The Father pleas with the Eldest Son and exclaims:
‘Son, you are always with me,’ said the father, ‘and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead but has come back to life — he was lost but has been found.’” Luke 15:31-32
The steadfast and loyal son had his faith shaken because there has never been a celebration like this for him. But the father, full of grace, mercy, love, and full compassion helps him understand why the celebration is taking place. Jesus is now showing the attributes of God to both the lost and the believer.
So the father in this story represents God. You see, this father waited patiently for his son to return. In the same manner the father reacted, God waits for the repentant sinner. He has compassion for the one who comes on his own accord. The father had apparently heard about the state of affairs the son found himself in and waited expectantly for the son to return. This is revealing that God knows our hearts and grants us the opportunity to return to Him. The great celebration shows how God is a forgiving, compassionate God who will shower His love on us and restores to our place in the Father’s arms.
What a joy it will be but let’s look at the parable again for a second. When the father saw the boy from a distance, he lunged towards him not in a scornful manner, but loving. The father did not even let his son finish the practiced confession but unconditionally lavished mercy and grace upon him returning him to status of fellowship within the family. The father running to his son, greeting him with a kiss and ordering the celebration to begin is a picture of how our Heavenly Father feels towards sinners who repent.
God greatly loves us, patiently waits for us to repent so he can show us His great mercy, because he does not want any to perish nor escape as though by the fire. It is our understanding of God’s compassion for us that enables us to show concern for the lost and celebrate when they are found so He prepared a mediator for us. Just as the father is the mediator between the sons Jesus is the mediator who ultimately took our place to change our fate of being lost in the darkness without God.
Jesus in this parable tells us that we are forgiven but must take the first step by realizing and confessing our sins to the Father. He also says that God is waiting patiently for us to do just that. He is merciful and wants us to come home. We as Christians seek out others to bring home but I tell you this, “No one comes to the father but through Jesus Christ”. We are His vessels and our work is His. Those who seek forgiveness come to Father on their own accord but sometimes a seed must be planted. We are the sower of that seed as we are commissioned by Jesus to spread His Word.
The picture of the father receiving the son back into relationship is a picture of how we should respond to repentant sinners as well:
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Luke 17:3;
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2;
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20.
What is the core message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son that we have spent the last three Saturdays trying to get to? It boils down to this: It is only by God’s grace that we are saved, not by works that we may boast of some goodness that we perceive to be our own.