Skip to content
June 16, 2024

The Living Who Were Dead

Passage: Luke 15:11-24

Dear Father in heaven Who has said of Your people, “Yes, I have loved you with an
everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.” (Jer. 31:3) By Your Holy
Spirit, cause us to lean upon that love and to know that however far we may wander from You
and how greatly we may sin against You, yet because of that love You are always looking for our
return, ready to welcome us. Keep that love ever before us, O Lord. We ask it in the name of our
Savior. Amen.

There is an ancient English proverb that goes:
Who is so deaf or so blind as is he
That willfully will neither hear nor see?
When we read the record of the Jewish reaction to Jesus' healing of the man born blind,
as we find it in the 9th chapter of the Gospel according to John, we find a very good application
of this little rhyme.
The Jewish leaders would not publicly admit that Jesus had the power to perform
miracles. But privately, in their council meetings, they readily spoke about His miracles. For
example, when they met after hearing that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the
question before them was, “What shall we do? For this man works many signs.” John 11:47.
The man who had been blind very obviously could see now. Witnesses were available to
testify to the fact that he had been blind. But the Jewish leaders refused to accept the man's
testimony that Jesus had restored the man's sight. They hoped they could intimidate the man
and force him to change his story. But the man insisted on clinging to the truth. This made it
embarrassing for them to continue to reject the fact that a miracle had been performed. So they
simply threw the man out from their presence and in this way, they publicly explained away, or
ridiculed, all of Jesus' miracles. They were willfully blind to the truth.
Today also, we have many who will not believe that Jesus performed these miracles.
They will not accept as true anything which cannot be explained by human reason. And in this
way, they also reject salvation since our eternal salvation is the greatest miracle there is as far
as we are concerned.
Our text this morning is a parable which concerns this very great miracle. It is a miracle
which still continues and is much greater than the healing of a blind man or even the raising of a
man dead for four days. This miracle raises those who are spiritually dead and awakens in them
life which lasts into eternity.
Let us then, with the Holy Spirit guiding us and on the basis of our text, consider this
theme suggested by the words of the father in our text, THE LIVING WHO WERE DEAD,
turning our attention first toward those who are dead because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and
then toward those who are dead because of their own sins, and finally to the life which the Lord
The Prodigal Son is a striking picture of mankind in its apostasy from God. The youth of
our text was obviously endowed with a rich heritage. Mankind was also endowed with a rich
heritage in the persons of Adam and Eve, who had a perfect life. They lacked nothing to make
them happy. They enjoyed a perfect relationship with God, speaking with Him daily as children
do to much-loved parents. There was no fear – only joy and contentment.
Food and drink were in abundance. Adam and Eve's work as caretakers in the Garden of
Eden was not work to them, but pleasure. They were not troubled by illness, pain, sorrow, or any
of the fruits of sin. What a rich heritage indeed. However, no amount of money or property could
ever provide such a perfect and happy situation after Adam and Eve fell into sin.
Under the crafty guidance of the devil, Adam and Eve were led to doubt God's goodness
and love. The thought that God was unjustly denying them some good thing led them to want to
be independent – to be free to do whatever they chose to do. Man wanted to be his own master.
How well this fits with the incident mentioned in the text. The young man chafed at the
restrictions placed upon him at home. They appeared so unbearable to him that he forgot all
about the great blessings which he enjoyed in his home. He ignored his father's love and

concern. Food, clothing, and care were gladly given to him. He had shelter, safety, and a bright
But he became blind to these blessings. He had eyes only for the pleasure with which the
world tempted him. How he wanted to be on his own. How he wanted to be free to do everything
he wanted to do. How “mean” he thought it was for his father to hold him back. Finally, his father
gave in to him and gave him his inheritance and his freedom.
Our text tells us how he fared after having thrown off the supposed fetters of home. The
pleasures proved short-lived and unsatisfying. His new friends abandoned him as soon as his
money was gone. He had come seeking pleasure and, instead, found pain. He desired freedom,
but he found it bitter. His inheritance was gone and there was nothing that he could do to save
himself. His condition soon revealed itself as desperate. Death by starvation drew steadily
The condition of fallen mankind is very similar to that of that fallen son. There proved to
be no joy – no advantage of any kind – in having learned the difference between good and evil.
Adam and Eve's heritage had not been increased by gaining the power of discerning good and
evil. This knowledge was in fact a great and troublesome burden. They had been robber of their
heritage – rather, they had squandered it on what proved to be fool's gold.
A barrier of guilt stood between them and God. They had been deprived of the beautiful
garden God had prepared for them. Their daily bread was no longer there for the taking. They
had to work hard for it, fighting against weeds and pests. Their perfect peace was gone.
Unhappiness, pain, and the other by-products of sin began to be felt. Worst of all, death lay
before them – both temporal and spiritual death. Their rich heritage was gone and death awaited
That sentence of death was not limited to Adam and Eve. Through them, it fell upon all of
their descendants. To this, Paul testifies in his epistle to the Romans, chapter 5 verse 18,
“Through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation.” The
whole human race by nature, is made up entirely of prodigals. As a whole, through Adam, they
rebelled against the heavenly Father – took their leave of Him – and rushed off toward eternal
God the Father, being merciful, did not turn His back on His wayward children, but
opened a way for their return to Him. That way, of course, is the one revealed to us in the
Gospel. It is Jesus Who says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes
to the Father, except through Me.” John 14:6.
Jesus, being true God and true Man, kept God's law for us. Jesus perfectly fulfilled that
which God expects of each of us, but which we cannot begin to fulfill. As a result of Jesus
keeping the Law, God looks upon us as having kept His law. Besides this, Jesus died upon the
cross to make satisfaction for the many sins which we have committed, for all the sins of all
Because Jesus did so, the Bible can speak of Him as “The Lamb of God who takes
away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. And again, “He is the Propitiation for our sins, and
not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:2. And, “Whoever believes in
Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
In this way, God has reconciled us to Himself. The way back to Him and to the eternal
home in heaven is through Christ. Those who realize their hopeless condition, repent of their
sins, throw themselves upon the mercy of the Father, and accept the Way, (that is, Christ) are
welcomed by the Father. Those who reject or neglect this Way continue on into the eternal
death which awaits.
It is by God's Word and the Sacraments that a person is brought to faith in the Savior and
preserved in that faith. And as long as he correctly uses those means of grace, he is at home
with the Father. Heaven is his inheritance even though he has not entered into it.
But there is a sad truth involved here. It is this, that not everyone who is brought to faith
remains in faith. There are those, far too many, who begin to act and think like the young man of
our text. Although they can look forward to their inheritance in heaven, they become impatient
and begin to chafe under the Lord's yoke.
Jesus calls this yolk “easy” when He says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:30. But to them it seems to become more and more harsh and heavy. Why? For the

same reason that the young man in our text wanted to get away from home. He was tired of
listening to the wholesome advice of his father.
The Lord has given us Christians directives in Scripture. These directives have been
given to safeguard our salvation and to help us carry out the work He has given us to do,
namely, to win other souls for salvation.
Sometimes, Christians begin to feel that the Lord asks too much. They want to do things
their own way. They want to do the things which seem pleasant to them and to avoid those
things which the Lord would have them do. They may want the riotous living which the prodigal
found so appealing. And here the Lord has something to say also, “Whoever desires to save
his life will lose it.” Matthew 16:25.
The person who insists upon using his life to fulfill his own desires and gives the Lord
only token service, if any, has had his pleasure already and need not look for it hereafter. He has
lost eternal life. Why? Because he didn't do enough? No! But because of a lack of faith. Where
there is no willingness to serve the Lord, there is no faith either.
Such a person who gives himself over to the enjoyment of this present life sometimes is
led by the grace of God to see how spiritually poor, bankrupt, and starving he really is. For that
is the true condition of all who serve the flesh. The pleasures of the flesh may glitter and gleam,
but they lose their glow in the face of death. Then they are of no help, and their uselessness
becomes apparent.
But when a person does see the hopelessness of the course he has chosen for himself
and longs to return again to his heavenly Father, this is assured – he is awaited and will be
welcomed. That is the message of our text. That is the message which runs throughout the
We are assured in Matthew 12:22, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking
flax He will not quench.” The Lord does not despise a weak and struggling faith. The Savior
gently invites, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest.” Matthew 11:28. He promises, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast
out.” John 6:37.
Every prodigal may know that he has a faithful heavenly Father awaiting his return. And
when such a prodigal returns, it is a a joyful event. In our text, there was a celebration for the
lost one who had returned. In the verse just before our text, we are told,”There is joy in the
presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” It is not a bitter, vengeful,
reluctant Father who awaits. No, it is a joyful, loving Father who greets the prodigal with open
The pleasures of this life are not the only things that lead people away from God. Often,
cares may do the same thing. Cares over health, cares over business, cares over family, care
for sinful pride, and other cares may be guilty. Such cares may lead to misbelief and unbelief.
The reason is that they lead the person away from God's Word first. This separation
finally leads to a separation from God also. Only if, by the grace of God, that person turns again
to the Word and takes to heart Christ's invitation, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares
for you,” is there hope for him. 1 Peter 5:7. That greatest care is sin. And when we cast that sin
upon Jesus, then it can trouble us no more. We are free. Eternal life is ours. And what care can
lead us away if we have eternal life awaiting us?
Often in the world today, people become prodigals through leaving God's Word.
Unfaithfulness to that Word is very common today, even among those who want to be
considered Christians. Most do not boldly declare that the Bible is not God's Word. Rather, they
cast doubt upon it.
Some say that the Bible only contains God's Word. But then, what is God's Word and
what isn't? Some say that the Bible is God''s Word, but that it is not without errors. Dare we trust
in a God who makes mistakes? And so they undermine their own faith and that of others to the
point where faith collapses and they fall away from God. Such a prodigal is in desperate trouble
because he has lost confidence in the only way by which he can be led back to his heavenly
Father. However, even for him ,God is ready and waiting to welcome him.
So we see that all people are by nature prodigals with souls which are dead. But we also
see that God, out of His boundless love, reconciled them to Himself through the suffering and
death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Those who have been led to accept the Son as
their Savior have been made alive again spiritually.

We see, too, that those who accept this Savior and who drift away from faith have a
loving, heavenly Father who waits to welcome them if they but repent of their sins. “He would
have those who are dead in their sins become alive in Christ.”
May God grant that each of us feel our unworthiness, our spiritual deadness before God,
as did the prodigal before his father, and cast ourselves entirely upon God's mercy, trusting for
life and salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.