Let me borrow one of Paul Harvey’s favorite phrases and tell you the rest of the story about the prodigal son. I know you have read or heard the parable before. If not you can read it all at biblegateway.com in Luke 15:11-32. I have also posted several other posts about this parable. This is one of my favorites.
Basically, the little brother asks his father for his inheritance (before his father is dead). He takes the money and hits the road and starts living the good life. He has lots of food, fun, and friends. That is until his money runs out. Just so happens when he hits rock bottom he comes to his senses and remembers how good it was living with his father. So he decides to go home and apologize. Because he no longer considers himself worthy of being his father’s son he decides to ask his father for a job. When the son gets close to home, his dad sees him and comes running. He welcomes him home enthusiastically and seems to completely forget of all the wrongs the son committed. He forgives him. Of his return home the father says, ‘this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
Most of the time this is as far as anyone gets in the parable. However, this is not the point of the parable. It is an important part. We need to see ourselves as the prodigal son because we all are; however, in the context of the scriptures, the parable is really about what happens next.
You see, Jesus is telling this parable to the people gathered around him in response to the Pharisees accusation that Jesus accepts sinners.
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2
Jesus was trying to teach them a lesson. So he told 3 parables, the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and finally the Parable of the Lost Son. All three about looking for something lost. God is looking for those who are lost. They are who He is after, who he loves. (Okay, he loves everyone so by default that means he loves sinners.) And in all three the people celebrate finding the lost item. That is until Jesus gets to the last parable of the three, the lost son.
Someone was not happy. More than that, he was ready to give up on his daddy. Out in the fields, after everyone else was celebrating was the older brother. Remember him, he stayed home. He did what his dad asked. He worked hard and never asked his dad for anything. Now he was angry. How could his father let this no count brother come back? Not just come back but celebrate his return?
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
” ‘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.’ ” Luke 15:28-32
As far as the Pharisees were concerned, “sinners” were not going to take any part in God’s kingdom. Only the Pharisees were going to be saved. Because they were the good people. They suffered and gave up things for God. Everyone else was having all the fun, not them, they were strict, disciplined, and outwardly perfect. I love this parable because Jesus really gets in the Pharisees’ faces and preaches.
Do you hear the message? Here is one.
Stop thinking you are suffering for Christ when you do not live like the world does. Stop condemning those who have chosen to ignore God and face the world alone. Clean off the welcome mat outside the door of your heart and get ready to welcome some folks home. Home is so sweet and so warm. Everything in it is Yours, get ready to share.