The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
 
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LEAVING THE PIGS BEHIND

      Luke records a 3-part sermon series presented by Jesus concerning valuable items that were missing…things that were not where they should have been. Jesus detailed how a shepherd searched diligently for one sheep that had gone astray. Jesus concluded the parable by describing the rejoicing that took place when the lost sheep was found and returned to the sheepfold. Jesus continued with a parable about a woman whose lost coin was found and the resulting celebration. Jesus finished the series by telling how a young man was missing…a young man who was not where he should have been…a young man who was out in the far country pursuing his field of dreams only to find himself in a field of pigs.     
      Jesus does not specifically identify the “far country” in the parable in terms of the name of a city, town, country, or province. Nonetheless, the far country points to a life that is not in touch with God and thereby represents anywhere that a person should not be. Thankfully, this young man did not remain in the far country. Rather, he left the pigs behind as he…

Came to His Senses

      The young man Recognized His Need. Hunger was his immediate need. Not many things get one’s attention as quickly as being hungry. The “far country” was the place that the young man intended to achieve fame and fortune. This far country, however, was gripped by famine and he was hungry. He had those gnawing and persistent hunger pangs that result from a lack of food. He was so hungry that he was ready to eat the pods of carob trees used to feed domestic animals such as pigs.     
      He also was lonely. Loneliness is a hunger of a different sort. He had no fellowship because he had no friends. Not only did this young man have nothing to eat, he had no one to give him anything and he was lonely (v. 16). The despicable nature of this fellow’s predicament is underscored by the fact that he was a Jew standing in the midst of “unclean” ham, bacon, and pork chops (Lev. 11:8).
      The young man also Recognized His Deed, namely, he had squandered his father’s wealth. This young man, the younger of two sons, had requested his inheritance early. When the request was granted, he squandered the resources on wild living (v. 13). Verse 30 offers a clue regarding the lifestyle the young man pursued.     
      Do you know someone who is squandering wealth of financial resources, time, ability, intellectual capability, and opportunities to provide something positive for themselves, their family, or their community? Have you or someone you know ever come to the conclusion that nothing can be shown for the time that has elapsed, the resources that have been invested, the training that has been received at the sacrifice of others, or the capabilities with which you have been blessed?

      In his misery, the young man recognized that he had squandered his father’s wealth, but he also recognized that he had spurned his father’s warmth. The command to honor parents points to the responsibility to provide care for them in their old age. This young man, however, had severed relations with his father and had journeyed to a far country. Thus, he had denied his status as son. Such is the condition of sinners that Jesus calls to repentance. Such is the condition of those who take their lives into their own hands, trust in themselves, and pursue self-centered pleasure in their quest for the far country.

Came to His Father

      Having come to his senses (v. 17), the young man came to his father and thereby presented a Portrait of Confession (vv. 18-20). The son used the title “father” even though he recognized that he had no right to be considered a son. He repented and confessed his sin. He then began the journey homeward. Repentance is a turning from self-will and self-indulgence to God and a willing submission to Him.     
      The kind of homecoming a prodigal son can expect always depends on the kind of father who is at home. The father is waiting for his son to come home. The father is waiting with an agony that only fathers who love their wayward sons have known. The father’s agony was framed with both hope and fear…hope for the son’s return but fear that the son would destroy himself in the far country.
      As the son was nearing home, the father “saw him” from a distance (v. 20). Neighbors probably saw his rags, dirt, and bare feet. The father saw him. Rather than offer an “I told you so” reception, the father ran to meet his son, he embraced his son, and he kissed his son. When the son began his memorized speech, the father did not permit him to finish. Rather, the father’s actions present a Portrait of Compassion (vv. 20-24).    
      The father’s response offers a glimpse of God’s forgiveness. God desires an opportunity to lavish his love on his wandering children. The son received the “best robe” (reserved for special guests), a ring (a symbol of sonship), sandals (servants did not wear sandals) and a feast of the best portion. A celebration ensued because one who was feared dead was alive! The one who was lost had been found!

Came as He Was

      As the young man came to his senses and came to the father, he came just as he was in all of his impurity – rags, filth, pig “perfume” all over him. He did not say “I need to clean up my act first.” No, he simply came as he was.    
      Furthermore, he came with humility. He confessed “I am not worthy.” The truth is that we cannot be worthy apart from God. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches…Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The truth is that you and I can only be worthy when we are in a right relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ…the one who is worthy.
 

      Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for seeing me and not all of the filth acquired in the far country! Thank you for your patience, forgiveness and compassion! Thank you for making my sins white as snow through the blood of your Son! Amen.

            Daniel