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The Tale of Two Sons

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 9, 2024 3:00 am

The Tale of Two Sons

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 9, 2024 3:00 am

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The Truth Pulpit
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This son of mine was dead and has come to life again.

He was lost and has been found and they began to be married. The celebration over the redemption of every sinner will go on forever and the object of the celebration will be God...God...God...God, the saving God. If you put yourself into a biblical story, how far should you go? In the parable of the prodigal son, for example, can you accurately put yourself in the shoes of any of the characters involved? Well, John MacArthur is examining that very parable today in his study called Foundations Volume 2.

As he unfolds this well-known tale, look for two things. First, the point Jesus is making for those who heard him teach it, and second, how you can apply that teaching today. But before today's lesson, John, you have a few thoughts for some people who share our passion for the unvarnished Word of God and who did something extraordinary to help keep the teaching of God's Word available on radio stations like this in the coming year. Yeah, and what we mean by that is when we came back a few days ago to grace to you and saw the mountain of mail and began to pour over it and read the letters and open the envelopes, I can say this. The outpouring of support for this ministry was beyond generous.

It was thrilling. We know it was sacrificial. And obviously, year-end giving is a significant portion of our annual budget, and it enables us to do what we do through radio, books, CDs, the internet, and television. And all of those ministries are a reflection of people's generosity to us.

It's really simple. We teach the Bible, and we have about 60 to 70 employees who enable us to produce the radio, the television, the books, and all the other resources here. It's really a small core of people who are a team that are committed to the love of the truth and to love one another, and together we're able to spread the Word of God amazingly across the face of the entire earth in multiple languages and multiple formats. And the reason we're able to do that is because of the amazing commitment of support that we get from folks like you.

What it says to us is you love God's Word. You believe in its power to transform lives. You trust us to use your gifts with integrity, and you're depending on us for continued spiritual instruction. So we receive that message, and we are so profoundly grateful. Thanks for caring about the spiritual needs of your community as well and helping us launch into this new year on a firm footing. So it's our joy to put your investments to work, and on behalf of all the people who will be reached this year, thank you from the bottom of our heart.

Yes, that's right, friend. Thank you for the very personal role that you have in connecting people with biblical truth. And now let's get to today's lesson.

Here again is John MacArthur. The text before us is like so many texts, a very familiar text. Anybody who knows this story knows the story that we call the story of the prodigal son.

Let's look at it. A shameful request, verse 11, three characters, a father and two sons. The younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.

And at this point they would step back. What? That's unthinkable. The younger son is asking the father for his share of an inheritance. He's out of rank. There's a pecking order. If he's younger, somebody's older. This is not only out of rank, this is disrespectful, this is selfish.

You get the estate when the father dies. This is like saying, Father, I wish you were dead. You're in the way.

I want what's mine and I want it now and I'm tired of waiting. There is no precedent in Jewish society for this. This is an absolute outrage.

This is a shameful request and shameful request leads to a shameful response. I want you to see what the father did. End of verse 12. And he divided his wealth between them. What?

What? The father is supposed to protect his honor. He does exactly what this willful, rebellious, hateful son asks.

This is absurd. You're supposed to wait till he's dead. And then the younger gets one-third, the older gets two-thirds, but not until. But the estate is split. That means the older son got his two-thirds, the younger son got the one-third that was coming to him. And that launches a shameful rebellion. Verse 13, Not many days later the younger son gathered everything together. In the Greek that simply means he turned it into cash. He goes on a journey into a distant country. That was the whole point. Get as far away from home as you can, far away from accountability as you can, far away from restraint as you can, far away from anybody's scrutiny as you can.

Get out there where you can live exactly the way you want to live and nobody that cares about you is going to know. Shameful rebellion, he squandered his estate with loose living. Later on in the story, his soldier brother, verse 30, points out that he wasted a lot of it on prostitutes. All that was his fault. I thought there were some things that weren't his fault, verse 14, when he had spent everything. A severe famine occurred in that country and he began to be in need.

Not his fault, but that's how life is. And he becomes a beggar, verse 15. He went and attached, an interesting Greek word here, kalau, it means to glue. So he does this.

He attaches, he finds some citizen in this far country which would be assumed to be a Gentile country, and he glues himself to this citizen and the guy can't get rid of him. So finally he sent him into the field to feed swine. And it gets worse, verse 16. He's out there ostensibly to feed the pigs.

Guess what? He's longing to fill his stomach with the pods the swine were eating because nobody was giving anything to him. He is starving to death. Verse 17, he says, I'm going to die of hunger.

This is desperation. And the lesson? Sin is rebellion against God and God will give you the freedom to choose your sin.

You can choose it. He'll give you freedom to take your sin as far in any direction as you choose to take it. Here is the rebellion of one who had no relationship to the one who gave him life. No relationship to the one who held all the riches he ever could have needed all his life.

No relationship to the one who could give him a future as well as a present. That's how it is with sin. It is disdain for God's person, God's rule, God's authority, God's will, God's goodness, God's resources. Sin is a desire to run from God, to avoid all responsibility, accountability to God. It is to deny God any place in your life. It is to dishonor God, to take all the loving gifts that are available and squander them as far away from God as you can get. It is to waste your life in self-indulgent dissipation, unrestrained lust, shunning all God's goodness. It is reckless evil. It is selfish indulgence that takes you to the brink of death. Sin looks for fulfillment outside and away from God and never finds it. It leaves the sinner exhausted, empty, hungry, hopeless.

The picture is extreme, no question. Not everybody is this bad. But the question is, how is the Father going to deal with somebody who is this bad?

Jesus really has invented the ultimate sinner. This is as bad as you can get. Disrespect to parent, disrespect to community, dissipation of your own body, immorality to the max, violating all your cultural conformities, going to a despised place and attaching to despised people. This is the pits.

This is not skid row, the skid is over, this is the bottom. This is the ultimate sinner and not every sinner is that bad, but it's pretty important to find out how this Father is going to deal with one who is. And the shame is not over.

A shameful repentance follows. Verse 17, when He came to His the way, that's always the start of repentance, when you begin to assess your true condition. He said, how many of My Father's hired men have more than enough bread? I'm dying here of hunger. Just a little note here, that Jesus speaks with an economy of words that's always staggering to Me. He says, more than enough.

Wow. Let me tell you about a hired man. The social structure, of course you had the landowners, the people with the money, and then you had the tenant farmers who rented little pieces of it and worked the land. And you had the little shop owners who had maybe their own little business here and there, little craftsmen who did certain things. Then you had servants. Servants was a category, people who basically were part of the family. They were hired, you housed them, you fed them and they did service and they really were part of the family. Then you had what are here called mystos, hired men. They were day laborers. They hung around, they just hung around hoping somebody would hire them, like the parable where Jesus, you know, talks about the man who had a harvest and he went into town and looking for people at 6 A.M. and 9 A.M. and 12 and then 3 and trying to find people who could come and work for the day. And back in Leviticus it says, when you hire a day laborer, you have to pay him at the end of the day, can't keep his wages overnight because he sets his heart on that. He's got to feed his family. He works one day at a time.

These are the low people on the pole. And some of them did very menial, most of them menial unskilled work, although some were craftsmen of some kind. But there's something about the father here that's really interesting. He says, how many of My Father's hired men have more than enough? You know what that tells you about this man?

Because hired men barely eked out an existence. They were just a little bit above the destitute. And he is saying, My Father gives the low people on the economic ladder more than they need. What does that tell you about the father? That he is merciful, that he is generous, that he is good. And this is where he begins to realize the goodness of his father. He's good. He gives more than enough.

And I am dying here with hunger. And he begins to trust in his father's goodness and trust in the mercy and compassion and love of his father which he scorned once, but which he recalls was characteristic of his father. Verse 18, I will go...I'll go to my father and I will say to him, I'm going to trust my father's mercy, I'm going to trust my father's goodness and compassion, evidence in the way he treats the lowest people that I can go back to him and he will in some way receive me. And I know to be my father's nature and I will say, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight I'm no longer worthy to be called Your son, just make me as one of Your hired men.

Wow, this is embarrassing. He's not only got to go to his father and face his father in the way he's treated his father in the past, he's going to face his older brother. He's got to face the village. The father has been shamed but so has the son and he's going to get the scorn and the ridicule and the mockery and the disdain of the village because it was required to give him that. That was part of the cultural punishment for this kind of misbehavior, to uphold the honor of the father and the village. Not only that, he's looking at years of hard labor. How do you earn back a third of a massive estate as a hired man?

At low wages, this would take years and years and years and years and only after it's all been earned back, restitution complete, will there be hope of reconciliation. He knows his sins are great. Verse 18, I have sinned, literally in the Greek, into heaven.

It's another way of saying what the Old Testament says, my sins are as high as heaven. There's no holding back here. He knows what he has become. He asks for no privileges in his mind, no rights.

He's forfeited them all. He can make no claim. He doesn't ask to be in the father's house. He doesn't ask to be a family member. He doesn't ask to be a servant in the father's house, not at all. All he wants is the father to be merciful enough to him to let him work as a day laborer paying minimum wage for as many years as it takes to earn back everything he lost and the hope that there could be a reconciliation.

He sees now that when he's exhausted his options away from his father, all he got was death. And he will pay any price for the life his father possesses. He'll take the punishment. He'll take the humiliation. He'll take the hard labor.

What a picture. Here is a sinner in true repentance. He's come to desperation who realizes that this is the path of death. He wants reconciliation. He's willing to confess that his sins are as high as the heavens.

He knows he has no rights and no privileges and can lay no claim to anything. He wants reconciliation at any cost, even a life of hard labor. Boy, that's the real kind of repentance.

What a picture...what a picture. At this point, the Pharisees and the scribes are saying to themselves, well, that's exactly what that boy should do. This is the first thing that had any sense to it. It's what he should do. And he did. Verse 20, he got up, came toward his father, walked back in his filthy, swine-smelling, stinking clothes, trudged back toward the village. Now what can we expect the father to do when he gets there? Well the Pharisees would know exactly what the father would do. Finally this father has an opportunity to sustain his honor and to do what he should, what is right and just and honorable and what the father should do is stay up in his estate and when somebody says, Your son has come to town, the father says, I'll see him in four days. Let him sit in his stinking clothes and take the scorn and the mockery of the village heaped upon him as discipline. And then after four days, I will see him.

Father would expect him to come in, bow down, kiss the father's feet and take punishment from the father, maybe even a lashing and then get ready to work for decades. And if he could sustain it for decades and decades and decades, then maybe reconciliation. But reconciliation comes only because of restitution, so said the rabbis. There is no reconciliation without restitution.

But if you think there's been shameful behavior now, here is the most shameful behavior yet. Verse 20, a shameful reconciliation while the young man was still a long way off, still outside the village. Maybe there was a gate, there was a dusty road leading to the village.

Maybe there was a gate, maybe there was just sort of a defined place where the first little buildings were while he's a long way off. His father saw him. Now we're okay up to here.

And now the whole thing becomes ridiculous. And felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him, yoyave. Are you kidding me? What a fool! His father is. His father is a bigger fool than his son. So much here, still a long way off, that must have mean the father was looking. I suppose we could assume that this was a regular thing for him to look for that son. Saw him, the father was the seeker, felt compassion and those Pharisees are saying, how weak is this man?

Can't he ever respond in a righteous, honorable way? And then he did the unthinkable. He ran. Middle Eastern noblemen don't run. It's not just something that you don't do because physically you can't do it. There is an entire body of literature, Jewish literature written about the fact that you don't run if you're a man. They wore robes down to the ground and that was so that their legs were not seen. It was a shame to let your legs be seen, that is, of course, the case still for some folks.

When you get to a certain age, keep those things covered up is probably a good idea. But the bottom line in that culture was, if you ran, you had to pull it up and to show your legs was shameful. In fact, the literature says that even a priest when he's offering sacrifice cannot lift his robe off the ground to keep it out of the blood.

There was one rabbi who condemned a man for lifting his robe above his knees while walking through thorns to keep from getting it caught. You just didn't run. You didn't run, first of all, because it wasn't dignified. You didn't run because you moved in a graceful stately manner. And you didn't run because it would be a shame if anybody saw your lower body and if you pulled them up high enough and ran hard enough, then they could see more than your legs. This word ran in the Greek is the word for sprinting in a race.

This man came out of his house and sprints down the middle of town toward this sun. And the people in town in a Middle Eastern village would have been appalled. This indecent, shameful thing. The rabbi said a man should not even jump for fear somebody might see your lower leg.

In fact, robes were called mikbudut which means that which gives me honor. So what is he doing? He's running through town bringing shame on himself...shame on himself, taking the abuse. This is selfless.

This is self-emptying condescension. Why is he doing this? Because he wants...listen to get to the sun before the sun gets to the village. Because as soon as that sun enters that village, he's going to be mocked and scorned and heaped upon with shame and ridicule. And the father runs through town, takes the shame to embrace the boy before he receives the shame.

This is downright crazy behavior for a Jewish Middle Eastern nobleman. He embraced him, hugs the pig-scented rebel and kissed him. In the Greek, kissed him repeatedly, customary to kiss him all over the head.

Just kissed him all over the head, full reconciliation...full reconciliation. No shame for the boy. The father has taken the shame. The father came out of his palatial home, came down, came to the village, sprinted through, took all the scorn and the shame, threw his arms around the boy, kissed him all over the head and everybody knew. He's received him fully as a son. No shame for that boy, should have been beaten, should have had to sit there and take the shame. That's what they thought.

What is this? I'll tell you what it is, one word, grace. And they didn't get it.

It's grace and they didn't get grace. He got it because in verse 21, the son said to him, father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight I'm no longer worthy to be called your son and he stopped. What did he leave out?

What did he leave out of his speech? Go back to verse 19. What's his last line in verse 19? Make me one of your hired men, but he doesn't say that, he planned to say it but he doesn't say it because he doesn't need to say it because he doesn't have to earn back his father's love. He doesn't have to earn the reconciliation. He gets grace.

He leaves out the hired man part, that would have been an insult to his father's compassion, an insult to his father's love, an insult to grace. He just repents. He entrusts himself to the mercy of his father and that's all a sinner ever needs to do.

And this, of course, is what outrage the Pharisees all the time, Jesus gracing sinners, Jesus embracing sinners, kissing them all over the head and reconciling with them. This young man receives reconciliation, restoration, forgiveness, sonship and all he does is trust his father and repent of his sin. He has no plan for restitution, no works, this is grace, gift of loving, merciful, compassionate father. So what do we learn about the father? The father really is God in Christ, coming down from heaven to the dust of our towns to seek and save the lost sinner who comes to Him. God initiates, He's the seeker. He sees the sinner before the sinner sees Him. He finds the sinner before the sinner finds Him and He runs the gauntlet and takes the shame. His love is lavish. His pure grace is limitless.

And here we see the point. God finds His joy in the salvation of one lost sinner whom He runs to embrace, to kiss and restore. We have a lot of views of God, that's normally not one of them. We're not used to seeing God so eager, so effusive, so lavish, so loving to the worst sinner. The Son got it.

He got it. He was reconciled. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today's lesson, The Tale of Two Sons, comes from a series titled Foundations Volume Two. It's a collection of some of the most popular sermons in Grace to You's almost 55-year history. And now, friend, I want to briefly mention a resource that I think will be a big help to you, the MacArthur Daily Bible.

It will help you systematically read the Bible all the way through in 2024, enriching your daily devotions, deepening your worship. To order the MacArthur Daily Bible, contact us today. You can call us here at 855-GRACE or go to our website, Each day, the MacArthur Daily Bible gives you a portion of Scripture to read from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and Proverbs. It also includes notes from John MacArthur to help you understand what God's Word means and a short devotional from John related to a passage from each day's reading. Again, to order the MacArthur Daily Bible, call 855-GRACE or shop online at And while you're at the website, be sure to spend some time at the Grace to You blog. You'll find practical articles from John and our staff on issues affecting your life and your church, and as a supplement to the lesson you heard today, look for the series of articles called Divine Compassion that will give you a deeper understanding of God's sympathy for His people and His eagerness to forgive.

You can find those articles and much more at Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Be here tomorrow for the shocking ending to the well-known parable of the prodigal son and how you fit into it. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-09 05:52:11 / 2024-01-09 06:02:07 / 10

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