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God’s Word for You

Luke 15:20-24 He was lost and is found

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

20 So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still far off in the distance, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. He ran to him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.  21 Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son….”  22 But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. we will have a feast and we will celebrate, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

Look carefully at the point Jesus makes with verses 20 and 21: The father forgave the son before the son made his confession. We might insist on fruits of repentance, a show of one’s change of heart through a change of life, but God knows what’s in our hearts. In fact, the father interrupts the son before he can make his full confession, which he rehearsed earlier (Luke 15:18-19).

The father wants to give his son the best robe (I’ve tried to bring out the subtlety of Jesus’ wording in the translation), a stole (στολή), the robe of nobles or state officials. The forgiven sinner is dressed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, “clothed…with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Notice that the son does not do this to himself, by his own choosing or decision, but is dressed by the father’s servants.

The father wants the son to wear a ring, a dactylion (δακτύλιον), a sign of his sonship and perhaps of authority, too, like the one Pharaoh gave to Joseph (Genesis 4:42; cp. Daniel 6:17; Haggai 2:23; Esther 3:10 and 8:10). “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion” (Hosea 2:19). God our Father claims us as his own and shows us that he is confident that we will live lives worthy of being called by his name, Christian. “Go now,” Jesus said, “and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

The father also wants the son to be shod with sandals or shoes. A slave or servant might go barefoot, but a son never did. A man might go barefoot if he was in mourning, as David did at the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:30; cp. Micah 1:7). A captive might also have to walk barefoot (Isaiah 20:2-4). But a son would be clothed by his parents (Genesis 37:3; Proverbs 31:21; 1 Samuel 2:19), just as God made sure that his priests were clothed in excellent robes as they served in the tabernacle (Exodus 28:4).

The father’s joy wells up in an exclamation that has deep spiritual significance: “This son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.” This is our status before God:

  • “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
  • “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13).
  • “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” (Colossians 2:13).
  • “We know that we have passed from death to life” (1 John 3:14).
  • “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24).

And all this is God’s doing, not our own. The son in the parable came back to be a slave, but his father restores him as his son. The contrite believer is not sent outside the walls of heaven to shovel out the barn or wash the windows. He is brought back inside, a feast is prepared for him as God’s own child and heir, and he is mended and bound up by God’s grace and mercy. “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak” (Ezekiel 34:16). “My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.” (Jeremiah 24:6).

God doesn’t even allow us stand speechless toward all his mercy and his gifts. He opens our mouths to sing his praises. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51:15). “Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed. Save me, and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise… What comes from my lips is before you” (Jeremiah 17:14,16 EHV). God draws praise from our lips and we join in with all our hearts. We have been found! We are alive in Christ! We will live forever, because God has had mercy on us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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