Thoughts on The Word:
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up 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 like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
This week we look at the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a familiar story to many people, even non-Christians, and it tells of the the great love and forgiveness of the Father. However my focus today is not so much the Father's love for us as expressed in this parable, but rather the humility of the son who returned.
Now how many of us have dreamed of a carefree life without the hassle of work, and with the ability to do as we please when we please? I know it is something I have dreamt of many times over the course of my life - how great would it be to win the lottery, and be a millionaire! Of course you need to buy tickets in order to win, which is a hindrance to my ability to win!
Our young man in the parable has this dream too, he longs for what he perceives as the freedom to do as he pleases without care for responsibility. So he goes to his father, who has worked many a long year to build up an inheritance for his children, he has laboured to create a welcoming home which provides all they need, a home in which all members have responsibilities and roles. The son goes to this father and basically says - 'thanks dad I'll take the good stuff, so give me all that you have built up for me now, but you can keep your rules, and your responsibilities.'
Now some father's would have been furious, they would have condemned this boy. The father in our parable though, while wounded, and grieved gives his son what he wants. He divides up his property and gives it to the boy, who promptly walks away. Are you seeing the parallels in this story to our own walk with God? God gives us all that we need, he provides us with a home not of this world, he gives us life - not only now but in eternity. All he asks is that we follow him in faith, and live lives worthy of his household. But it gets better! When we fail in our pursuit of living worthily, he provides us with forgiveness through Christ, so that we can remain. So many though are like this youngest son in the parable - they choose not to remain, they choose to walk away, and though grieved, and wounded God does not stop us when we make that choice - he lets us walk. so great is his love, that he will not force us to stay.
As we continue through the parable we find that the young man squanders the gifts he has received, without his father's guidance and support the young man ends up losing all that he has. He finds himself without friends, starving and working in a pig sty. I want you to reflect on that for a moment, this young Jewish man, is forced to live and work with pigs - animals which are considered to be the lowest of the low - they are unclean. What a fall from grace, what a shameful position he finds himself in.
Finally he comes to the conclusion that he will seek to return home to his father - even if he could return as a servant he would be better off, because even the lowest in his fathers house are better off than he is. So he decides that he will humble himself, he will return to his father, not as a son, but as only a servant. He will admit his sins and repent. What a hard thing this is to do! To humble yourself before another, to admit your faults and turn away from them promising to lead a new life of obedience, is a hard thing. The hardest part of this for many - I know it was for me - is acknowledging that you do in fact need forgiveness - that you you have been a sinner, and then seeking forgiveness for that sin. For many it takes hitting rock bottom for them to reach this conclusion - like the young man in the parable. I pray that if you are on a journey, outside of your Father in heaven's household that you turn back now, before you hit bottom.
Lets finish with a reflection on the father's response when he sees his son seeking to come home. He doesn't wait patiently for him to complete the journey, he runs to meet him. The father helps the son to complete the journey home, and on his return there is great feasting and merriment. When we make a decision to return home to God, he will help us on that journey, we will be welcomed home, regardless of the sins we have committed. The Father of heaven and earth, through the redeeming work of Jesus, will forgive us, and though we are in death we will live.