5th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 15:1–3, 11–32
Theme: What Is God the Father Like?
1. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
1. The text for this morning begins with verses 1–2 of Luke 15:
– “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear
him [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying,
receives [welcomes] sinners and eats with them.’ ” This is the Word
1. Grace, mercy, and peace from God our heavenly Father and from our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
1. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
612 As Rebels, Lord, Who Foolishly Have Wandered
As rebels, Lord, who foolishly have wandered
Far from Your love—unfed, unclean, unclothed—
Dare we recall Your wealth so rashly squandered,
Dare hope to glean that bounty which we loathed?
Still we return, our contrite words rehearsing,
Speech, that within Your warm embrace soon dies;
All of our guilt, our shame, our pain reversing
As tears of joy and welcome fill Your eyes.
1. What Is God the Father Like?
1. Unfortunately, our experience with our earthly fathers, good or bad,
has clouded our vision of God the Father as shown to us by Jesus.
1. We need Jesus to tell us what the Father is really like.
I. He’s humiliated.
1. When you’re a dad and your little kids are asleep, you go in and kiss
them and nuzzle your nose in and smell their hair.
1. And then you pray that God will make you a better father.
2. Life is about them now.
3. And you don’t regret the overtime and the love and the worrying
and protecting, not if it’s for your child.
4. You’re their father.
1. Jesus said:
1. “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to
his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property [estate] that
to me’ ” (verses 11–12a).
1. Been punched in the stomach lately, Dad?
2. Can you see the face you’ve always loved, the kid who rode on your
shoulders, cold and distant and with dry eyes and a steel smile, telling
you the relationship is over, just like that?
3. “I can’t wait forever for you to die, Pops.
4. Just fork over my share so I can get out of here.”
5. Can you feel your heart beating in your neck, and your face
6. Can you spell T-R-A-U-M-A?
8. And there’s no answer. It stinks!
1. “And he divided his property between them” (verse 12b).
1. Feel the story back then; it’s not like Dad just sat down and wrote
out a check.
1. The boy can’t take herds of cattle with him on the love boat!
2. This knife would twist awhile.
3. Even if it’s a matter of taking ten cents on the dollar for his
father’s valuables and heirlooms, all that’s at stake is his
4. That was a public scandal in those days.
5. There was even a ceremony, get-sat-sah (“cutting off”), for when a
father was insulted like this.
6. What father would let himself be humiliated like that?
7. Our Father who art in heaven, that’s who.
1. What is God the Father like?
1. He’s humiliated—by every prodigal son or daughter who lives on his
earth, breathes his air, eats his food, and doesn’t want to know him.
2. God is publicly humiliated by every prodigal who utters the divine
name just for fun, a hundred times a day, to remind God that he’s getting
as far away from him as possible.
3. It’s like Jesus was narrating the whole sordid tale of the Genesis
3 story of original sin all over again:
1. “I don’t want this luxury garden home you’ve given me.
2. I wanna be out on my own!”
4. What kind of father would let himself be humiliated like that?
5. A father whose love for his son soars high above his own dignity.
1. The narrative from Luke 15 continues:
1. 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 whole 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.
2. 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
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.’ ” (verses 13–19)
1. The text says:
1. “He came to himself.”
1. Ding! He turned back toward his father’s house.
2. That’s exactly what repentance is, regardless of the motivation,
which, in this case was good old-fashioned starving to death.
3. It’s not like he still had tons of money but just couldn’t live
with himself after what he did to his father.
4. His repentance was just like ours.
6. He just wanted to survive, so he went home to where the food was,
where there was someone who cared about him.
7. Didn’t we?
8. His confession of sin even had a deal worked into it.
9. A toolbox, “three squares,” and a time card seemed like a plan.
10. Far be it from you or me to beat up on the kid.
11. He just didn’t know.
12. He had no idea the size of the love and the grace that was
13. Neither did I. Did you?
II. He’s brokenhearted.
1. “But while he was still a long way off,” his father spotted him
1. He was waiting up for him.
2. Ever been there?
3. I think we all have.
4. Did you care why your child came home?
5. Some do, some don’t.
6. If that happens in bad men like us, what happens inside a Father
who is truly good?
1. This is the Holy of Holies, brothers and sisters in Christ.
1. Right here in verse 20.
2. It all comes down to one Greek word.
3. It’s this word that’s going to make us live forever:
1. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and
esplagchnisthe”—literally, “his guts fell out,” “his heart broke.”
4. The boy was justified—that is, he was pronounced innocent—not in
his confession (he hasn’t said anything yet!), but outside of himself,
across the field in the breaking of the father’s heart.
5. Broken—like some sort of priceless alabaster box and poured over
the boy as some sort of liquid innocence.
6. This is what God is like: brokenhearted.
7. He’s “Our Father,” and by these words, he would tenderly invite us
to believe that he is our true Father and we are his true children.
8. And the “red carpet” of welcome waiting for every sinner is God’s
exposed, crushed heart rolled out.
1. He ran to his son, fell on his neck, and kissed him fervently.
1. Where have we read this before?
1. Remember how Jacob cheated his brother Esau?
2. He thought Esau would kill him if they ever saw each other
3. They had both made their fortunes and had their families.
4. And when Jacob realized that he would meet up with Esau—and his
army—he sent parades of gifts ahead of him, in the hopes that if he
groveled enough, his offended brother might spare his life.
2. But what happened?:
1. “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his
neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:4).
2. There is so much of Jesus in the Old Testament!
1. “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”
1. Does anybody know what’s wrong with this picture?
1. Surely the get-sat-sah, the cutting off ceremony, that obviously
hadn’t happened before, would happen now, since the son blew the
2. But did it?
3. What happened to justice?
4. Justice happened when the father’s heart was rent asunder.
5. What a picture!
6. One minute the father was clothed in dignity and the son stood in
the distance humiliated.
7. Who has the dignity now?
8. Not the father!
9. In a pitiful display, robes flying, he’s half exposed himself
running to his son, happy to be his last resort, despising the shame!
10. The son’s sin was covered, atoned for, by the humiliation of the
father . . . that he caused!
11. Who does this sound like?
1. Can’t the father hear the townsfolk saying he’s easy and calling him
1. Apparently not.
2. Hearts that big break too loudly to hear background noise.
1. Instead, witness the blessed exchange of dignity and honor from the
father to the prodigal son.
1. The son robed.
2. The father disrobed.
3. The son honored with the ring and shoes.
4. The father dishonored with his running and cleaving like Esau as
if he were the repentant sinner.
5. The son was restored completely in the public spectacle of the
father’s broken heart.
6. Even that was not public enough for the father.
1. Perhaps an “open house” is public enough?
1. Can you see the father all winded and sweaty and delighted,
rounding up anyone and everyone?
2. “Great news! You remember when my son treated me for dead and
hawked his inheritance—my livelihood—so he could get as far away
from me as
3. He blew the money partying!
4. He had to come home!
5. He had no choice! Isn’t that great?!!
6. Hurry up!
7. The band is playing!
8. We’re having veal marsala!
9. Bring your appetite and put on your dancing shoes!
10. It’s time to celebrate!”
III. He’s unfair.
1. The story continues:
1. 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
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
him back safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in.
came out and entreated [pleaded with] him. (verses 25–28)
1. You’d think a good son would be glad just to see his father happy
again at any cost.
1. Besides, it was the duty of the older son to be the intermediary
between his father and his brother, since he loved both.
2. But this son loved neither.
3. You could almost imagine a faithful son pleading with his father:
1. “Father, I cannot celebrate this! I can’t watch you do this to
2. I watched you waste away since your good for nothing son pulled
that rotten stunt, and now that he’s broke he’s back to sap
you dry and
slap you in the face all over again.
3. I’m sorry, but I can’t just schmooze with a cheese tray like
4. If he’d said that, you’d think you were listening to an otherwise
decent guy who just missed the point on the father’s joy.
5. But that’s not what he said.
6. Remember Jesus’ audience.
1. But he [the older son] answered his father, “Look, these many years I
have served [slaved for] 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 [estate] 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
[necessary] to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and
is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (vv 29–32)
1. In modern language the older son is saying to the father:
1. “You are so unfair!
2. What about me?
3. I’ve slaved for you.
4. Wasn’t that my inheritance he just wasted?
5. I’ve never disobeyed you (’til now).
6. You never gave me a goat so that I could party with my friends.
7. I agree with the neighbors: you’re a fool.”
1. The guests standing there with their wine glasses must have been
skeptical and awestruck, to say the least!
1. How many times has this father been dragged through the mud?
2. Both of his sons have read him the riot act in public.
3. They are the same.
4. Coiled in on themselves.
5. All the humiliated, brokenhearted father has done with both sons
is run after them, plead with them, and give to them, yet he’s unfair?
1. But he is.
1. Completely unfair.
2. He “tenderly invites” his older son, saying, “Hell’s bells to our
dignity, son. Let our hearts break and bring on the humiliations.
3. We have to celebrate; he’s your brother, and he’s back from the
4. Who cares about fair?”
1. The story ends with Jesus staring at the Pharisees and the scribes,
and all of us ninety-nine who don’t need to repent, who resent the fact
that heaven puts on a feast for the one who does, as if their atonement
cost us anything.
1. He gave them a chance to finish the story, to answer the Father’s
pleading, to repent and take on the Father’s heart, and to let
break over their lost brothers.
2. But no “older brother” was found to finish that story.
1. Or was there?
1. Oh, it was finished all right, in Jerusalem, and it wasn’t a parable.
1. See how unfairly the older Son gave his share to pay his brother’s
2. See how unfairly the older Son was publicly humiliated to cover
his brother’s sin.
3. See the older Son crucified to buy his brother back with his own
1. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my
heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast” (Psalm 22:14).
1. See, from his head, his hands, his feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
1. When you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father.
1. He’s not just fair.
2. He’s wonderful!
1. And when Jesus, nailed up, saw the work of his heart in the
distance—you, little brother, little sister—he was satisfied!
1. His unfair heart of love grew too large, and broke, and was thrust
open, like some sort of celebration piñata raining down a
fountain of water
to wash his little brothers and sisters clean for your Father and blood
into the chalice to keep you strong so you never stray again.
1. What is God the Father really like?
1. He’s humiliated, so we can come home to our Father.
2. He’s brokenhearted, so we can run to our Father.
3. He’s unfair, so we can feast in our Father’s house. Amen.
1. Let us pray:
A feast of love for us You are preparing;
We who were lost, You give an honored place!
“Come, eat; come, drink, and be no more despairing—
Here taste again the treasures of My grace.”
Text: © 1992 Stephen P. Starke, admin. Concordia Publishing House. Used by
permission: LSB Hymn License no. 110000247
1. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
1. In the Name of the Father…Amen.