Fourth Sunday of Lent—Don’t Settle to Be a Servant

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Luke 15:1–32 ESV

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: “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.

“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.”

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.’”

Consider This

These stories offer almost endless opportunities and possibilities for learning and reflection. If you think you’ve “been there and done that and gotten the T-shirt” as relates to chapter 15 of Luke, you can be assured you have not. This is a text for one’s whole life. We need to hear that echo from Transfiguration Mountain when the Father told us to listen to him.

Because the text was so lengthy today, I will be brief with the reflection. I want to focus on the short speeches made by the two different sons to their father.

Son #1: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”

Son #2: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”

Son #1 knew he was a son though he lived in the Far Country; Son #2 had forgotten he was a son though he lived in his father’s house.

Son #1 knew he needed mercy; Son #2 felt he deserved a celebration; he knew nothing about mercy.

Son #1 was willing to forfeit his sonship in order to be a servant; Son #2 actually did forfeit his sonship in order to be a servant.

Son #1 never imagined getting a celebration; Son #2 could not bring himself to go to the party.

Both sons were lost, though only one knew it. Only one son was found.

It’s often most difficult for those closest to home to come inside.

We don’t have a God who is looking for servants. We have a Father who is in search of sons and daughters.

Don’t settle for the servants’ quarters. Keep praying . . .

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.

The Question

Generally speaking, are you more like the prodigal son or the older brother?