Continuing today with the theme of this 15th chapter that we highlighted yesterday – a joy of finding something that is totally out of proportion to what was lost and found – we turn to the parable most often entitled, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” This is really a poor name. Rather is should be rightly called “The Parable of the Forgiving Father.”
It is familiar to us. And tell me you have not felt an empathy for the older brother! One can really relate to his feelings! I can remember as a kid when I first heard this story, I felt really bad for the older brother and what seemed an injustice to him. It would appear it could be successfully argued that he had a legitimate complaint!
But before we go too deeply into the feelings of the older brother, let us recall to our own memories that we actually ARE (spiritually speaking) the younger brother…
- Following the natural desires of the heart (11-13)
- Finding the ways of sin are hard (14-16)
- Awakening to a sense of need for repentance (17-19)
- Turning to the Father in desperate faith (20-21)
- Experiencing pardon and forgiveness (22-24)
But in the story – notice that the father does not disagree with the older son’s faithfulness. It has been commendable. And he reminds the son that he has been already the daily recipient of great good. It is all there for him, and it will all be his to inherit: he’s no worse off … BUT … BUT …
BUT … the bigger item to celebrate at that moment was the return of the younger brother and his restoration to life. He was dead, lost to them presumably forever; but now he was found and is restored. THIS IS THE BIGGER THING. And the joy of what is FOUND is the big idea in all three stories – not the degree of what was lost.
As John wrote in 1 John 3:1 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Paul also spoke of this in Ephesians 2:7-8 – And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
There are two takeaway lessons from this story and this 15th chapter …
- God is more willing to forgive than man is to repent. (God is not the hard-hearted meanie that he is so often portrayed to be.)
- God’s love for and joy in finding the sinner should be a model for us in sharing the gospel.
We should recall our great challenge and status accorded us in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 … that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
Here then again is the Parable of the Forgiving Father…
Luke 15:11 – Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“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.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”