The Parable of the Prodigal God

THE FOLLOWING IS A SERMON THAT I DID AT NORTHMINSTER CHURCH ON JANUARY 14, 2018. YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE FULL SERMON HERE. I am indebted to Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler, and Kenneth Bailey for helping me rethink this parable every time I study it and preach it again.

To understand this parable, you have to understand two things

The first is- Who is hearing the parable? The beginning of Luke 15 tells us: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Tax Collectors and Sinners were a group of people. Tax collector not a cheat trying to get rich. Not like a bad used car salesman. They were sell outs who made money by supporting the occupying armies. They were traitors. They were hated by the community. Sinners are a class of people who, because of illness or livelihood, could never enter the Temple. This included deformities and diseases such as the blind, lame, bleeding, or lepers, and jobs such as prostitution, working as a mercenary for the Romans, and the tax collectors.

These people are drawing near to hear him. They were taught that they were outcast and cursed by God. They can never be made right with God. But they are attracted to the teachings of Jesus, and welcomed by him.

The Scribes and Pharisees are the other side of spectrum. They are super religious and upright. They believe they have gained favor with God and have a special relationship with God. And they are questioning why Jesus would associate with these Tax Collectors and Scribes.

Jesus gives this parable to these two specific groups, and you can’t understand the parable if you don’t understand those groups. Continue reading

Parables are Challenging my Simple

I have been preaching the parables in the second half of the summer. These have not been easy sermons to preach. This past week I preached the parable of the tenacious widow and the unjust judge from Luke 18:1-8. You can listen to it HERE. If you have never heard of it then I am not surprised. I seriously doubt if you have ever heard a sermon about it.

The challenge with this parable is not understanding the story. It is, like most of the parables, a very simple story. The challenge is that Luke gives an intro to the parable that says the parable is about prayer and not losing heart but then after the parable Jesus teaches about stuff unrelated to prayer or not losing heart. What does the parable mean? How do we apply it to our lives?

But the challenge of understanding the parables is only a surface issue. The real issue with the parables is actually about you and I want our lives to be—SIMPLE. I think things simple. I like 3 point sermons with one clear challenge at the end.

But the Bible is rarely simple. Life is rarely simple. If you can highlight the meaning of a parable or a life event in a neat and tidy sentence then you have probably missed the real meaning. Parables are meant to grab you and stick with you. You have to wrestle with them. The can still be teaching you things a long time later. Life is the same way.