My friend Bekah and I were having a discussion about “the prodigal son” today and considering the adventure he went on. You may know the story. It’s one Jesus told to a group of church people back in the day.
It is a compelling story – and always has struck me as an amazing word picture–which I love.
We learn from it that every detail is in God’s Hands, even when things don’t look they are supposed to.
So, there are two boys in this family. The eldest son–mature, responsible; he’s always doing what is right. He has earned his keep since he was little and knows his father’s business.
Then there’s that younger brother–wants to see the world, he does. And demands his inheritance now–why wait?
His father, without much commentary, gives it to him. No strings attached.
In freedom, the Father allows his son to leave.
Can you imagine Jesus telling this story? Sitting around listening to Him are a bunch of tax collectors, petty criminals, fundamentalists and religious puritans.
I’m certain many saw themselves as the oldest son.
…and as the tale got more lurid, you can just imagine their inner thoughts casting judgment on the younger:
that wicked boy.
got what he deserved!
cast him out
cast him into hell where he belongs
he was unclean
he whored. he gambled. he wasted. he touched filthy pigs.
and he ate with pigs.
and then Jesus paused.
… and shocked the hell out of them. His listeners thought the Great Rabbi was going to affirm the eldest son and curse the younger. That’s what religious leaders do, isn’t it? They thought he would spit on this brat, this good-for-nothing swine-handling, whore-mongering sinner.
“But when [the prodigal] came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:17-20 ESV)
The Father ran to his son.
The younger son had squandered his inheritance, but then he came back… and was restored.
He was a son when he left and a son when he returned. When he returned he was given authority. He had come back to the place where he was supposed to be. When he came back–the Father ran to him and called for symbols of rulership to be placed upon his son. He said “Put a ring on his finger. Let’s have a party! My son’s back!”
Jaws must have dropped.
See, this is a message about who the real Messiah is and Who His Father Is. He came to save the lost sons–the ones who belong to Him, but know they cannot do it on their own. They are too bad to be saved. They are unworthy to be sons. The prodigals.
How many sons are out in the world today who know God the Father is good, but are afraid to return to Him because of fear and shame and unworthiness?
Come back, children. Come back. The Father is waiting.