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The Joy of the Father

Luke 15:1-2, 15-32

By Josephus Bartuah

June 18, 2023

Thank you for checking out this sermon. If you are moved by what you hear and are in the Boston area, consider visiting in person!

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It's awesome. Good morning, church. My name is Josephus Bartuah, and I get the privilege of serving as a campus minister in this church. It's such a joy to preach the Word to you today. Please turn your Bibles with me to Luke 15. I know that it's already been said, but I'm going to say it one more time. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers in this room. If you're visiting the church for the very first time today, I want you to know that you've just walked into a room filled with amazing fathers, fathers who love God, and fathers who love their kids. The fathers in this room are one of the many treasures of the church. I know that Father's Day can be a painful day for some, and we recognize that. As a church, we can mourn with those who mourn but also rejoice with those who rejoice. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. As we mourn the complicated nature of fatherhood in the broken world, we also celebrate all the amazing fathers in this room. The fathers are called to be providers and protectors.

The fathers in this room are providing and protecting their families and providing and protecting the church. To you, the fathers, I want to say I am so honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you to raise the next generation in the Lord. I'm grateful to learn from you. Before jumping to the sermon this morning, I want to tell you a little bit about fatherhood. This is my son, his name is Julius. He's riding a bike right there. I just got him a new bike. That's his first bike. He's the boy that made me a father three years ago. I'm still a rookie, but I've learned a few things in my fatherhood. Fathers, we love our routines. Our mindset is if it's not broken, don't fix it. We like to keep things simple. We like tradition. Last year, my wife, she asked me, What do you want to do for Father's Day? I was like, I don't know. Take me to Texas Roadhouse. That's where I'm going. I want to try some of that butter, that bread from Texas Roadhouse, that barbecue, ribs right there. Guess what I'm going after this? I'm going to Texas Roadhouse.

Next year, it's already planned, I'm going to Texas Roadhouse again. If it's not broken, don't fix it. Another thing about fatherhood is fathers can never find anything in the house. Can any father relate to me on that? Fathers can never find anything in the house. I can't tell you how many times Katrina will ask me to go into Julius's room to get a diaper, and I'm searching the room for five hours, and I can't find the diaper. I come out and I can't see it. I can't find it. She goes, Did you look? I'm like, Yes, I looked for five hours. She comes in and the diaper is right there. Fathers can never find anything in the house. It is such a joy to be a father. Another thing I've learned about fatherhood is a father's joy is tethered to his child. A father's joy is always tethered to his child. I love being a father to Julius. I have another boy on the way coming in August, August ninth. I am hoping for August eighth or August 10th. I just feel like August ninth, I don't really like odd numbers, but pray for that if you want.

But this is Julius right here. He was hiding inside my desk. He snuck into my office as I was writing this sermon. He loves being around his dad. In his first three years, he was always a mama's boy. I kept telling Katrina, Just wait, he's going to be a Papa's boy soon. Now, over the last five months, he's been drifting away to my side. He's always hanging around with me. But he brings me so much joy. I remember when he was born, there's a picture here when he was first born in the hospital. The midwives told me to take off my shirt. I didn't know what was going on. They said, Take off your shirt. You're going to do skin-to-skin with your son. They took his bare skin and put it on my skin, his chest. And they've done so many studies now that skin-to-skin contact with the father and with the mother is good for the kid's cognitive development. And so we did skin-to-skin in the hospital for a couple of days. And when we came back home, my perspective was if it was good for the hospital, it was good for the home.

So we kept doing skin-to-skin. And these days we'll be hanging out in the home and wrestling. And he would say, Dada, that's my name now. It went from Papa to Dada. and he says Dada, skin to skin. When he says that, I know what time it is. He knows what time it is. He's taking up his shirt, I'm taking up my shirt, and we're doing skin-to-skin. I don't know how long this is going to last. It might last till middle school. It might last till when he's in high school. He might be in college and we still might be doing skin-to-skin I love it. But he brings me so much joy. When you talk to any father about their child, their eyes light up. They show you pictures of their child. There's such joy to fatherhood. The title of the sermon today is The Joy of Fatherhood. The Joy of Fatherhood. God is revealed to us in Scripture as a father. Sometimes when we think about God, we think of him with a frown on his face, someone who is angry, or maybe someone who is burdened by all the sin and all the wickedness in the world.

But when you read the Bible, you come to see that God is not a stoic savior. God is not a robotic redeemer. God is a joyful father. That's the point that Jesus is trying to drive home here in Luke 15. In Luke 15, verse 1, it says, Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. And here in Luke 15, Jesus was hanging around with sinners and tax collectors. The tax collectors were Jewish people who were working for the Roman oppressors. They were considered to be traitors to their own people. They were seen as the lowest of the low on the moral ladder of the culture. And here we see Jesus gathering with the tax collectors. Jesus hung around with sinners. He hung around with the riff-raffs of his day. And the Pharisees hated this. The religious leader of Jesus's day couldn't fathom, they couldn't understand. Why would someone claiming to be the son of God hang around with sinners? They hated Jesus because of it. Jesus gathered with sinners. Aren't you grateful that Jesus hung around with sinners?

If Jesus only hung around with perfect people, none of us would hang out with Jesus. The Prophet Isaiah said that our best works are like filthy rags. And so these people, to help these religious leaders of his day, understand something about God's heart towards sinners, Jesus tells them three stories in the form of parables. These three parables end with the same conclusion. They all end with rejoicing and celebration. In Luke 15, we see the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son. This morning, I want to zoom in on that last parable, the parable of the lost son. Luke 15, verse 11. Are you guys with me? Yes. Jesus continued, There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, Father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them. Stop right there. This parable is a very simple parable. It's about a father with two sons. The younger son came to his father. He goes, Give me my inheritance. Give me my share of the estate. He's basically saying to his father, You are dead to me.

Because back then, like now, you will only get your father's inheritance after your father is dead. He's telling his father, I don't want anything to do with this family. I don't want anything to do with you. I don't want to be under your authority. This is an awful request for a son to make to a father. In first-century Middle Eastern culture, this request was deeply disrespectful to the father. After the son made this request, the father had the legal right to bring the son out into the public square and have the entire community stone him to death. The son craves autonomy, but the father gives his son autonomy. Whenever you're flying, whenever you're on an airplane, you get on the airplane, what do you do? You put your bag in the cabin, you sit down and you listen to music, you chitchat, you watch the movie, and the flight attendant gives you the safety instruction. You have to listen to the safety instruction, hoping that you don't need the safety instruction at a certain time. And you put your seat belt on and you let the pilot take you to your destination. What you don't do is you don't go up to the pilot and you go, Actually, I want to pilot the plane today.

I want to be the pilot of the plane. You don't do that because that would be silly. Sometimes we think that we can be the pilot of our own lives. That's precisely what this son is doing. He's trying to be the pilot of his own life. Let's see how that turns out. In Verse 13, it says, Not long after that, the son got together all he had, set up for a distant country, and there squandered his wealth in wild living. The word squander there means wasteful. It means reckless. It's where we get the word prodigal from, to be prodigal is to be wasteful, it's to be reckless. The son didn't take his father's wealth and invest it. Maybe he did invest it, but he invested it into crypto. I don't know. But he wasted his father's wealth. He wasted his father's wealth on sin. Sin will make you stupid. Sin will make you do stupid things. Whenever you leave the father's house, whenever you reject a relationship with God, you will always live a wasteful life. In verse 14, it says, After he has spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. He was living a life of sin and then a severe famine hit. Something that was outside of his control. Sometimes you think you can be the pilot of your own life until you hit turbulence and you can't control the wind and you can't control the storm. Everyone enjoys being the pilot of their own life then they hit turbulence and they can't control the storm and they start to go down. The family hits and you already wasted all his money. And then he went to be a servant to another person. He went from being a son to a servant and he was sent to feed pigs. No Jewish boy in his right mind would ever come close to a pig. Pigs were a dietary restriction in Israel. As Jesus is sharing this parable, the idea that a Jewish boy would feed pigs would have shocked the listening audience. Even more shocking than that, he longed to eat the pig's food.

He starts off with being a son in his father's palace, going to a distant country, losing everything on sin, being a servant, basically being a slave, going to the pig's pen, and now he's about to eat the pig's food. And that's what happens with sin. We go, Oh, it's just one sin? It's just one thing? And then it's another, compromise, and if you already eat, might as well just try this other sin. And before you know it, you're at the bottom of the pit. Sin will always take you further than you want to go. Sin is like skating on a pond of thin ice. It's fun for a moment, but you will go down. I bet that day when he was leaving his father's house, he never planned and never dreamed, Oh, one day I want to be in a pig's pen. He didn't say to himself, My dream for my life is to be in a pig's pen. No one ever planned to be in the pig's pen. Satan's greatest deception is to make you trade your dad's palace for the pig's pen. Don't make that trade. Don't leave your father's house thinking that there's something better out there for you.

Your father has everything you need. In verse 17, it says, When he came to his senses, I like this part, he came to his senses. He said, How many of my father's higher servants have food to spare, and yet I am starving to death? He came to his senses, and yet he has a moment of clarity. And sometimes your greatest moments of clarity will come in the middle of your greatest crisis. And he has a moment of clarity. He's in the pig pen and he realized, Hey, my father is a compassionate father. He rationalized to himself, Hey, if my father has compassion, even on the higher service, and he gives them food to spare, why wouldn't my father feed me? If my father is compassionate to the higher service, my father might be compassionate towards me. He came to realize, why would I starve in a famine when my father's fridge is full? I think of my son. Sometimes when I come home, he runs to me and he tells me the story of the day and how his day was. And sometimes you get understanding and sometimes you can't quite understand what you're saying.

But he usually said, Mama, give me a pow-pow. That means Mama, discipline me. And he wants me to discipline Mama, and I go, No, I'm not going to do that. But he tells me his story about his day, how his day was. And you can understand, sometimes we'll go for a walk around my neighborhood just to show him the different nature, the different trees, the different flowers. That's some of my earliest memories with my father. So I'm just trying to pass it down to the next generation. And then we go around and he's touching the trees, he's touching the leaves, and then he starts to play with the dirt. I don't mind him playing with the dirt. It's good for his immune system. But then sometimes he starts to eat the dirt. I go, No, don't eat the dirt. It will fill you up, but it's not going to nourish you. Your father's fridge is full. I got the green popsicle, the one you really like, it's in the fridge. I got the apple sauce, the one you really like, it's in the fridge. I got the cheeses and everything. You don't have to eat dirt.

It's not going to nourish you. Some of you, you've been eating things that fill you up, but it doesn't nourish you. It fills you up, but it will eventually kill you. You've been eating pigs' food for far too long. Why would you eat pigs' food when you can eat in the palace? Why would you starve in famine when your father's fridge is full? I came to let some of you know today that your father has something better on the dinner table. It's time to come to your senses. For some of you, it's time to come back to your father's house. The world will never satisfy you. Your wealth will never satisfy you. Only a relationship with God will satisfy your soul. It doesn't matter what you did in the past. It doesn't matter what you did in the pig's pen. You can always turn back to God because God is a compassionate father. Verse 18, He says to himself, I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your higher servants.

So he got up and went to his father. He comes to his senses. He comes up with a plan and he has an entire speech ready in his mind. He knows I can't just go to my father and my father accepts me to be his son again. I'm not worthy to be his son. So my best bet is to beg my father, see if my father has compassion on me so I can be one of his servants. If my father has enough compassion on me so I can be one of his servants. Then after many, many, many years of working, after many, many years of working and paying my father back, after many, many years, maybe, then just maybe, my father might accept me into the family again. He's thinking about this idea of restitution. In a legalistic culture, it was all about restitution. You had to pay back your debt before you could have any form of reconciliation. Although he sinned against his father, although his list of sins is as long as a CVS receipt, he was willing to beg his father. He was contrite, he was penitent. There is no reconciliation with your heavenly father without being contrite.

There's this idea in our culture today that you can live your life however way you want to. You don't have to be contrite. You don't really have to repent. You can have a cavalier approach before God because God is so loving. He's such a loving father. You can approach God however way you want and he will accept you. That's the lie straight from the pit of hell. God only accepts people who are contrite. God only accepts people who are cut to the heart. You see that with the story of Zechues in Luke Chapter 19. You see that with the 3,000 people who are baptized in Acts Chapter 2. Salvation is only for beggars. If you're too proud to beg, you cannot have a relationship with God. If you're not contrite, there is no forgiveness of sins. Let me ask you, how contrite are you before a holy God? When you look at the magnitude of your sin and you look at the holiness of God, when you compare the magnitude of your sin in comparison to the holiness of God, you must cultivate a sense of contrition before the throne of God. The son comes up with a plan.

He has a speech ready and he makes the long journey home. Now, think about the soundtrack of shame that was playing in his mind all through that journey. You're worthless. You're a disgrace. You're so sinful. Your father is going to reject you anyway. Why are you making this journey? Why are you coming this far? The soundtrack of shame is playing all through his mind on that journey. But what choice does he have? He's poor, he's hungry, he's lonely, he's exhausted, but he has a sense of contrition. He makes that journey home. In verse 20, it says, But while he was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. The son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. The father saw the son while the son was still a long way off. He ran to his son. In this culture, it was undignified for the older man to run. But the father doesn't care. In verse 20, it says he was filled with compassion.

He ran to his son, hugged him, and kissed him. The father expressed compassion even before the son expressed repentance. That's the God we worship. In verse 22, it says, But the Father said to his servants, Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sand his four feet. Bring the fighting calf and kill it. Let us have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. Before the son could finish his well-rehearsed speech, the father goes, No, it is time to celebrate. The son was begging to be a servant. The father restored him to sonship. The son was offering restitution. The father was offering restoration. The Father gives the order to kill the fattened calf. The fattened calf could feed over 200 people. This was not warm over leftovers. This was not a small dinner for a few friends. This was a massive celebration for the entire community. The Greek word there for celebration is euphraino. It means to be delighted. It means to rejoice, to be ecstatic. The Father was filled with joy because His Son had returned home.

The Father was jubilant. He was euphoric. He was excited. I know that this story is called The Prodigal Son. But if we're not careful, we'll miss the entire point of this story. This story is not about the Prodigal Son. The story is about the Prodigal Father, the Father who had a reckless love for his son. Understand the context. Jesus is teaching this parable to Pharisees, to religious leaders who hated the fact that Jesus was hanging around with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus is telling this parable to religious leaders so that they could understand something about our heavenly fathers' love towards sinners. This is the story about the prodigal father who is a good, good father. He does not hold your past against you. Psalm 103, verse 10 says, He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Psalm 103, verse 13 says, As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. The son came to his senses and he ran home. And the father saw the son at a distance and he embraced his son. As the son is coming to the father, the father went outside the house and the father could have done this.

But the father doesn't do that. The father did this. This would have hurt the son, but this brought healing to the son. This would have made the son more anxious, but this gave the son all the answers he needed. Sometimes in the middle of the night, my son will be sleeping and he's having a dream and you could tell it's a nightmare. He wakes up half awake, half asleep, a little frazzled, a little anxious. What do I do? I go in there and I just embrace him. His little soul just calms down. He gets less anxious and he's able to go back to sleep. The son left the father's house with dreams for the life he was going to build. But when his dream turned into a nightmare, in the middle of his nightmare, the father embraced the son. God is like that Father. He will embrace you when your dream turns into a nightmare. Our God is a good, good father. He is Noah's Ark. He will protect you from the storm. He is Moses' staff. He will make a way for you when there's no way. He is a pillar of fire. He will help you to see when you're in the dark.

He is a slingshot. He will always take down your Goliath. He is the man from heaven. He will feed you when you're hungry. He is Jonathan. He will be your best friend. He is Mordecai, always there to give you wise counsel. He is Barnabas. He will always be there to encourage you. Our Father is a good, good father. He is faithful when you're faithless. He is adequate for any situation. He is the perfect teacher. He is hopeful when you are hopeless. He will elevate you when you're down. He is reliable even when you're not reliable. I just felt father. Go back and check it out. Faithful, adequate, teacher, hopeful, elevate, reliable. Today, we came to celebrate the amazing father. He is the good, good Father. He is a good Shepherd. He will lead the 99 and come running after you. No one will ever love you the way God loves you. God's love for you surpasses human understanding. God doesn't have a beginning and he doesn't have an end. And so it just makes sense that his love for you doesn't have a beginning and it doesn't have an end. His love for you is reckless love.

He is the prodigal of Father. He will love you even when you're unlovable. He will love you in the good times and in the hard times. That's the God we worship. That's the Father we adore. That's the Father we came to celebrate today. That's the God we serve. Our God is an amazing Father. Our God is an amazing Father. In verse 25, it says, Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came to the house, he heard music and dancing. This party was lit. He heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him, What was going on? Your brother has come, he replied. And your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered, His father, look, all these years I've been slaving for you and never disobey your orders. Yet you never even give me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you killed the fine calf for him.

The party is lit. The music is on fire. The wine is tasty. The steak is juicy. Everyone is celebrating, but one person is not celebrating, the oldest son. Isn't it crazy that God could be doing something amazing right in front of your face, but you don't see it? Because instead of celebrating, you start complaining. Everyone is celebrating, but one person is not. The older brother represented the Pharisees. On the surface, the Pharisees were obedient, but underneath, Jesus said that they were whitewashed tombs. Jesus called them hypocrites. The Father greeted the younger brother with open arms. The older brother greeted the younger brother with folded arms. And sometimes we focus so much on the sin of the younger brother, and sometimes we miss and we forget about the sin of the older brother. And I get it, the sin of the younger brother was more obvious than the sin of the older brother, but it was still a sin. The older brother was so self-righteous, he didn't want to forgive his younger brother even after his father forgive his younger brother. In verse 30, he called his younger brother, that son of yours. He detaches himself from his brother.

Instead of calling his brother by his name or saying, my brother, he said, That son of yours. You see, this story is about two sons who were lost. One son was lost out in the streets. The other son was lost in the house. Just like the older brother, it is possible to be in the father's house and still be lost. It is possible to be in church, but not be in Christ. You're in the church today. But let me ask you, are you in Christ? The better question is, is Christ in you? It is possible to conform to the outward trapping of religiosity, but not really be transformed in your heart. In my experience, it is way easier to convert the younger brother than to convert the older brother. You don't have to convince the younger brother that he's in sin? He knows it. You don't have to convince the younger brother that he needs to repent. He knows it. It is much, much harder to convince the older brother that he, too, needs to repent. The older brother is in the father's house. He comes to church every Sunday. He says Amen to the sermons.

He knows all the church lingoes. He knows how to play church. He looks the part. On the surface, he looks like a disciple. He talks like a disciple. He walks like a disciple. He deceives everyone by thinking that he is a disciple. And in the end, he deceives himself. If you are the older brother in here today, you may be able to deceive everyone around you, but you cannot deceive God. God cannot be mocked. You will reap what you sow. Get right with God while you still have the chance. One of the greatest temptations for people in this room is to be like the older brother, to be religious but lost, and to have a critical judgmental spirit toward new people who are coming to the church. There are many new people checking out the church these days. And guess what? Some of them, they've never been to church before. They don't know how to act churchy. They don't know how to clap to the rhythm. They have a whole baggage of sin. Some of them have been wounded by previous religious experiences. What are you going to do when they walk into the door? Are you just going to huddle with your friends in your nice little circle, or are you going to expand your circle of friends?

Are you going to greet them like this, or are you going to greet them like this? If we're going to be a church that glorifies God, if we're going to be a church that impacts the world for Jesus, we cannot be like the Pharisees. We cannot be like the older brother. We are all in need of God's reckless grace. None of us are without sin. We must love people the same way Jesus loved people, showing them hospitality, inviting the tax collectors and the sinners into our homes, and loving them enough to show them the truth of God's Word. Let's end the sermon here in verse 31, The Father came out to the son, the older son. He said, My son, the Father said, you're always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found. Just like how the father ran out of the house to greet and show compassion to the younger brother. The father did the same thing. He ran out of the house to show compassion to the older brother.

You see, even Pharisees need grace, too. Even Pharisees need compassion, too. And he told his firstborn son. I can't imagine him wrapping his arm around his firstborn son's shoulders. And he said We have to celebrate. Your brother was lost and now he is found. We have to celebrate. I love that we worship a God who loves to celebrate. In Luke 15, verse 7, Jesus said, I tell you that in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent. If you don't like to celebrate, don't go to heaven. Heaven is going to be one massive celebration as we join the angels in heaven to worship God and give thanks to God for the grace we've received. When you read this story in Luke 15, it ended abruptly. But I imagine that the older brothers complaining didn't deter the younger brother from celebrating. The younger brother was hungry. He was living in shame. Now a party is being held in his honor? Are you kidding me? Do you know how encouraging that would be for him? I bet he looked at his older brother outside the window and he goes, You can complain all you want, but I will celebrate.

You can throw your pity party all you want, but I will celebrate. I'm not going to allow your pity party to ruin my party. I will celebrate because I came from a famine to a feast. I will celebrate because I was expecting restitution and I received restoration. I would celebrate with some fattened calf. I would celebrate with some dessert. I'm going to Texas Roadhouse to celebrate with some barbecue ribs. I would celebrate because my God is a good, good father. He snatched me from my shame. He offered me redemption even after I ran away from him. He gave me purpose and hope in this world. I would celebrate because he gave me his word. I would celebrate because he deposited his spirit in my soul. I would celebrate because he gave me an amazing boy to be my son. And on top of that, my cup runneth over. I have another boy coming up in August. Don't tell me there ain't nothing to celebrate about, older brother. You can frown your face all you want, older brother. You can wrap your arms around yourself all you want, older brother. But I came to celebrate.

I will celebrate because my Father's grace is bigger than my disgrace. I would celebrate because he's always working for my good and for his glory. I will celebrate because I was eating in the pig's pen and now I'm eating in the palace. I was celebrated because surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I would dwell in the house of my Father forever. Today, we came to celebrate all the amazing fathers in this room. By every single day, we are to celebrate the amazing Father in Heaven. He is a good, good father. Happy Father's Day. I hope this has been edifying. Thank you.

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