“All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!” – Luke 15:29-30.
The parable of the lost son is a parable for today. It offers hope for all who long for reconciliation. Whether it be with a child, a parent, or a friend from the past, this story points to hope. Imagine for a moment the day the father goes out to the hill and sees his son coming up the road. His heart immediately reaches out to his returning son, his feet quickly propelling him forward. Both father and son are together again, the distance bridged and the time apart forgotten. His years of hope and longing are summed in the declaration, “for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found…” (Luke 15:24).
This is where the movie would end fading to black with dramatic music. But that is not where the story ends. While the parable’s focus is primarily on the younger lost son, Jesus concludes by speaking about the elder son. He’s never left his father’s home. He’s never rebelled, messed up, squandered his father’s money, betrayed his family, or disgraced himself. He’s never told his father that he can’t wait for him to die and could he have his inheritance money now please thank you very much.
So when his father throws his wayward brother a welcome home party, the elder son refuses to enter and join in the celebrations. He explains bitterly that he has never put a foot wrong, he’s worked hard for his father, and yet he’s never once been thrown a party in his own honor.
Once again the father shows his wisdom. The father’s words demonstrate mercy and redemption. He responds to the bitterness of the man who stands in the shadows and refuses to come into the warmth by saying: “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” (Luke 15:31-32). There is no competition with the Father. What He celebrates with the prodigal, He shares with the rest of His children. The bond forged between the father and the older son could never be broken. Such relationships need no party or grand demonstration of the fact. Trust was simply there.
In this parable, Jesus gives a vivid picture of God and what God is like. God is truly kinder than we are. He does not lose hope or give up when we stray. He rejoices in finding the lost and in welcoming them home. You are a son or daughter after the Father’s heart. I hope that reading this devotional has helped you discover at least one way that the Father loves you.
- How do you react to the older son?
- What can we do this week to repent and restore our relationship with Christ?