2006-03-01 - The Prodigal Son
Originally Published 2000-03-21
Jesus tells us the most beautiful part of this parable, the restoration of the son and father. I surmise the son plodding toward home, with his feet shuffling and his shoulders sagging. His clothes are reeking of the smell of pigs. His designer sandals are muddy and worn. His palms are sweating as he is rehearsing his repentance speech over and over in his dejected mind.
Luke 15:20a-21 (The Message) 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."
The father knew his son would return one day. He waited patiently, straining his eyes every day on the horizon, hoping to see his son coming home. The father's love for his son never waned. The son was still his son. Now notice what the father does, when the son starts his long-rehearsed repentance speech. The father does not do what we expect. He does not call out for his best whip to give the son a lashing. He does not start screaming, yelling and chastising the son. The father reacts counter-intuitively to how most of us would react to a prodigal son or daughter that has squandered not only money, but also the family name. The father interrupts the son's speech:
Luke 15:22 (The Message) 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."
The father reacted with compassion and love for the son. The father had allowed the son to go on his odyssey to the land far off. The father knew that the son had a tough lesson to learn -- one that could only be learned by experience. Sometimes I let my own children do things that I know will not be good for them (not things that will endanger them or others, or are illegal), because sometimes they need to learn the hard way, to get the point through their hard little heads. But when my kids do things that displease me, I don't disown them and I can never take away the fact that they are my children. My love for them is unconditional, just as the father's love for the prodigal is unconditional.
We Christians sometimes fall into a life a sin. We are human; we are not perfect. Many commentators and preachers see this parable as a parable about lost people who have never accepted Christ as their Savior. I have to disagree; rather, I say that it is a parable about Christians, children of God, who have stumbled and are living a sinful life apart from God. We can choose a lifestyle of sin apart from our Heavenly Father, but we cannot enjoy this life.
Every day, our Father in Heaven looks for us to come back home. He waits patiently for us to come back and return to fellowship with Him. When we mess up, He embraces us with compassion and wraps us in His love, the love that we often don't feel when we are in our "pigpens" of life. A friend of mine recently said, "God needs to show up at my front door with a dozen roses." I said, "no, you need to go back home to God. He is waiting. Ready to embrace you, ready to wash off your filthy garments of sin and make you clean again."
Some people have told me, "God could never love me, with all the bad things I have done." None of our sins are unknown to God. Nothing we have done or will do is a surprise to God. Yet He is eagerly waiting for you to come back home. God is not waiting for you to come back so He can beat you down some more. He is not sitting on His throne, waiting for the opportunity to berate you. You have done that on your own. God is waiting for you, so He can embrace you and love you. Are you ready to go back?
1 John 1:9 (The Message) On the other hand, if we admit our sins-make a clean breast of them-he won't let us down; he'll be true to Himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.
Father, we are in awe of Your counter-intuitive ways and Your love for us. We are longing to be kissed and embraced by Your love. Forgive us for our sins. Cleanse us and give us fresh clothes. Thank You for Your Son Jesus, who died for all of our sins -- past, present and future. In His name we pray. Amen.
Comments or Questions?