Act 4 – Jesus – The Parable of the Feasting Father

Sermon Series: The Drama of Scripture

By: Marissa Jadrich Ortiz – March 31, 2019

Welcome one and all! Whether or not you know it, God has given YOU special gifts that we all get to share because you are here today. We’re here together because Jesus has made us part of God’s family! Today we’re going to hear about how and why we became God’s family. I hope that you hear God speak to you today. And we really hope that you feel at home here this morning.

So for those of you who are adults, you’ve been missing out on some Parables the last few weeks that have been teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. If you’re a kid, I need to catch you up on the grown ups stuff, they’ve been talking about the Big Picture of Scripture. But I think this is going to be great, because kids are going to hear how Jesus’ parables fit into the Big Story of Scripture, and grown ups are going to hear a parable that helps us understand why Jesus is in the story at all. Can we handle all this? Yes we can. If you’re a teenager–I’m sorry I can’t connect this directly to your teaching time BUT I think you’re pros at acting like adults or kids as necessary to the situation, so I have full faith in you being possibly the most well-adjusted people in the room for the purposes of this sermon.

So let’s imagine the whole Bible were one story–well let’s imagine it’s a short story. If we could tell the whole story in like 10 sentences. What would it say?

  1. God made a good and beautiful world
  2. Humans stepped out of a relationship with God. From then on, there was always something sad and broken in the world–in people relationships, in bodies, in the earth, and in the relationship between God and people.
  3. But God NEVER stopped loving the people God made! Even as the world and people kept going wrong, God was always committed to God’s people. God promised to always protect and provide for them.

Today we get to talk about the next chapter–Jesus! Basics about Jesus, Jesus was a human person and also Jesus was God. All the way both, at the same time. So what are some things we know about Jesus, even without opening a Bible, that have to be true just because Jesus was a human? I’ll start you off: Jesus had favorite foods. Jesus had boogers in his nose. Anyone else?

Now a few things about Jesus that we know are true because Jesus is also God: Remember how last week we talked about God’s commitment to God’s people, HESED, that loyal love that is always and forever? Jesus has that too. No matter what happens, no matter what people did or said to Jesus, Jesus had that never-giving-up commitment to keep loving them, just like God does. Remember we talked about God’s justice, God’s MISHPAT too. God’s power is about protecting and providing for people, it’s about making the broken things in the world right again. Because Jesus is God, Jesus has ALL THE POWERS!! But because Jesus is God, he doesn’t use them to get people’s attention or make people do what he says. He uses them to take care of others. To feed and heal and set people free from demons.

Jesus started his ministry by announcing, “The Kingdom of Heaven is here!” Everyone knew what that meant. That means God’s Ultimate Mishpat Rescue Plan, the part where God empowers a new King to crush God’s enemies, just like in the Exodus. What great news! And everyone could see that Jesus was special. Jesus healed everyone who came to him. He fed thousands of people. The demons listened to him and did what he said. When Jesus spoke, he spoke with authority–that means he sounded like someone who really was in charge. Someone who could really do all the things God said that God would do for them.

Jesus started telling parables, teaching stories, to give people a flavor for what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. And I gotta tell you, sometimes it did not sound a whole lot like the Ultimate Mishpat Rescue Plan they were hoping for.

One story Jesus told was about a mustard seed. Actually Jesus told a lot of stories about seeds. Jesus said that the kingdom is like this seed that sits in the ground. It gets water and sun and time. Lots of time. And eventually it grows and grows and grows into this giant vegetable. God’s kingdom isn’t something you win like a battle or a contest. It’s something you grow like a garden. Things that grow grow grow slow slow slow, these are important things. Like food. Like children.  

Another story Jesus told was about a bunch of guys hired to work for 1 day in a vineyard. The land owner hired some of them at the beginning of the day. Some of them in the middle of the day. Some of them at the very last hour of the day. And the owner paid ALL of them the same thing, a fair wage for a day of work. The guys who had worked all day were so upset! Why didn’t we get paid more than they did? And the owner says “are you angry that I’m generous?” Instead of telling a story about God’s Ultimate Mishpat Powers putting everyone in their place, Jesus tells us this story about one person using the power, land, and money God gave him to protect and provide for the people who needed to earn money for the day. Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is in these little Mishpat actions that ordinary people do.

So now I’m going to tell you my favorite thing about the Kingdom of Heaven, and this is something there are lots of parables about. There’s room for EVERYONE! EVERYBODY is invited. That includes you!! I didn’t tell you this last week but all that cool covenant commitment stuff doesn’t really apply to most of us because we’re gentiles. But as Jesus lived out the perfect relationship with God as a human, and with humans as God, Jesus’s life and death wrote a new covenant that broke down every barrier that could exclude someone from God’s family.

This sounds like good news–but Jesus understands something that is probably a little too familiar. Some people have a hard time believing that God accepts them. And other people are more upset that God would accept that loser over there than they are happy that they are accepted themselves! You know when I was a kid someone told me that in heaven we all have mansions, everybody gets their own mansion. And then later in life I was reading this passage in John, In my father’s house there are many rooms, I am going there to prepare a place for you. And I realized, oh that’s not a lot of houses, that’s just one house with a lot of rooms! Some folks might end up living in very close quarters with other people who they don’t think should be in heaven at all. It’s going to be a real awkward moment. That’s what it’s like being in God’s family.

Parable Storytime

But Jesus told it better as a parable. It goes like this.

Once there was a father who had 2 sons.

The younger son spoke to his father. He said, ‘Father, give me my share of the family property. Everything I would get from you when you die, I want it NOW.’

His dad said yes. Would your dad say yes to that? The father divided his property between the two sons.

Soon, the younger son packed up all he had. Then he left for a country far away. There he wasted his money. He did whatever he wanted! He spent everything he had. Then the whole country ran low on food. It was a famine. The son had no money, and he was hungry. He went to work for someone who lived there. His job was feeding pigs. The son was so hungry and miserable! Even the pigs got fed more than he did! He wished he could eat the pig food, no one gave him anything.

Then he came to his senses. He said, Even the people who work for my father have more than enough food! And I am dying from hunger! I will get up and go back to my father. I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven. And I have sinned against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son. Let me just be another person who works for you. So he got up and went to his father.

While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He was filled with tender love–HESED– for his son. He ran to him. He threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Just like he’d rehearsed, the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’

But his dad didn’t even let him finish that speech he’d written. The father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Kill the fattest calf and cook up tacos for everyone. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. My son was dead. And now he is alive again. He was lost. And look! now he is found.’ So they all began to celebrate! Everybody except one…

All this time, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house after all his work, he heard music. He saw people dancing! “What is going on?!” he asked one of the servants. “Your brother has come home,’ the servant told him. ‘Your father has butchered the fattest calf and cooked up tacos so everyone can celebrate! He has done this because your brother is back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry. He refused to go in.

So his father went out and begged him to join the party! But here’s what he said to his dad. ‘Look! All these years I’ve worked so hard for you. I was like a slave, always obeying your orders. You never even gave me a little goat I could barbecue with my friends. I saw how this son of yours wasted all your money. Now he comes home. And for him you throw a party!’

His dad sighed. “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me. Everything I have is yours.

Don’t you understand? We HAVE TO celebrate. We have to be happy. Your brother was dead. And now he is alive again. He was lost. And now he is found.

And that’s where the story ends.

What a strange story! This is how Jesus tells his followers what God’s Kingdom is like. The love in God’s Kingdom is soooo wide, that God goes running after people who think they have no place at God’s table. The generosity in God’s Kingdom is so extravagant that it makes some people angry that God could give so much. The justice in God’s Kingdom isn’t just the kind that puts people in their place–it’s the kind that CAN’T STOP from throwing a party. Are we ready to accept a justice that has that much joy in it?

The party is already going on! Jesus says. The fattened calf has been slaughtered. The tacos are served. There is a place for you, for everyone! The responsible brother, the foolish one, the household servants. The only people who aren’t at the party are the ones who wouldn’t come.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection makes always more and more room at the table. That’s why we’re here! The feast, through Jesus, overcomes every barrier between different people and between people and God. Jesus lives out a human dependence on and faithful love toward God. And Jesus also lives out God’s abundance, compassion, and healing toward people. As the upmost expression of God’s generosity, Jesus becomes the feast open to anyone who will come in.