“Come to Jesus”

Luke 16:1-15

{Prayer}

            Kids, I want to ask you something as I begin. Do you know what a “come to Jesus” meeting is? … Okay, for those of you who know what it is, let me ask you this … have you ever had a “come to Jesus” meeting? … If you have, there is no need for me to further explain what a “come to Jesus” meeting is. But, for those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to have one yet, let me tell you … this ain’t the kind of “come to Jesus” meeting you want.

            You see, this “come to Jesus” meeting I’m talking about is one in which you have done something so terribly wrong or have pushed too many of your parent’s buttons that they lead you off to the cozy confines of the bathroom to give you a talkin’ too. In this “come to Jesus” meeting, your parents will probably say some things and express some frustration where you may see your life flash before your eyes and you will be begging for Jesus to come back and bring His joyful eternal kingdom with Him. A “come to Jesus” meeting, it changes a person.

            But why? Why does it change a person? … Because in that moment when you are praying for Jesus to come and save you, you reflect. You think about what it is that you have done which has brought you before your creator in the cozy confines of that bathroom. And in that moment of reflection, you debate with yourself what it is that you should do next.

            In our parable this morning from Luke 16, we have a shrewd business man who was being accused of wasting his manager’s, his boss’ possessions. The rich man calls in this man who is working from him and says, “What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired” (Luke 16:2 NLT). Essentially, this is the adult version of a “come to Jesus” meeting because as his boss is talking to him, he debates with himself as to what it is he should do. Luke tells us, “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired’” (Luke 16:3-4 NLT).

            With this parable, Jesus is continuing a conversation which started last week. A conversation which the disciples have been listening to. Last week we had the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. Between those and our parable this morning is the parable of the lost son or the prodigal son. These that Jesus is talking to heard about the lost son, the younger son’s anguish and the deliberation which he had about whether or not to return home. Now this morning we are hearing something similar happen again. Between the parable of the lost and son and the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus offers two moments of personal anguish and self-reflection. First to the Pharisees in the beginning of Chapter 15 and today to the disciples with the Pharisees listening in.

            You could say that the lost son and the shrewd manager both had a “come to Jesus” moment. They both experience a crisis in their life which lays everything out there and which causes them to confess. In the depth of a “come to Jesus” moment, you’re honest about yourself, you’re honest about your situation and you try to find some way to make it through. The last thing, trying to find some way to make it through, is the most crucial part of their “come to Jesus” moment.

            For both of them … it’s a gamble. A gamble on grace.

            For the younger son, much like the shrewd manger, has squandered his riches. He took half of his dad’s inheritance, before his dad was dead, went off to a distant land, and squandered his wealth in wild living (Luke 15:13). His squandering of wealth leaves him alone and in poverty. On top of that, a famine strikes the land. No one was there to take him and care for him. So he goes out and gets hired to work on a farm where he is assigned the glorious task of feeding pigs. Hungry, out in the field admiring the pig’s slop, he reaches rock bottom and tries to figure out what it is he should do next. He gambles on the graciousness of his father and returns home. On his way home he rehearses his speech. He’s going to confess his sin and be asked to be treated as one of his hired hands and not as a son. He gambles on the graciousness of his father.

            In the case of the shrewd manager, his squandering of wealth leads to him being fired. Unlike the younger son, this manager didn’t come up with this on his own. No, it was forced upon him as his boss catches wind of how this manager has squandered his riches. This manager, like the younger son, gambles on grace. He goes out and reduces the debt which each person owes to his boss with the mindset that these people will be like, “Hey, you helped me out, so let me help you out.”

            Both men gamble on grace, and in both cases … they are totally taken off-guard. And why? Because the grace they experience is greater, far greater than what they had ever imagined.

             As the younger son is approaching his father’s house, his father runs out to greet and embrace him. The father doesn’t even listen to his son’s confession. He takes him back in, not as a servant like he wanted, but as a son. The father clothes his son with the best robe, puts a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet and kills the fattened calf. The father celebrates because he has his son back.

            In terms of the manger, he finds what he’s looking for, just not from the people or the person he was expecting it from. He expected to be fired and having to live with different clients. Instead, the rich man was impressed by the manager’s shrewdness and commends him for it. 

            What does this all have to say to us today?

            Well, first off it should encourage us to approach God asking for forgiveness each day. When you think about it, “come to Jesus” moments are not that frequent in life. “Come to Jesus” moments could be something like a divorce, a death of a loved one, a doctor’s diagnosis, a pink slip, hitting rock bottom because of alcohol or drug abuse. These are tragic events, but they are not events which, thankfully, happen every day. And because they don’t happen every day, many people, most people, just go along with the flow of life so accustomed to their sin that they don’t even think about it.

            Some, like the younger lost son, wait till their sin catches up with them. Others, like the shrewd manager, wait until they are found out. Many though just hope it will never happen.

            But as Christians … we should be different, we are different. We live in daily repentance, in daily asking for forgiveness, rather than trying to run away from our sins. We “come to Jesus” every day, not debating on what we should do next in our life, but we “come to Jesus” every day recognizing our lives would be lost if it left up to ourselves, to you and me.

            These readings should also reveal to us that to gamble on grace is actually not the answer. Both of these men, they have schemes, they have detailed plans on what they are going to do and with both of them, their schemes are useless. For the younger lost son, he doesn’t even get to finish his sentence. His father is already running out to welcome him home and starts telling his servants to get the robe and ring and fattened calf. For the shrewd manger, his scheme succeeds, but not in the way he had imagined it working out. He doesn’t receive other people’s mercy, instead he receives mercy and a commendation, receives praise from the rich man he’s working for.

            And because these schemes are ultimately useless, the parables should suggest to us that grace is already there. Grace is already there and it’s abundant. Grace is already there and it’s overflowing. Grace is already there in Jesus.

            If you think about it … if anyone could be accused of squandering riches … it would be Jesus. The Pharisees have seen Jesus squander the blessings of God on tax collectors and sinners. Jesus did it then and He does it now, for you and me. Even when Jesus was being crucified, who did He pray for? Did He pray for himself? No, He prayed for the very people who were crucifying Him. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV).

            As Jesus is asking His Father to forgive them, the soldiers at His feet are gambling for His clothes. Gambling is on grace isn’t the answer. God’s gracious cloak comes freely to us, without our gambling. It comes to us as a gift. Instead of a “come to Jesus” moment … we are blessed today and every day by Jesus coming to us. Coming to us with grace far beyond our imagination. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.

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