Sunday Evening English Worship
May 6, 2018 - 5:00 pm
Messenger: Don Frank
Title: What a Homecoming!
Bible Passage - Luke 15:22-24
Introduction - Good evening, everyone. I'm glad you could join us tonight either in person or online. We are on our last day of the Golden Week holiday here in Japan. I hope that all of you have been enjoying yourselves throughout this rather long vacation. One of the things that I've really enjoyed over the past week is seeing all the beautiful cherry blossoms all around the city of Sapporo, either while I was driving around or out in the neighborhood taking my dogs for a walk.
And it reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:28-29, "Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are." I am very thankful that many Japanese people enjoy gardening, because then I have a chance to see beautiful flowers everywhere I go, almost all year long. And it makes me think about that Bible passage. The flowers have better clothes than even old king Solomon himself!
So, I've been thinking that maybe that would be really good topic to talk about tonight. When we trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, he dresses us in the finest clothes of his righteousness. And that led me to think about a story that Jesus taught, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. And so, that’s what I'd like to share with you for just a short time this evening.
I'd like us to read the whole parable from beginning to end and then I'd like to concentrate on the last three verses as our Bible study this evening. The title of my message tonight is "What a Homecoming!" And the Bible passage we'll be reading tonight is Luke 15:11-24. I'll be reading from the screen and you can follow along in your own Bible if you would like. I'll be reading from the New Living Translation. (Read the Bible passage.)
Now, let me kind of set the stage for what I want to talk about tonight. First, we need to understand what a parable is. It's a simple story used to illustrate a spiritual lesson. It's a story inside a story. These parables that Jesus taught were very easy to understand so that common people like you and me could catch the meaning very easily. As we just read, this story of the prodigal son or the lost son is a simple story about a selfish young man and his loving father. But the inside story that Jesus is trying to teach is about us and our Heavenly Father. Now, the end of the story is what I want to concentrate on this evening. I think all of us know the story very well, but I want us to keep in mind the spiritual meaning that Jesus is trying to get across. All of us humans are like the young man in the story and God our heavenly father is like the loving father in the story. After the son goes out into the world and makes a mess of his life, then he comes home and finds total love and forgiveness. And we are going to see that tonight with the four different gifts that the father gave to the son when he came home. When we come back to God and ask forgiveness of our sins, our Heavenly Father gives us gifts also, some here on earth and some when we finally get to heaven!
1. The Finest Robe - Our first gift this evening is the finest robe. This is the one point that got me really thinking about our study for this evening. When the son came home, his father gave him the best robe in the house. The father didn't go to the boy's closet and get out one of the boy's own robes. Instead, the father found the best robe in the house! God does the same thing for us. He dresses us in the righteousness of his son Jesus Christ. Our own right living isn’t enough! We had to be dressed in the perfect righteousness of God himself. The book of Isaiah 61:10 tells us this, "I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels." (NLT) There are even many Bible scholars who believe that there was a exchange that took place. Jesus took all our sins and in exchange, we receive the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says this, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (ESV) Then if that is the case, though we still commit sin, Christ is basically saying, "Just charge that to my account. I've already taken care of that bill!" We are literally dressed in the righteousness of God thanks to Jesus Christ.
2. The Ring - The second gift that the father gives the son is a ring. But this is no ordinary ring. It's what we call a signet ring. The family signet ring was a sign that you were a member of that family in good standing. And not just that, but the leader of the family alone wore this ring. It was passed down from father to son for generations. We are adopted into God's family and He gives us a promise. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says this, "And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." (ESV) Thanks to what Christ has done for us, God, by His Spirit, lives in our hearts with all of His Power. It's a promise of great things to come in the future!
You might want to think of that signet ring of the Holy Spirit as an American Express Black Card! It is said that if you are among the richest people in the world, you will be invited by the American Express Company to receive a Black Card. With no questions asked, you can use this card to buy anything you wish because your credit is so good! And that is what God promises each of us believers. We have the full credit approval of the Bank of Heaven to ask for anything, according to the will of God and in the name of Jesus Christ, and God will provide it for us! John 15:16 says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." (ESV)
3. The Sandals - The third gift that comes from the father is a pair of sandals. The symbolism here is that he is not a hired servant, for they went barefoot. He is brought back into the family as a true son and given a brand new pair of shoes! Each of these gifts has a specific purpose. The robe was to cover his nakedness and make him presentable. The ring showed everyone that he was a good member of the family. But the shoes were for working! They help keep the feet straight and upright and they protect the feet against stones and thorns and other things that would hurt the feet. Basically the father was saying to the son, “Welcome back to the family, son. Now let’s get to work together!“
And so it is with us as well. Ephesians 6:15 says, “and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.“ (BSB) God prepares our feet with the gospel of peace and He wants us to go out and share that same gospel everywhere we go.
Now, up to this point, these three gifts are pretty familiar to anybody who studies this parable. But there is actually one more present mentioned in this story, the big feast together!
4. The Fattened Calf - The fourth and final present from the father to the son is the fattened calf. I don’t know about you guys, but summer’s coming and I’m ready for some barbecue! And that is what this is all about. This is a feast to rival any other banquet! In the Arab society of that day, it was pretty common to keep one calf fattened up nicely in case special guests came to visit. Then the calf would be used for a big meal to honor the guest. The father thought that the son was dead and when the son came back home alive, the father was so happy that he wanted to make a huge celebration! And this fits very nicely with the two parables that come before this one, the story of the lost coin and the story of the lost sheep. In each of these stories, there was a celebration after the lost item was found.
This final celebration will come when we reach heaven and enjoy the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Revelation 19:9 says, "And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.' And he added, 'These are true words that come from God.'" And every time we enjoy the Lord's Supper at church, we are agreeing with Jesus that we too are looking forward to eating the fattened calf together in heaven! "Jesus said, 'I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.'" Luke 22:15-16 (NLT)
Conclusion - Let's finish our evening's study with our final song together and then our closing prayer.
Closing Prayer - I’d like us to read together our main scripture passage for this evening, Luke 15:22-24.
"But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.'"
Now, let’s take this scripture passage and change it into our final prayer for this evening.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the chance this evening to praise You with song and studying Your Word. Thank You also for the many gifts that You give us. Thank You for giving us the robe of righteousness through Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank You for giving us the ring of being adopted back into Your family. And thank You for preparing our feet to take the Gospel of Peace to all the world. We look forward to enjoying the feast You will prepare for us on the day we get to heaven. Until that day, help us to be good sons and daughters for You every day. We pray all this now in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.