The Prodigal Son is one of the more popular of the Parables of Jesus because it is easily relatable. When Jesus spoke this one, He was surrounded by the lost and forgotten who sought a home, the upright righteous who were too zealous to see their own broken heart, and those who knew what being lost was like but were found and saw the Way to God through Jesus. All three of those types are represented in this Parable, The son, the son, and the first son again. What if I told you this is a story of the graciousness of the father overshadowing the sinfulness of the son, as it is the memory of the father’s goodness that brings the prodigal son to repentance? Let’s see the first part:
Again Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that will be mine.’ So the father divided the property between them. As soon as he could convert his share into cash, the younger son left home and went off to a distant country, where he squandered his money in reckless living. But after he had spent it all, a severe famine arose throughout that country, and he began to feel the pinch. Luke 15:11-14
The younger son reminds us of the person who wants to live life at the expense of being disowned by the family. Do you remember when you said to your father or mother that you wanted to live your own life in your own way? Were you like the Prodigal Son spoken here who ignored the teachings of when you were young of the right way to life and explored all other possibilities?
This is a picture of someone choosing to go his own way and away from God. God gave the Hebrews a choice before Joshua took over for Moses saying, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
We all possess this foolish ambition to be independent, which is at the root of the sinner persisting in their sin, it is Human Nature. Due to this sin we suffer and live apart from God. Those who live without trusting God are in a state of discontent. Luke 12:15 says, “Be careful to guard against all forms of greed, because even if someone is rich, his life does not consist in what he owns.” This son learned the hard way that covetousness leads to a life of dissatisfaction and disappointment. He also learned that the most valuable things in life are the things you cannot buy, nor replace. The son left home and lived life the way he wanted to, buying wants and desires instead of means to survive. So what does this young man do?
“So he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him any. Luke 15:15-16
In his loss of funds, he also lost his will to survive so he takes the most detestable job of feeding pigs. We all know the saying, “Desperate times lead to desperate measures”, without God we lose so much direction that we will do anything to continue living. For the son, it caused further rejection because of his life choice. When people are no longer interested in being near you because your usefulness has ended, they throw you to the pigs and forget about you.
“At last he came to his senses and said, ‘Any number of my father’s hired workers have food to spare; and here I am, starving to death! I’m going to get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and started back to his father. Luke 15:17-20
The “ah ha” moment has arrived. In pain and darkness one remembers the ease of life when someone watched over you and you had everything you needed. You reflect on the past and seek relief. When you can recognize the condition of the heart and desire a return to peace and tranquility, it is possible. This is reflective of the sinner when he/she discovers the destitute condition of their life because of sin. It is a realization that apart from God there is no hope. This is when a repentant sinner “comes to his senses” and longs to return to the state of fellowship with God.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him warmly. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son — ’ but his father said to his slaves, ‘Quick, bring out a robe, the best one, and put it on him; and put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet; and bring the calf that has been fattened up, and kill it. Let’s eat and have a celebration! For this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive again! He was lost, but now he has been found!’ And they began celebrating. Luke 15:20-24
There is hope in returning home. The son that was lost realized this and prepared his heart to repent. He shocked when his father welcomes him home as if he was a newborn child. God is like that with us. His desire is for an intimate connection with His creation. The son was returned to his rightful place in the family. God renews our spirit and clothes us in His light.
Closer examination of the text reveals an ancient tradition of servanthood in order to repay a debt. He was willing to give up his rights as his father’s son in order to be forgiven. He now understood humility and was truly repentant of his actions against his family. How so the same the repentant sinner who believes in Jesus? The son understood, he was no longer in the good graces of the father to receive the blessings possible and could offer nothing in return for his mercy but his repentant servanthood. He was ready to fall at his father’s feet begging for mercy and forgiveness. This is exactly what turning back to God is all about. We have given up this life of slavery to sin, slavery to the ways of man, and becoming a slave to righteousness. This slavery has no chains as it is freedom from death and damnation to live in the light of God.
This son was lost but returned after having been beaten by the world. At our lowest point, God is there to pick us back up. Jesus carries us through our tribulation and brings us home. All we have to do is repent, return to the arms of Jesus, and follow Him. Have you been lost and come back home? Scary times but the joy of the loving arms is sweet relief.