We’ve all made regrettable decisions…maybe walked away from a job, education, opportunity, friend, family member, or something else and later realized that we make the wrong choice. Seldom can you go back and restore the situation once you’ve moved on. However, in the story of the prodigal son we find a young man who makes some very bad life decisions but returns to find forgiveness, reparation and redemption. When Jesus relates this story he is speaking to a diverse audience. The Pharisees and religion scholars are at hand, critical and accusatory of the company Jesus keeps. They do not understand why he hangs around with and eats with the tax collectors and various men and women with bad reputations. So, with this parable Jesus offers something for each and every person who is listening.
Scriptures – Ga 3:26-27; Lk 15:1-2, 10-24, 28-32; 2 Pt 3:9
Verses – So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Ga 3:26-27) “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.’” (Lk 15:31-32) “… I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:10)
The story begins with a father who has two sons. The younger son insults his father by asking for his inheritance now so he can get away from home and do his own thing. Basically he can’t wait for his father to die, he wants to have it all and have it now. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? This son represents the tax collectors and all those with bad reputations who don’t measure up to the Pharisee’s standards. Rather than withhold the money from his wayward son, the father gives him what he asks and allows him to go. The father is like God. He indulges his son (as God does us) and allows him to go his way and follow his selfish desires (free will). The son goes to a distant country so he can be as far as possible from his father and his father’s values. He doesn’t want to be reminded of who he is or of his father. After a good round of extravagant living, partying and debauchery, the son finds himself poor, broke and hungry. With famine in the land, he gets a job working on a pig farm. For a Jewish boy, this is the bottom of the barrel. As much as he resented living under his father’s roof and rules, working for his father was by far a better situation than this. He now is hungry and alone; he has nothing and no one. He sees the error of his ways and decides to return to his father. He realizes the betrayal he has committed and asks not to be called a son, but just to be a servant. The father sees him coming from a distance and runs to meet him. The father has been waiting and watching and hoping for this day. He grabs his son and hugs and kisses him. Before the son can get through his planned apology and job request, the father calls for his finest robe, a ring and sandals for the son. He tells the servants to prepare the fattened calf and calls for a welcome home celebration. When we repent, God clothes us in his righteousness. He claims us as his child. The older brother represents the misguided Pharisees who thought that all their righteous deeds caused the father/God to love them. He is resentful of the welcome home party and doesn’t believe his brother is worthy of forgiveness. He can’t accept that his father is offering such a celebration for this son who has been selfish, irresponsible and wasteful. God doesn’t love us because of what we’ve done; he loves us because he’s our heavenly father continually waiting, watching and hoping for us to come home.
Have you walked away from something or someone and later realized it was a serious mistake? Explain. Are you moving toward or away from God? How do you feel knowing that God loves the serial killer, the child molester, the pornographer, the person who’s involved in human trafficking or drug trafficking as much as he loves you? How well do you love the unloveable? Are any of us deserving of God’s favor? Explain.
Coasting and/or sitting still are not options when it comes to your relationship with God. Make a list of what you are doing, or what you need to be doing to keep moving toward God. Diligently keep moving in God’s direction.
Dear God, thank you for putting your robe of righteousness on me. Help me to show your love to those who need you desperately. May I celebrate with each prodigal soul that comes home. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.