The last time I was with you we were considering how that there is not one sinner in heaven which sought God before He sought them. “He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters,” Ps 18:16. “For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell,” Ps 86:13. “Salvation is of the LORD,” Jonah 2:9. “We love him, because he first loved us,” 1 John 4:19.
WHAT IT WAS THE FATHER WISHED HIS SONS TO DO.
“Son, go work to day in my vineyard,” Matthew 21:28.
God has a vineyard. It is His Kingdom. “The kingdom of God,” verse 31.
1. A vineyard is special place. It is the choicest ground, so situated to provide much sunshine and shelter. It is carefully and loving watched over. It is well protected. “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth,” Deut 7:6.
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers,” 1 Pet 3:12.
THE TWO SONS REPRESENT THE TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD
You must understand boys and girls that there are only the SAVED and the LOST! As there was Abel and Cain, as there was Jacob and Esau so there is only two types of people before God. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad,” Matthew 12:30. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John 3:36.
IT WAS THE FATHER WHO APPROACHED THE SONS.
It is God who initiates contact and communion with sinful men, not the other way round. “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, . . . . and he came to the second, ” Matthew 21:28, 30.
The first action of sinful man. “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” Genesis 3:8-9.
“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him,” Matthew 21:28-32.
I. PLEASE NOTE THE FIRST WORDS OF CHRIST.
“But what think ye?”
1. The Lord Jesus wants us all to think! He wants us to use the faculties with which we were born.
2. He especially want us to think about eternal things. “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you,” Matthew 21:31.
3. Men do not of themselves think on such things. The mind of the unsaved cannot mount upward to spiritual things of themselves. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him, John 6:44.
“Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,” John 6:45.
“And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father,” John 6:65.
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts,” Ps 10:4.
1. There is NO word of rebuke or reproach. “Evilmerodach king of Babylon in the first year of his reign lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah, and brought him forth out of prison, and spake kindly unto him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon,” Jer 52:31-32. The soul that humbles itself will be lifted up. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up,” James 4:10. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” I Cor 11:31.
There is only healing balm applied. The oil and wine, Luke 10:34.
2. The returning penitent sinner is embraced by the Lord. This is why those first moments of new life are so memorable. He never was so close to his father before and rarely afterwards.
3. The Lord shows a knowledge of our frame. This was the moment when drawing back could take place, the moment of doubt. ‘A way to hell from the very door of heaven,’ – John Bunyan.
4. The embrace and kiss made confession all the more necessary.- Love squeezes out a confession. Never did his sin of leaving his father’s house appear more wicked than when in his father’s arms. Grace sets sin in its proper light. “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance,” Psa 90:8. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest,” Psalm 51:4.
He did not get finishing his planned entreaty! His father had other plans!
HIS RETURN WAS THE OCCASION OF JUBILATION.
1. Merriment is a central part of the life of heaven. Verses 7, 10. It is centred upon repenting sinners and returning wanderers.
2. The household of God plays a part in the return. Verse 22. We must assist in turning the prodigal into a son again. The robe, the ring, the shoes and the celebration.
3. God has ordained that growth in grace is to be assisted by the people of God. We must offer fellowship and aid the wanderer to cease from his former ways. “And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go,” John 11:44.
4. The joy of the saint is to be the joy of repentant sinners. “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye,” Ezekiel 18:32. What makes the repentant sinner truly happy is our joy.
The joy of the believer consists of three stages:— * The joy of union with Christ. * The joy of continuing communion with Christ in company with the church. * The eternal uninterrupted joy of the Father’s banqueting house in glory.
Let us enter into those joys available to us with the expectation of greater joy yet to come.
Only the gospel story has a truly happy ending!
HIS RETURN WAS THE OCCASION OF DIVISION.
Verse 28. Christ work causes anger. Luke 12:51-53; John 9:16.
The elder brother was the true rebel against his father. Matt 21:29-31.
THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL
“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,” Luke 15:18.
I. He is given a willingness to return. This willingness comprises a number of elements.
A. Humility. What humility is required to return home and acknowledge sinfulness.
B. Determination. Many things will meet him on the journey home. None shall turn him from his goal.
C. Knowledge. He knew the way home.
All this is wrought in the sinner by God’s grace, enabling him to return.
“Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel,” Shorter Catechism 31.
This is God’s work. Its accomplishment is signalled by the sinner coming openly to the Saviour. Have you so come?
THE REPENTANCE OF THE PRODIGAL
It seems that no sooner had the Prodigal come to a decision than he put it into effect. The word “arose” is one often used in the NT for the resurrection from the dead. Here is the proof of genuine repentance. The repentant sinner can no longer remain in sin. At all costs he must get out and get back to the Father and to the company of His house. “Arose” is a word meaning “resurrection”. See Matt 27: 51-53. Also John 11:43-44. In both cases there is a leaving of the tombs and going amongst the living. Such a movement is a mark of rue repentance!
Let us note the circumstances of the prodigal’s return.
THE RECEPTION OF THE PRODIGAL
His father saw him. (See verse 4.)
1. The father’s eye displayed his heart. His affections were with the son in the far country. He watched for him to return. No matter what the father was doing, his heart was upon the road, looking for his son’s return.
2. It shows that the prodigal was expected. The sinner’s return is the work of the Father. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” John 6:44.
3. He was seen of the father before he saw the father. Even now sinner, the Father’s eye is upon you. He will detect the first move you make in repentance.