saw a lost coin, and we saw a lost sheep. Today, we see two lost sons.  

We see a younger son who is lost to sin.  He turns on his father, demands his inheritance, goes far away, and wastes all that his father had worked for.  He finds himself at what we call rock bottom and in that moment, realizes what he has done and is determined to make things right. 

He will turn from his sin and return to his father.  As the father said, he was lost but now found. This son was lost to sin. 

We see the older brother, however, lost as well. He is lost to pride and legalism.  He does not rejoice that his brother is home; in fact, he does quite the opposite.  He is angry and resentful that the father shows mercy to his brother. His brother doesn’t deserve it. He has sinned; he should receive judgment, not mercy.  This son is lost to legalism. 

To both sons, what do we see the father do?  Go, or in the case of the younger, run to them.  He sees the younger son coming down the road, and he runs to him and embraces him. In that culture, men did not run. But in that moment, the father was so overjoyed he ran. And he showed mercy. 

To the older, what did he do?  He goes to him, talks to him, and tries to get him to rejoice with him in this moment. He shows him mercy as well, trying to pull him back to the family to bring him in to celebrate.  

This parable is about two lost sons, yes, but it is also about the mercy of the father. The father who shows mercy to both sons who he loves.  He loves them and wants to them to know the goodness of mercy and healing. 

This passage today reminded me of an old Christian song from the 1990s entitled Mercy Came Running.  I have always loved it; I love its words so much. When you think about this parable today, I hope you’ll take a moment and remember that mercy comes running today, to you and to me, where we are because God loves us. Never forget that.  

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