Everlasting Father

Scriptures: John 1:1-5 & Luke 15:11-32

Title: Everlasting Father

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Jesus is the source
  • Jesus has all authority
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

On the wall here we have a picture of 3 men: George Washington, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela

–         Can anyone tell me what these three men have in common? [Wait]

–         That’s right – they are all leaders and in fact are the Father’s of their Nation, respectively

 

‘Father of the Nation’ is an honorific title given to a man considered the driving force behind the establishment of his country

–         George Washington is the Father of the Nation of the United States of America – he was the first U.S. President

–         Nelson Mandela is the Father of the Nation of modern South Africa – he was the first black president

–         Mahatma Ghandi is considered by most people to be the Father of the Nation of India because of his role in campaigning for independence from British rule and advocating for the rights of the poor (although the Indian government doesn’t officially recognise the title)

 

I’m not sure if NZ has a Father of the Nation as such

–         In any case, the Father of the Nation is the person who established their country and way of life, albeit with the help of others

 

Today we continue our series on the royal titles ascribed to the Messiah in Isaiah 9, verse 6

–         Isaiah 9 is often read at Christmas time as Christians believe this prophecy is talking about Jesus – verse 6 is familiar to many of us…

–         For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

–         So far we have considered the titles Wonderful Counsellor and Prince of Peace. Today we consider how the title Everlasting Father fits for Jesus

 

In some ways it seems odd to ascribe the title of ‘Father’ to Jesus – we are more inclined to think of Jesus in the role of God’s Son or the Son of Man

–         But when we consider who a father is and what a father does we soon see how the title Everlasting Father fits hand in glove for Jesus

 

Among other things, Jesus came to establish God’s Kingdom (His country) on earth – Jesus is the Father of the Nation for us Christians

 

There are many characteristics or facets of fatherhood that we could explore in relation to Jesus but I only plan to touch on two this morning

–         Jesus is our Father in the sense that he is the source of our life and of God’s Kingdom

–         And Jesus is our Father in the sense that he has all authority in heaven and on earth

 

Jesus is the source:

First let’s consider Jesus as the source of life

–         Please turn with me to John chapter 1, page 118 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         These are the opening verses to John’s gospel – they talk about Jesus the source, the Word at the beginning

–         From John 1, verses 1-5, we read…

 

In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this Scripture for us

 

The Greek language has two expressions for Word – Logos and Rhema

–         Rhema (as in Radio Rhema) refers to the spoken word

–         While logos (as in logic) is the unspoken word – the thought or the idea  inside someone’s mind before it is expressed

–         The logos comes before the rhema – we could say the logos is the father of the rhema (the thought is the source of the spoken word)

 

Jesus is the logos of God – Jesus embodies what God is thinking & feeling & willing

–         Jesus is the logos (or the logic) through whom God created the world – one with God before time began

–         If we want to know where we came from, and therefore what it means to be human, we look to Jesus – someone very good

–         He is the source of our life and the source of God’s kingdom on earth

 

If the Kingdom of God is compared to a forest then Jesus is the single seed from which the forest began – he was planted and died and raised to eternal life

–         Or if the Kingdom of God is compared to a river then Jesus is the spring or the lake which feeds the river

–         Or if the Kingdom of God is compared to a house then Jesus is the architect and builder of that house

–         Jesus is an Everlasting Father because he has conquered death and his Kingdom (his way of life) never comes to an end

–         His seed never perishes, his spring never runs dry, his foundation never erodes – he is the light which the darkness has never put out

 

I don’t need to labour this point – you get it – Jesus is the source of life and in that sense he is our Everlasting Father

–         Jesus is also our Everlasting Father in the sense that all authority in heaven and on earth rests with him

 

Jesus has all authority:

Please turn with me to Luke chapter 15, page 100 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         This story is commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son

–         ‘Prodigal’ is a word that simply means wasteful or extravagant

–         This story might be better described as the parable of the loving father and the two lost sons

–         The father in this parable reminds us of Jesus – he shows extravagant love to both of his sons. From Luke 15, verses 11-32, we read…

 

11 Jesus went on to say, “There was once a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons. 13 After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. 14 He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. 15 So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. 16 He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. 17 At last he came to his senses and said, ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! 18 I will get up and go to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you. 19 I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.”’ 20 So he got up and started back to his father.

“He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son, and kissed him. 21 ‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’ 22 But the father called to his servants. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. 23 Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! 24 For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began.

25 “In the meantime the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What’s going on?’ 27 ‘Your brother has come back home,’ the servant answered, ‘and your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.’ 28 The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. 29 But he spoke back to his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! 30 But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’ 31 ‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’”

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

 

Authority is the right to do something, as distinct from power which is the ability to do something

–         I might have the power (or ability) to drive a car but without a license or a warrant of fitness I don’t have the authority to drive

 

In the culture in which the Bible was written the father had authority over everyone in his household – it was simply given that he was the boss

–         The father’s word was practically law – he had the license to tell those under his roof what to do

–         It was considered a huge disgrace, a great shame, when someone in the household undermined the father’s authority

–         By the same token, how the father chose to exercise his authority revealed a great deal about his character

–         In the parable, in Luke 15, the father (who points to Jesus) uses his authority to protect and restore his sons

 

Jesus’ story starts with a dysfunctional family

–         The younger son dishonours his father by asking for his share of the estate while his father is still alive, which is like saying he wishes his father were dead

–         And the older son isn’t much better – he dishonours his father by doing nothing to stop his younger brother

–         If the older brother had cared about his family he would have intervened

 

The father has the authority (or the right) to say ‘no’ to his son and not give him an advance on his inheritance – in fact the father has a license to give his son a severe beating and send him away empty handed, but he doesn’t

–         The father uses his authority graciously – giving his younger son what he asks for

–         As the Everlasting Father Jesus has authority over us but he doesn’t use his authority to trap us or coerce us – we have considerable freedom with Christ

 

The prodigal son leaves town and squanders his inheritance – money he was supposed to use to care for his Dad in his old age

–         The younger son has basically wasted his father’s superannuation fund

–         When the money runs out the young man finds himself in a personal hell of his own making

–         He comes to his senses and decides to return home, not because he loves his father but because he is starving. His plan is to say…

–         ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers’

 

The young man is repenting but on his own terms

–         His repentance comes with the idea that he might still save himself

 

Verse 20 says…

–         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.

 

Here we have a picture of the father’s welcome – a welcome which ensures the son’s safety

–         Men in Middle Eastern culture never run in public – it is a very undignified thing to do

–         And yet the father humiliates himself in front of the whole village by running to his boy

–         Why does he do this?

 

Well – two reasons…

–         Firstly the father wanted to demonstrate his great love for his son, so the son would know beyond all doubt that he is valued and accepted

 

And secondly the father was protecting his son from the rest of the village

–         The neighbours would have looked at disgust on the younger son who had rejected his father and his home

–         They would most likely have mocked him and shouted abuse at him as he returned to the village

–         For in leaving the village the way he did the son not only rejected his father, he also offended his community

–         By running out to greet him the father saves his son from running the gauntlet

–         By throwing his arms around his boy and kissing him the father sends a clear message to the other villagers to accept his son & not mistreat him

 

This picture of the father leaving his house and running out to welcome his son is a picture of what God has done for us in Christ

–         By leaving heaven, by humiliating himself and going to the cross, Jesus has run the gauntlet to save us

–         Jesus, like the father in this parable, uses his authority to protect those in his household

 

After the father’s welcome the son begins his pre-prepared speech saying…

–         ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

–         But then he stops short of offering his own solution

–         Overwhelmed by the father’s extravagant grace the son cannot say, ‘make me like one of your hired men’ , because he realizes this would be to reject his father all over again

–         His father does not want another servant – he wants his son back

–         As unworthy as he knows he is the son confesses his wrong doing and abandons his plan to save himself

–         Instead he humbly receives what the father offers, for this is what the son needs and it is what the father wants [1]

–         It’s what Jesus, the logos of God, wants

 

One of the things we get from our fathers is a sense of identity

–         Identity is about knowing where we come from and who we are

–         With identity comes belonging & security

–         Other people can’t give us a sense of identity in quite the same way that our fathers can because other people don’t have the same kind of authority as our fathers

–         I’m not suggesting that we are all predestined to be just like our dads

–         Our identity is also shaped by the choices we make and the cultural milieu we are a part of

–         But at some deep level our father’s treatment of us has a profound influence on what we believe about ourselves

–         If your dad ignores you or treats you badly then that carries more weight somehow than when a stranger or a friend mistreats you

–         Likewise, if your dad treats you with respect and trusts you then that carries more weight because your father (implicitly) has more authority

 

 

To call Jesus, ‘Everlasting Father’ is to say, ‘Jesus, you are the father figure, or the authority figure, in my life. I get my identity from you’

–         When we consider what Jesus has done for us, giving his life for ours, that should have a profoundly positive effect on what we believe about ourselves – we matter, our lives are valuable, but not because of what we produce or achieve. The younger son was wasteful & unproductive and yet he was still accepted.

–         We are not hired hands, we are sons & daughters of God

 

By accepting the father’s costly grace the younger son is found – he is born again in a sense. And he now lives with the father (willingly) as a son and not as a hired hand

 

The father wants his son to experience welcome & care from the whole community so he exercises his authority, saying to his servants…

–         ‘Hurry, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast…’

 

As Kenneth Bailey observes, the father does not say to his son, ‘Go and have a wash and get yourself changed’. He actually orders the servants to dress him

–         In this way the son is assured of proper respect & care from the servants

 

The best robe is probably one of the father’s own robes and is a sign to everyone that the son is accepted by the father

–         The ring is quite likely a symbol of authority – like a signet ring – which implies that the father trusts the son in an astonishing way

–         Jesus shares his authority with us

–         And the shoes are a sign that the son is a free man in the house – he is not a slave or a servant

–         So by dressing the younger son in this way the servants are demonstrating that they accept the son as their master has

 

The father’s final instruction to the servants is to kill the prize calf and prepare a party for the whole village, to celebrate the prodigal’s return

–         In sharing this meal the village would then be able to make their peace with the son

–         The father’s purpose is to help reconcile his son to those he will now be living with

–         The father (like Jesus) uses his authority to restore his son

 

But it’s not just the younger son who needs to be restored

–         The older son is also lost, even though he has never left home

–         The younger brother was outwardly estranged and rebellious

–         While the older brother was inwardly estranged and rebellious in his heart

–         Both of them were lost in their own way

 

When the older son learns that his father has killed the fattened calf to celebrate his younger brother’s return he becomes angry and refuses to go in

–         He turns a family disagreement into a public spectacle and brings shame on his father

 

For the second time in this parable the father (in a generous outpouring of love) humiliates himself by leaving the house and seeking one of his sons

–         He pleads with his first born to come in, but the older son says…

–         ‘Look! All these years I have worked for you like a slave and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? …’

–         Clearly the older son is alienated from his Dad

–         He sees himself as a slave and not as a son

 

Jesus’ Middle Eastern audience would expect the father to be furious at his eldest son but the father is gracious & truthful

–         Far from being angry the father appeals to his son to rejoice in his brother’s return

–         The older son represents the Pharisees and religious leaders

–         Jesus is like the father in the parable in that he is pleading with the religious leaders to come in and join the party – to celebrate the return of the lost sons & daughters of Israel

–         But Jesus doesn’t use his authority to strong arm or coerce the religious leaders – he doesn’t need another slave, he wants people to be free

 

The parable ends there. It is left hanging – the conclusion unresolved

–         The older son is still outside deciding whether he is going to be a son or a slave. What will he choose?

 

Conclusion:

Authority is something that many people in our society resist today

–         Some resist authority in openly aggressive ways, like the younger son

–         And others resist in more passive aggressive ways, like the older son

–         This anti-authority (down with the man) attitude could be because leaders sometimes abuse their authority and break trust with those around them

–         But it might also be that people have generally become more self-centred, by which I mean the centre of authority has shifted to the individual

–         So people are more inclined to think – I can do what I like

 

To say that Jesus is the Everlasting Father is to say that Jesus is the source of life and our ultimate authority

–         Jesus never abuses his authority – he uses his authority for the well-being of others, to protect and restore

–         But the distinctive thing about Jesus’ authority is that it’s everlasting

–         The governments and powers of this world will pass, but Jesus’ kingdom will never end – he is the Father of an Eternal Nation

 

Footnote:

[1] Refer Kenneth Bailey, ‘Poet & Peasant’

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