This is one of the stories that Jesus told called the Lost Son.
The story tells of a Father whose younger son takes his inheritance, wastes it and then seeks forgiveness from the father.
We also hear about the older son who isn’t happy with the final result despite what he is told.
Reading from the Message Bible it says:
Then Jesus said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’
“So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
“That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
The Wayward Son
So here we start off with the younger son, he is tired of living this great life with his father under his abundance and protection and instead he decides to seek his father’s inheritance and waste it on himself.
In many ways, this parable is meant for us, we understand the Father here to be God, and the younger son is a bit like us.
We have all turned away from God and gone off to do our own thing, even if we may not have ever felt like we had a relationship with him in the first place
We are all sinners and we have all done wrong and gone against God’s amazing plan for our lives.
Just like the son, most of us will have at some point felt as if, ‘right okay God, I can take it from here thanks’ or just have always wanted to do our own thing that wasn’t necessarily best for us.
This is when the son realises that being back with his Father was so much better than where he is now, he lived like the son of a king back at home, he had food, shelter and wasn’t alone.
But here he is now, with not even enough food to survive and so envious of even those who worked for his father saying:
“All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death.”
This is when he decides to go back to his father, knowing that he had gone against his father’s wishes and gets ready to make his apology.
We know that what the son had done would have been completely terrible and in their culture at the time he would have been more or less disowned and wouldn’t be worthy even to be accepted back at all.
I mean, he basically said to his dad: “You’re dead to me, give me my money”
But this is how the story continues:
“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a the fattest calf and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.”
How incredible is that!?
The Compassionate Father
The father understands that the only things that we can offer him are the dirty rags on our back in the hope of forgiveness. It is in this situation that the son starts his journey back to the father—literally with only dirty rags and a bad attempt at an apology speech.
I would imagine that when the son saw his father running to him at a distance, he would be struck with fear as in the Middle East, it was considered completely humiliating for men that age to run.
But as the father drew closer, the son would see not anger—but joy. And when the father reached him, the father kissed him over and over.
After experiencing the father’s visible, costly love for him, the son’s attempt for a speech was gone, and all he could say was that he is not worthy to be the father’s son.
But we see here how instead of reluctantly forgiving him, or accepting him as a servant, the father completely restores the son back as his full child with shoes, clothes and a ring all showing his reinstatement of class back into the household.
God joyfully takes the responsibility to find us and restore us.
We too simply need to accept being found. Throughout the bible, grace is proclaimed. In this parable especially we can see how Jesus explains why God came to us in Jesus, and why he chose to die.
We, like this son, want to run our lives ourselves—even if we starve. On the prodigal’s return home: he didn’t want to be reconciled with the father: he wanted to get food and have a job.
I think that this is true for most of us as well. Even when we return to him with wrong motives, God wants to restore us as his sons and daughters.
God loves us as sinner; every bit as much before we repent, as afterwards; and that, when we as sinners have repented, we will be fully restored into the family of God.
The Jealous Brother
In the last part of the story, his older son says: ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
To which his father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’
Some of us will feel like the older son, we’ve been working hard and being obedient to the Father for a long time, I think for lots of us, maybe it’s worth remembering how incredible God is, that we have already been saved by God’s grace, and that every next person to be turning back to the father deserves such an incredible welcome home!
Others of us might feel like the younger son having turned away from our father God, or felt like our way was better, but I think that’s the thing.
When we do turn back to the father and seek to be with him again, he has got incredible things in store for us and we no longer need worry about other things, because we’ve been accepted back into his house as sons and daughters of God!
And in the words of the father: “My child is finally here—given up for dead and is now alive! Given up for lost and has now been found!”