Fourth Sunday in Lent March 26-27, 2022
“Through A Father’s Eyes” Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
About 10 days ago we had a birthday lunch for two members of our staff who recently grew a year older. Dawn Munson, our Administrative Assistant, and Rachel Becker, our Custodian, were the guests of honor. When I looked around the table, I knew that I was unfairly outnumbered – outmanned, if you will. Michael Zehnder, our Director of Music, the only other male on staff, was gone that day – he was on a vacation to the warmth of Mexico and the Caribbean.
One, two, three, four, grown women, and the two one-year-old twins, of course, both female – and me. Even though the March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament was ready to tip-off, the mother’s and the aunt’s in that room only wanted to talk about babies. Babies when they were babies. Babies when they were toddlers. Their “babies” who are now grown up. They spoke about things through a mother’s eyes.
But today I want to speak about things through a father’s eyes. But not just any father. The eye’s of the father in our parable. This father had not just one son but two. This father had not just one prodigal – wayward – son, but two of them. Today you get to look into his eye’s and find the deep love he had for his sons.
Jesus tells this parable due to this situation…Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him [Jesus]. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable…” (Luke 15:1-3) The religious people didn’t like the fact that Jesus associated with bad people.
A father had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” The eyes of his father must have been pained. “Father, I consider you dead to me. I’m not going to wait till the funeral to receive my inheritance. Give it to me now.” “I don’t want you to be my father and I don’t want to be your son.”
In those days one-third of the estate in the inheritance would go to the younger son. The father would have to liquidate a portion of his property to make that happen. He would have to turn the land into cash. The father’s eyes had to be pained, in shock, blindsided by such a selfish request.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” (Luke 15:13) This kid was involved in “wild living.” You can just picture that, can’t you? Literally those words mean, “living without control.” The father now had bags under his eyes. Worry. What had his son come to?
But the eyes that were shocked and pained and hurt and worried also were eyes living in some type of hope. “Maybe he’ll come home.” This story tells us that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.” (Luke 15:20a) How long did he wait? How long did he say to himself, “Maybe he’ll come home today”? How many times did he go to the top of the hill, squinting, and hoping, to see him walking the path back home? The father’s eyes, pained, hurt, and worried were also hoping for some good news.
I wonder how many of you know what it is like to see life through this father’s eyes. You may know of a prodigal in your life. You worry about them. Their choices have pained you. Or, maybe you are the one who has run away from everyone and anyone. Your path may be a bad road. In this parable the father is God, our Heavenly Father. This word is about how God loves you, and every person, and desires every single person to come home.
I want you to see the father’s eyes. They are focused. Singular in purpose. In preparation for this sermon I read something that I didn’t know. “At least one commentator suggests that the father runs to his son not to welcome him but to protect him from hostile villagers angry at what the son had done. His public embrace and kiss preempts any hostile reaction from them.” (Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 29, Part 2, Series C, Page 20) What the son did disgraced his father, his family and the community. The father had the eye of protection for his son.
The father’s eyes were filed with grace and love and forgiveness. This father had known great distress. His son had failed him. But when his son, his much-loved son, came back, the extravagant reception looked like this, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” “The father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:20, 22-24) His eyes feared the worst – lost and dead, but realized the best – alive and found.
The artist Rembrandt has many pieces of masterful art. One of his most well-known paintings is called “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. When we see the father embracing his son, you’ll notice something quite peculiar about the drawing – the hands of the father don’t match. His left hand is large, the fingers are spread apart – the hand of a man. But the right hand is the hand of a woman. Smaller. The fingers are soft, much closer together. In Isaiah 49 the prophet speaks, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Your walls are ever before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16) When those 4 ladies on our staff were having “baby-talk” about their little kids I was amazed at the details they could remember about events in their kids lives. Dates. Places. From years ago. Those events are stuck in their souls. (And I have trouble remembering the first and middle names of my three kids!!)
The hands of compassion from the father came from his eyes filled with forgiveness. The teary eyes of having him back, alive and well, become eyes of joy and relief. Even though there was a famine in the land it didn’t hinder the plans of the father. He threw the most extravagant and expensive party for that boy!! The fattened calf was the main course.
But the eyes of the father weren’t only focused on the wayward son who found his way back from his terrible past. There was another son who was just as lost as the younger one. The older son was lost and dead and he didn’t even know it. The older son represented those who muttered that Jesus was the one who welcomed sinners and ate with them. The older son was like the Pharisees who wouldn’t get their hands dirty by associating with people who weren’t as good as them. The older son had his nose stuck in the air.
The older son was invited to join in the celebration, but he refused. In Luke 15 we read, “Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked 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.’” (Luke 15:25-27) Where were the father’s eyes in all of this? They started looking for the older son. He wasn’t at the party. The father left the party and went out to his son and pleaded with him to join in the joy. Just as he looked for the younger one to come home, so he went looking for his other son. But his older son refused his father’s invitation.
His eyes again were hurt. His son, this son, didn’t understand grace, or forgiveness, or mercy. The father told him, “My son, you are 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.” (Luke 15:31-32)
This, the greatest parable in the Bible, is all about the desire of God for all to receive new life by the forgiveness of Jesus and another chance to live life. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Jesus also said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31)
Look at the Father’s eyes. They invite you to come home. Amen!!