Forgiveness for All / Luke 15:1-3,11-32 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 27th 2022 / Season Of Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 27th 2022: Season of Lent / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 "Forgiveness for All"
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.” So He told them this parable:
And He said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. I scrolled past something interesting on twitter a while back: an exasperated Cameron Bradford, on February 8th 2021, tweeted, “We should just pin all the debt in the world to one guy and then kill him.” To which Nathan White replied, “I'm a pastor and, pal, have I got some good news for you.” In a nutshell Cameron Bradford was crying out for forgiveness, grant it his initial concern is the forgiveness of financial debt and I’m sure he’s not alone: Have there been times in your life, maybe even now, when you would have been relieved to have had your financial debts forgiven, wiped out, erased of the docket. The pivot provided by Pr. Nathan White hits at the heart of forgiveness for the Christian, and that is Christ Jesus. It is in Jesus that we are being reconciled to God the Father as Paul writes in our Epistle reading for today when he say, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [in this Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” All the debt of sin pinned on one man, who otherwise had no sin, who was then put to death. I want you to hold on to that thought as we dive into the Gospel for today.
Today we hear the third of three sequential parables Jesus tells about forgiveness, this one is the parable of the prodigal son but perhaps you could call it the parable of the lost sons. Both sons in the parable need forgiveness. What about the other two parables? I’ll recommend that when you come across this parable of the prodigal son you try to remember to keep it in its context, in the situation in which it’s found, in relationship with the two other parables Jesus tells just before this one.
Right before these three parables we hear how “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable.”
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Notice this is 1 out of a 100. So here a person is tempted to cut their losses and carry on with their 99 sheep. The answer to the question, “What man of you … does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?,” is that no one would do this. This, to keep with our financial theme, is only a loss of 1%.
Jesus follows this up with the second parable saying to the same grumblers,
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Notice this time it’s 1 out of 10. So here a person is perhaps less tempted to cut their losses and carry on with their 9 coins. The answer to the question, “What woman of you … does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?,” is that maybe some women would do this. Again to keep with our financial theme that’s a loss of 10% so seeking the coin is more profitable than seeking the lost sheep. Also remember sheep make more sheep so the shepherd will gain new lambs every season, coins don’t physically give birth to more coins, getting more coins is harder to do especially for women at that time.
This brings us to the third parable, the one we heard today and here Jesus raises the ante: Not 1% (1 out of 100), not 10% (1 out of 10) but on the surface of the parable 50% (1 out of 2 sons). Now Jesus is speaking these parables to a mixed group: the one group are made up of the tax collectors and sinners and the other group are made up of the Pharisees and the scribes. These two groups are like the two sons in the parable and as becomes clear in the parable both of these brothers need the father’s forgiveness because both sons are in fact sinners. So when considered this way the father has two lost sons one who had run away but repented and returned home, the other who had stayed at home but his heart was far off; so this is not 1% (1 out of 100 sheep), not 10% (1 out of 10 coins) not even 50% (1 out of 2 sons) but 100% (0 out of 2 sons, 2 lost brothers 100% lost). When the father says to the eldest son, the son who had stayed, “‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found,’” the father is calling this son to repentance and reconciliation. This son is the son who grumbled when his younger brother returned home and was forgiven and a feast was thrown for him just as the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled when Jesus received the tax collectors and sinners and ate with them.
The opportunity for repentance and the forgiveness of the father in the parable is for both of the sons. It is not only for the son who had run away and squandered all that the father gave him it is also for the son who stayed and worked diligently because as Scripture teaches us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” that is all but one, remember the beginning of the sermon and what St. Paul wrote the Corinthian Christians, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [in this Christ Jesus, the one who eats with both brothers - the scribes and Pharisees, the sinners and tax collectors] we might become the righteousness of God.” That we might all become the righteousness of God. Keeping all of this in mind hear these familiar words from Saint John, one of the original hearers of these parables,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
In the Creeds we confess with Saint John that Jesus is God the Father’s “only son,” or “the only-begotten Son of God,” so for God the Father in sending His Son Jesus for the whole of the Children of Israel (and not just for them but for all people of all time, for those who know they are sinners and for those who think they are not even though they are) God the Father, in sending His son Jesus, is not risking 1% loss or 10% loss or even 50% loss but 100% loss because He only has one Son. God the Father does this because in the fall into sin all people fell and all people needed to be forgiven, 100% of people need to be saved from their sin.
Where can you find Jesus in these parables? He is the father who won’t give up on either of the sons, He is the woman who lights the lamp and searches all night to find the coin and He is the Good Shepherd who seeks out His lost sheep even when everyone else would have cut their losses. He will not give up on you regardless of where you find yourself in these parables and in His cross and passion Jesus at His crucifixion gives 100% of His life in the place of yours. The Good News that Pr. Nathan White wanted to share with the exasperated Cameron Bradford is that Jesus is the one guy that all the debt in the world was pinned on and killed. The best part is that your debt of sin was canceled at Jesus’ crucifixion in His death and because He was one who had no sin of His own Jesus didn’t stay dead. Saint Paul explains how it is that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He received the wage your sin deserved, death, and in love Jesus doesn’t pass that wage on to you. Dear ones as believers in Christ you will not receive eternal death, in Jesus you receive life. When your time comes Jesus promises to come and take you to Himself, that where He is you will be also, for some of us we will be like that one lost sheep in that hour, or we may be like that one lost coin or we may be like two sons. Whichever one you are at that time on the day of your physical death, whichever one you are today, remember Jesus loves you and gave 100% of Himself in His life, death, resurrection and ascension to rescue you from yourself and your sin, to cancel of your debt of sin.
Dear lost sheep, dear lost coin, dear prodigal son or daughter, dear son or daughter who stayed whose heart desperately needs forgiveness, dear Christian forgiven by God, washed clean in the blood of Christ Jesus, take the words of Saint Paul to the Ephesians to heart and live your life together in this way, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The brothers in Jesus’ parable need this, the tax collectors and sinners the Pharisees and scribes Jesus told the parable to needed this, we all need this: Thanks be to God that He has given this to us all in His Son, the old has passed away you are a new creation in Him. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 15:4–7
 Luke 15:8–10
 Romans 3:23
 John 3:16–18
 Romans 6:23
 John 14:3
 Ephesians 4:31–32
Photo Credits: Main Photo detail brothers from unsplash; screen capture from Twitter; detail Sheep in feild from unsplash; detail of lone sheep on mountain side from unsplash; detail of coins from unsplash; detail of percentage sign from unsplash; detail of lamp in the dark from unsplash; detail of hands from unsplash.