Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15. This parable is filled with many deep and important theological truths. The one I will focus on today is the loving, welcoming father who not only accepts the wayward son back into his home, but ends up throwing a feast in his honor. This is not what we would have expected the father in that time and culture to do, but he does, and his joy overflows because of his son “who was lost and has been found” Luke 15:24.
To put this parable into context, we must look at the two preceding parables in Luke chapter 15; The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin. In the parable of The Lost Sheep, Jesus tells the “tax collectors” and the “sinners” that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” And in the parable of The Lost Coin, Jesus says: “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” Luke 15:7, 10. It is clear from these parables of Jesus, that God always stands ready to welcome home those who have strayed away from Him. And that’s good news for all of us!
In the parable of The Prodigal Son, the son asks his father for his inheritance, before the death of the father, so that he could go out into the world and live the kind of life he wanted. This request in essence meant that the son considered the father dead to him, since he requested this before his father’s death. The father does as the son asks and the son takes off to find himself and to live a life of self-indulgence. After the son squanders his wealth and has nothing left, he hired himself out to a citizen of that country and was given a job feeding the swine. This of course was not a good job fit for a Jewish man, and he became so hungry that he longed for whatever leftovers the swine would not eat, which I can imagine would not be much. So coming to his senses, he decided to go back home and beg his father to allow him to return as a “hired” man.
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” Luke 15:20.
Now in that culture, the father would have never ran to meet his wayward son. And the father would certainly not have been looking for him after the son had shown a complete lack of respect for the father and the family. But in this parable, Jesus says the father “ran” to meet the lost son and to welcome him back into the family. The father even gives the son his best robe and puts a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And then the father throws a feast to celebrate his son’s return.
If you have strayed away from God, there is great news for you in this parable: God is not only willing and delighted to accept you back; He will never give up on you! He will continue searching for you, and he will meet you as you repent, to leave behind your life of sin and come home to Him. Although we may at times give up on ourselves, the great news from this story is that God never gives up on us! Our heavenly Father is forgiving, loving and always searching for those who have strayed away from Him. And Jesus tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice when that one sinner decides to repent and come home to the Father.
If you have wandered away from God for a while, it’s time to come home running to God. And you won’t have to run far, because God will come running to you, and will meet you, and accept you back into his gracious and loving presence. Leave behind your life of sin, and come home to the Father who loves you, and who at this very moment is watching over you.