We’ve talked about it before here, but the story of the Prodigal Son is probably Jennifer’s and my favorite of Jesus’ parables. We love it because of how well it captures the depth and breadth and character of our Father God’s love, how well it demonstrates His true heart toward us, his sons and daughters.
The story is found in the book of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11-33, and in this episode, I read Eugene Peterson’s translation of the first half of it, the part that captures the relationship, and a particular interaction, between a man and his youngest son:
“There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.”
Because of the love of our heavenly Father, and the sacrifice of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we sometimes are the father in the story. Sometimes, because of God’s grace, we get to be merciful and forgiving and loving toward another human being. But that’s not what I want to focus on here, in this episode.
I want to focus on how we are the younger son. Romans chapter 3, verses 22 and 23 teach us that “there is no distinction[, we] all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We’ve all blown it. We have all made terrible choices. We are all the younger son. But that is, of course, not the end of the story. Thank God. As we see in Jesus’ parable, God is never daunted by our sin. His love is just too great. No matter where we’ve been, no matter what we’ve done, whenever we decide to we return to Him, He sees us from a long way off, and with heart pounding, He runs to embrace us and welcome us home with a ring and a robe and sandals and a celebration feast. Every time.
Come, listen to “Relationship with God: Deeper and Further In.”