Luke 15:11-20a

One day, after a man had his annual physical, the doctor came out and said, “You had a great checkup; is there anything that you’d like to discuss?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m trying to decide whether or not to have a vasectomy.”
“That’s a pretty big decision; have you talked it over with your family?”
“Yeah . . . and they’re in favor 15 to 2.”

How many of you would be willing to admit that you do not like to make decisions? That having to make decisions is stressful? That you are sometimes afraid to make decisions because you think you will make the wrong decision? That you sometimes procrastinate when it comes to making decisions? That you OFTEN procrastinate when it comes to making decisions?!

In his book, The Traveler’s Gift, author/motivational speaker Andy Andrews writes: “When faced with the opportunity to make a decision, I will make one. I understand that God did not put in me the ability to always make right decisions. He did, however, put in me the ability to make a decision and then make it right.” 1

I bring this up because I want us to think for a few moments about the decision that the prodigal son made to return to his father after he came to his senses.

After he came to his senses, the decision he made was not an easy decision to make.

We might be tempted to think that it wasn’t a hard decision to make at all. After all the young man was hungry and came to his senses that in his father’s house there was plenty of food.

So why was it a difficult decision to make? First of all, the wayward son had to overcome his pride. We know that he had an issue with pride because he was arrogant enough to demand his share of his father’s inheritance before his father even died. To decide to return home and admit he was wrong took humility which indicated he overcame his pride.

But what made his decision doubly difficult was the ‘kezazah’ ceremony that surely awaited him back home. Author and Distinguished Professor of Theology at several prestigious institutions, Kenneth E. Bailey, spent most of his life teaching in the Middle East, where he became an expert concerning the culture in which Jesus lived. During his lifetime, Bailey authored 4 book that focused on Luke 15.

In Jacob and the Prodigal, he writes:

In the Jerusalem Talmud and elsewhere in the writing of the sages, we are told that at the time of Jesus the Jews had a method of punishing any Jewish boy who lost his family inheritance to Gentiles. Such a loss was considered particularly shameful. . . . to discourage any thought of committing this heinous offense, the community developed what was called the kezazah ceremony. Any Jewish boy who lost his inheritance among Gentiles faced the ceremony if he dared return to his home village. The ceremony itself was simple. Fellow villagers would fill a large earthenware pot with burned nuts and burned corn and break it in front of the guilty individual. While doing so, they would shout, “So and so is cut off from his people.” From that point on, the village would have nothing to do with the helpless lad. As he leaves town, the prodigal knows he must not lose his money among Gentiles. He does. In the far country he lives among people who won and thereby eat pigs. They are obviously Gentiles. Fear of the shame of this ceremony is an important aspect of this parable. 2

So, in order for the prodigal son to make a decision to return to his father not only required him to swallow his pride because of the foolish decision he initially made in demanding his inheritance, but also to fearfully face the shame of the kezazah ceremony which would result in the excommunication by his fellow villagers and perhaps even by his father.

And so for the prodigal to come to his sense and make a decision to return home in light of all this was a quite admirable; perhaps even remarkable.

I trust that, like the prodigal, all of us have come to our senses; that we have concluded that it’s better to have God in our corner than not, or we probably wouldn’t be here.

But what I want us to consider is have we made the decision to come home. How many of us might be living between ‘coming to our senses’ and ‘coming home’?

I am speaking about making the life-altering decision to accept Jesus, the Christ as Savior and Lord. For accepting, that is, believing in and following Jesus is the key, the only key, that unlocks the door to our Father’s house and all the blessings He has to offer us. Accepting, that is, believing in and following Jesus enables us to come home.

Many of you just admitted you procrastinate when it comes to making decisions. How many of us have delayed making this most important of all decisions thinking that we have all the time in the world to get around to it?

How many of us have put off making this most vital decision because we have been misguided by our pride; thinking it’s not necessary for me to accept Christ because I am going to compel the Father to open the door of His house through my own efforts of being a good person?

How many of delayed making this decision out of fear; fear that someone might think ill of me, fear that someone might think I’m a Jesus freak, fear that someone might even shun me?

How many of us have put off making this critical decision because we have fooled ourselves into thinking we have made it when in all reality we have not? In other words, I come to worship, I sing the songs, I pray, I listen to the message; doesn’t that mean I have decided? No, no, it does not. It indicates that we believe in God. But James 2:19 says, “The demons believe and they tremble.” And please remember as Jesus was with His disciples for the last time in the Upper Room, He said to them, “You believe in God, now believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

So what does it mean to believe in Jesus?

According to Vine’s Dictionary of NT Words, the word ‘believe’ means “to be persuade of, and hence to place confidence in, to trust, signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence.” 3

Not mere credence: okay so I believe that there was this guy named Jesus who was born and died and was even raised from the dead. But rather, belief means I have decided to place my confidence in Him, to trust Him, to rely on Him in two ways.

First, I have decided to trust, to rely on the fact that He alone secured the forgiveness of my sin. I have this prideful human tendency to think that through my own effort I can somehow make up for my wrongdoing by my own moral goodness. But the Bible is crystal clear that the only means of the forgiveness of sin is through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Therefore I have decided to trust, to rely, to hang my hat on the fact that Jesus did for me what I could never do for myself. He died for my sins.

Second, I have decided to trust, to rely on the fact that what He says is true. John 1:11-12 says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” What does it mean to ‘believe in His name?’
Respected Bible commentator, Leon Morris, writes:

To believe on the name of Jesus means to trust the person of Jesus. It is to believe in Him as He is. It is to believe that God is the God we see revealed in Jesus and to put our trust in that God. This is more than simple credence. It is not only believing that what He says is true, but trusting Him as a person. 4

It all boils down to deciding to believe in Jesus as Savior for the forgiveness of our sin, but also making a conscious decision to follow Him the best we can.

A friend once told me about being in a Bible Study that included a 12 year old girl. Someone asked her, “Do you believe in God?”
And she replied, “No, I believe God.”

It’s one thing to say “I believe in God.” We have no problem rolling that off our tongues: “Sure, I believe in God, I believe in God’s Son, I believe in Jesus.” But it’s another thing altogether to say. “I believe God; I believe Jesus.” Because saying that indicates a willingness to follow Christ the best we can.

Have you decided to follow Jesus?

To trust Christ for the forgiveness of your sin as well to trust Him enough to say to Him I am ready to follow where You lead. I may not always get it right; I probably am not going to be perfect, but Jesus I want You to be my guide.

A crowd of curious people gathered at the county fair in Salem, New Jersey in 1820 to witness what they thought was a daring feat. Colonel Robert Johnson was holding in one hand a beautiful red-ripe tomato. Members of the crowd wondered aloud, Is he really going to eat it?

In those days tomatoes were called love apples and considered deadly poison. Young men gave them to their girlfriends, who would extract the seeds and wear them in sachets around their necks. The fruit was admired for its beauty, but no one would dream of eating it.

So the crowd gasped in horror as the colonel deliberately ate the tomato. They waited breathlessly, expecting him to fall to the ground and die. But instead, he decided to eat a second tomato, explaining, as he ate, that tomatoes were delicious either cooked or raw. Then he invited the onlookers to make a decision and join him, and a few brave souls decided they would taste a tomato too and began to encourage the others to make a decision to follow their lead. But most moved along deciding it wasn’t worth the risk.

If Colonel Johnson had not eaten that tomato, it is possible that people would still be admiring “love apples” and refusing to make the decision to eat one. Similarly, you or I could spend all of our life admiring Jesus, but would never know how good He is until we make a decision to accept and follow Him.

As King David challenged his readers in Psalm 34:8, so I challenge you to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Justina Chen, author of North of Beautiful, writes

There will be a few times in life when you stand at a precipice of a decision; when you know there will forever be a before and an after, when you know there will be no turning back because you know in your gut that making this decision will forever mark your Prime Meridian from which everything else will be measured. 5

Someone said, “We all make decisions, but in the end our decisions make us.” 6

1 Andrews, Andy. The Traveler’s Gift. [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc. © 2002] page 33.

2 Bailey, Kenneth, E. Jacob and the Prodigal. [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, © 2003]. Page 102.

3 Vine, W. E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. [Old Tappen, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966] Page 116.

4 Morris, Leon. John. The Gospel According to John; the New International Commentary on the New Testament. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971]. Page 99.

5 Chen (Headly), Justina. North of Beautiful. [New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, © 2009]

6 Attributed to Tiger Woods at