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The Tale of Two Sons C

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 10, 2024 3:00 am

The Tale of Two Sons C

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 10, 2024 3:00 am

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Grace To You
John MacArthur
Grace To You
John MacArthur

In the language of the parable, the Son was striking the Father with crushing killing blows, saying, You are evil, You are shameful, someone needs to end the shame and bring honor to this family and I will do it by ridding this family of such a shameful Father. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. The parable of the prodigal son may have been among the first Bible stories you ever learned, but even though the narrative is simple enough for a children's Sunday school lesson, the truth it contains is more profound than most adults probably realize. What was Jesus' purpose in teaching this parable?

Whom does each character represent, and what should you take away from the Father's amazing example of forgiveness? Those are just some of the questions to keep in mind as you follow along with John MacArthur. As he continues his study called Foundations Volume 2, he's going to help clear up misconceptions that many people have, maybe even you, about this famous parable of Jesus.

So follow along now with 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...that's very respectful, by the way...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 a 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 and 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...interesting Greek word here, kalau, 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 of swine reading because nobody was giving anything to him. He is starving to death. Verse 17, he says, I'm going to die of hunger.

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? A shameful repentance follows, verse 17. When he came to his senses, he said, How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread?

I'm dying here of hunger. Verse 18, I will go. I'll go to my father 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. 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.

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. His father saw him and felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 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. Shameful, the father is just breaching justice, righteousness, honor. And of course the Jews have never understood the condescension and the suffering of God for the love of sinners.

Well shameful reconciliation is followed by a shameful rejoicing. Look at verse 22, this is really something. Father said to His slaves, quickly, I love it, taku in the Greek, quickly. Salvation is an instant thing, isn't it?

Not a long process of restoration by works and ceremony, it's an instantaneous thing. Quickly, right now all the privileges, get the best robe. A wealthy family like this would have one robe, by the way, the father's robe and it was used for those maximum kind of occasions of great grandeur and importance. Get the robe, get the best robe.

This would be a beautiful embroidered robe, the best the family had, worn by the father and perhaps his father, heirloom kind of thing. Get that robe, he says, quickly, let no time pass and put it on him. He doesn't say to this young man, now go get yourself cleaned up. He treats him like he's a prince. He treats him like he's a king, calls all the servants together and says, take care of him, clean him up, dress him up. He's just going to stand there while you do this to him. You're just going to lavish him. Put the robe on him.

What is that? It's the robe of dignity. You share the full dignity of the father, the full majesty of the father.

Put a ring on his finger. The rings weren't just for looks, they were used to stamp in soft wax the family symbol on official documents. This is authority to act in behalf of the father.

He can signify the father's will in any document. It's like getting the keys to the Kingdom. Put shoes on him. Slaves and hired men and the poor didn't wear shoes.

Shoes were for people who had responsibility. Give him dignity, give him authority, give him responsibility. He has my dignity, he has my authority and he has a share in my responsibility. This is full sonship. My how grace triumphs over sin.

Grace gives to us when we come the full dignity of God as we are clothed with His own righteousness, the full authority of God to act on His behalf consistent with His revelation and responsibility to carry on His work in His name in the power of His Spirit. And once the son had been given all these things lavishly, verse 23 says, and bring the fattened calf. Wealthy people had one calf that they kept, usually for the marriage of the older son. But you use it for the best and biggest occasion, kill it.

That would be an operation in itself, take a little while. And by the way, they didn't flay it and put it on a big huge spit. I've been to some things like that where that's been the way of doing it.

They chopped it into steaks and chops and everything else and cooked it in their bake ovens, their bread ovens. Kill the fattened calf and let's eat and be merry. We're going to have a party. Now go back to verse 7, there's more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, 99 righteous person who need no repentance. Verse 10, joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

This is that in this story. The celebration begins. Now I just want to point out one thing, we don't have time to develop it all, but the celebration is directed at the Father. It's not directed at the Son. The Son received the robe and the ring and the shoes.

But the party is a party in honor of such a gracious Father. Let's all eat. Now a calf could feed anywhere from a hundred to two hundred. They didn't eat a lot of meat. They didn't eat meat every day.

Meat was for special occasions. And this could be a hundred to two hundred people to dig into this thing. They're going to do it, verse 24 says, for this son of mine was dead.

We could talk about that. God knows who His sons are and in His wonderful providence and sovereignty, He has His times when He will raise them from death to life. This son of mine was dead and has come to life again. He was lost and has been found and they began to be merry. They began because the party will never end. 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. Well this is another outrage to the listening Pharisees and Sadducees. The whole thing is now getting beyond bizarre. It is becoming irritating. It is becoming agitating.

This is like fingernails down a blackboard. This is just too contrary and shameful. The Father is now acting stupidly, giving all of this to the Son and then having a celebration as if some honor had been earned. No characters existed like this in their world. There weren't any sons like this. There weren't any fathers who would do this. They knew no sons like this and fathers like this.

And there is their unmasking. They didn't know God. We have come to an amazing conclusion, a shameful reaction.

Verse 25, we'll cover this in just a few minutes. His older son was in the field and when he came and approached the the way, wouldn't you think the older son was supposed to plan all these big events? It was his responsibility. His father never even consoled him on it, didn't tell him about it, didn't send a messenger to get him.

Why? He knew he had no relationship with him either. He hated his father also. He was alienated from his father also. He just stayed around the house but he had zero relationship to his father. That's why he didn't defend his father's honor in the beginning and he didn't try to protect his brother from doing something as stupid as he wanted to do. This man played no role in anything because though he was at the house, he had no relationship to the father. The father knew that he cared not for his brother and he knew that he had no interest in his own joy and so he was not a part of it.

He's out in the field. He wasn't working. He was just making sure people do. His father left him there till he came home at the normal time at the end of the day. By then the party had started. He came, approached the house, heard music and dancing, summoned one of the servants, actually pydone boys, this would be village boys who were outside, you know, the young people would hang around while the adults were in having the party. He comes to one of the young boys.

He begins inquiring what these things might be. He's totally in the dark. He doesn't get it.

He has no part in this whole redemptive scheme. And this boy in verse 27 says, Your brother has come. Your father has killed the fattened calf because he's received him back safe and sound. That little phrase, safe and sound, whole actually is connected to shalom, he received him back shalom.

He's at peace with his father, full reconciliation. You might think, wow. And he would celebrate. Huh? Oh no. Verse 28, he became angry.

Hmm...guess what? The Pharisees and scribes just appeared in the story. This is they. They just appeared in the story. They were angry that God in Christ was embracing sinners. That's what ticked them off and here they are in the story.

They are, by the way, referred to earlier as the 99 who need no repentance, never seeing themselves as sinners. He became angry, was not willing to go in. I will not be a part of anything like that, it is shameful. The father is shameful. The son is shameful.

The village people who are celebrating are shameful. This is no time to honor the father. The father is a fool. You don't give honor to a man who's a fool.

Shameful reaction. No, he had been home hanging around the house. He had zero relationship to his father. He is as lost as his brother. And the Pharisees and the scribes were just as lost as the tax collectors and the sinners, just a different kind of lostness.

Some are lost in the far country, some are lost around God, around the church. And you know, the truth renowned, legalists like this, religious people, superficially religious people are jealous of prodigals because inside they have the same lusts but they're never fulfilled. They have the same hankering for sin and iniquity and they are jealous and envious of those who play those out to the max and don't care what people think. They do because their approach to get the stuff is to conform outwardly. And so here they are in the story. But you know, from their viewpoint, they would be saying, finally a sensible guy, finally a guy who gets it. Hey, this is righteous indignation.

We like this guy. This is the Pharisees and scribes guy because this is them. And if that's not enough shame, how about this? More shame, a shameful reply by the father, verse 28. His father came out and began pleading with him. God, this is just unbelievable. The father comes down again, a picture of condescension, leaves the party, leaves the celebration where he's the guest of honor.

Excuse me, folks, I have to go. Comes down into the night, into the dark, finds this hypocrite who hates him and begs him to come to the party. This is another ridiculous shameful act. Isn't that father willing to punish any son that insults him? And by the way, he entreats him in a prolonged way. There's no public slap, no beating, the father is begging. But the response, verse 29, he answered and said to his father, look, that's an eye roller. You don't say that to a father, you say, Father, Father.

You don't say, look, complete disdain, complete disrespect. This is his I wish you were dead to. Look, for so many years I've been serving you. That's how it is with legalists, they do it, it's a duty, it's a grind, it's bitter. I have never neglected a command of yours. Boy, there's a deception. This is like the rich young ruler who said he kept all the commandments. That's how it is with religious phonies and hypocrites, they don't want to admit their sin. I have been grinding this service for you to get the estate that I want.

I've never neglected a command. You never gave me a goat, let alone a calf, that I might be married with my friends. He wanted a party of his own but not with the father and not with the brother. He had other friends.

He had his own group, hypocrites hang with hypocrites. And the father, verse 30 says, when this son of yours came who devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him. And the father says to him, my child, wow, from the Pharisee's standpoint, even though they would agree with the older son having the just attitude, they can't understand a man who appears to be this weak. Slap that guy. But he says, my child, not wios, that's been used eight times, the word for son, now it's teknon, my boy, you've always been with me, all that's mine, it's always been yours, had to come and have a relationship with me.

You're never going to get it the way you're going, you're not going to earn it that way. And verse 32, we had to be merry. We had to rejoice for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found. What are we going to do?

We have to celebrate. What do you see in the story? Two kinds of sinners, the profligate, debauched, open, immoral, irreligious sinner and the hypocrite in the house, around the church, religious, superficially moral and both are extreme sinners. And a father who entreats both, who offers both everything he has and the point is this, young people, listen to me, the extreme sinner falls within the purview of God's grace.

Not everybody is that extreme on either end but that's good news for all of us in between. And why does God do this? Why does He do this? Because He rejoices when one sinner repents and all the holy angels and glorified saints rejoice with Him. But, you know, the story doesn't have an ending. It just stops. And after you've read verse 32, you're looking for verse 33 because what happened? What does the Son say?

Come on, what did He do? It just stops. Well how about if I write an ending?

I'll do that. The older brother, seeing the compassion and mercy of his father and desiring a reconciliation, confessed his sins of hypocrisy and asked his father for forgiveness, was embraced and kissed, and taken in to the banquet and seated at his father's table. I like that ending. I like that ending. But I can't write the ending. The ending has already been written.

That's right. Here's the ending. Upon hearing this, the older son being outraged at his father, picked up a piece of wood and beat his father to death.

That's the ending. It would be only a few months before the Pharisees would kill him by nailing on wood. And they would congratulate themselves that what they had done was an act of honor that protected their people, their nation and their religion from one who came to shame it. In the language of the parable, the son was striking the father with crushing, killing blows saying, you are evil, you are shameful, you are evil, someone needs to end the shame and bring honor to this family and I will do it by ridding this family of such a shameful father. And he says it as he beats him to death. That's how the story ended. The final irony is that the father who should have beaten the son is beaten to death by the wicked son in the greatest act of evil ever.

And they thought they were righteous and they didn't understand love, mercy and grace. Yet God the saving, gracious father in Christ uses that murder as the means by which He purchases our salvation. Let's pray. We've covered a lot, Father, in this session and we thank You for the richness of this teaching by our precious Lord. Help us to be gripped in our hearts by its wonders. We thank You that the worst that could be done to You became the best as in dying You purchased our life.

Do Your work in every heart, we pray. Make us grateful for such a father. In the name of Christ, amen. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, with a shocking conclusion to Jesus' famous parable, The Tale of Two Sons. That's the title of John's lesson. It's part of his study here on Grace to You, titled Foundations Volume Two.

Now, of course, when the subject is foundations, there is nothing more foundational for Christians than to consistently expose our minds to the Word of God. And John, even though we're a few days into the new year, it's not too late to consider a very practical means for encouraging a regular study of scripture in 2024. That leads me to say you could start this year with the MacArthur Daily Bible.

I know we're 10 days in, but you can catch up. The MacArthur Daily Bible is just that. There are 365 readings. Each one includes a portion of the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, and a little bit of a devotional tied in with that. And so it takes you through the Bible in that fashion in one year. This is the healthy way to cultivate your spiritual life and growth. Instead of sort of trying to figure out every day what you want to do, just grab onto this and go through the Bible. It assigns you a portion of scripture for every single day of the year, and it forces you to read the things that maybe you would not otherwise read. And there's so much refreshment in finding out things that you didn't know or you overlooked in the past. Going through this for a year will obviously take you through the entire Bible.

And do it at a pace that is manageable and you can actually learn. It'll introduce you to portions of scripture you're not familiar with and those that you can go back to to be even further enriched as you dig a little deeper. With the MacArthur Daily Bible, you never have to ask the question, what part of scripture should I read today?

It's all outlined for you. Get ready to be transformed as you take it in steadily and consistently the whole counsel of God. Order a copy of the MacArthur Daily Bible when you contact us today.

That's right, friend. The MacArthur Daily Bible will help you maximize the time that you spend studying God's Word each day. Order a copy when you call or go to our website. Contact us today. Our phone number here is 855-GRACE and our web address, The MacArthur Daily Bible costs $30 in hardcover and $20 in softcover, and shipping is free. Again, to order, call 855-GRACE or go to And friend, if I could ask you a favor, if John's current study, Foundations Volume 2, has shown you how to honor God in your parenting, if your family has been strengthened spiritually by the free resources available at, or if someone you know has come to faith in Christ through hearing our broadcasts, would you encourage us by letting us know? When you have a moment, email your story to letters at or send a letter to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Now for John MacArthur and our entire staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Remember to watch Grace To You television Sundays, check your local listings for times, and tune in again tomorrow as John continues his study, Foundations Volume 2, helping you know when it's time to leave a church and when it's time to stay put. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-10 05:33:37 / 2024-01-10 05:43:45 / 10

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