The “story of the prodigal son” in Luke Chapter 15. It’s a story that requires no more than 22 quick verses, yet its cast of characters represent all of us. Its plot captivates us by telling a narrative that somewhere, sometime, we’ve all lived out. And the ending? Well the ending gives us hope for our lives and demands a response from us all.
But it’s not the son who is the main father who shows the deepest, most compelling emotion as he waits longing for his son to return home. character. It is the Father. It is the father who loves his son even when his son doesn’t love him. It’s the It is the father who initiates the process of forgiveness. And it is the father who leaps to his feet and runs to greet a starving son who has done nothing but insult him. And it is the father who never stops loving his oldest son, pleading with him to experience the joy of his brother’s life restored. This story is about our heavenly Father’s love for all lost sons and daughters wherever they may be found.
Here are a few truths revealed in this story to consider:
God loves me even when I’m walking away from Him.
The father in this story knows that his son is headed for disappointment and failure. Could the father have tried to describe to his son the pain he was about to experience? Would the son have listened? Do you and I listen?
In spite of his own personal agony and rejected love, the father allows the boy to leave. And just as this father was willing to endure pain rather than disown his own son, so our heavenly Father sometimes releases us to reject His love and pursue our own will. “He allows us to experience the far country so that when we finally return, we are fully prepared to appreciate and receive His love.”
God loves me even when I am wallowing in sin.
Wallowing is a word that certainly paints a picture. And what a picture Jesus paints for us of this wayward son. With his money gone and his friends nowhere to be found, the son probably thought he was a low as he could go. But things got worse. Jesus tells us that at that precise moment, a famine hits the land. The son now finds himself without money, without friends and without food. Most importantly, I think it’s now that the son begins thinking about home. But he can’t go home, at least in his thinking. You see for a Jewish son to wish his father dead, disgrace his family so, in his culture it was unforgiveable.
And then he has a thought…. I can work. It isn’t what he had hoped for, but he could earn back the money he lost. Verse 15 says he finds a “citizen”, a word that suggests success, wealth. He glues himself to that person. But apparently, the citizen doesn’t want anything to do with such a broken-down person. And so to get this young man off his back, the citizen gives him the lowliest of jobs – feeding pigs. And Jesus doesn’t spare any detail… The boy was so hungry that he would have gladly eaten what the pigs were eating but NO ONE GAVE HIM ANYTHING.
God loves me when I’m wrapped in his arms of forgiveness.
When the running father reaches his son, he pours out his love upon the boy, kissing him, embracing him, announcing the party he has been planning should the boy one day come home. Notice the father doesn’t wait for an apology. He doesn’t withhold his love for fear of only being rejected again. Instead he turns now to the servants and gives them instructions. Get the robe, get the ring, get him a pair of sandals that were worn only by sons, never by servants.
In the midst of the celebration, Jesus takes us one other place before the story ends. God loves me even when I won’t love Him.
Out in the field, supervising his father’s business, is the older son. He doesn’t see the younger brothers return. Instead, at the end of the day as he comes home he hears the music. He is met by a servant who tells him that his brother has come home and there is a party. But the older brother doesn’t want any part of it. In speaking to his father he refers to the brother as “this son of yours…”
I used to think the older brother was angry because the younger brother got his inheritance and he didn’t get his. But go back to verse 12. The father gave both the boys their inheritance. That’s why the father said in verse 31 “all I have is yours…” It really was.
It is in verse 29, the older son reveals the problem. And that is his own heart. “All these years I’ve been serving you and never disobeyed your orders.” “Dad I’ve been the perfect son…” The Older son is as lost as the younger son. Listen. Even though he does all the right things. He is obedient, dutiful, law-abiding and hardworking. He is respected, admired, a model son. But on the inside he is resentful, prideful, and self-centered. The older son is lost because he has based his relationship with his brother and father on his own obedience rather than his father’s love.
In Luke Chapter 15, verse 1 Jesus is surrounded by people with great needs, people who were physically hungry, spiritually hungry. But He could also see on the fringe of the crowd the Pharisees and scribes watching disapprovingly, eager to find fault. In their minds Jesus threw himself away on lost people. And so Jesus looked up at those crowds, his heart filled with the Love of His Father and He told this story.
The people listening saw an invitation to come home. The Pharisees could see an invitation to come to the party and be restored. But then Jesus looks one more time, this time he looks at you and me and he wants us to know that whichever son represents you in this story, the result is the same. He wants you home, he wants you to know His love.
I look forward to sharing more with you this weekend. If you don’t have a church family, I hope you will check out the family at Memphis Christian Church Saturday at 5:30pm and Sunday at 10:30am.