Our Father’s Great Love
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most widely known of all the parables that Jesus taught. Additionally, it is also Jesus' longest parable, comprising 22 verses (Luke 15:11-32). In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus reaches the apex in His response to the charge against Him leveled by the scribes and Pharisees, which was the accusation, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." And how did Jesus respond to this murmuring? He responded by delivering three parables in which He illustrated quite emphatically His Father's great and undying love for those who are lost: The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin, and The Parable of the Prodigal Son. There is much that could be said about this parable, but I will keep my comments brief. The Parable of the Prodigal Son continues the theme of rejoicing and even adds to it. The first half of the parable illustrates rejoicing over a sinner who returned, while the second half more directly counters the situation Jesus faced: the criticism of the religious establishment about His willingness to be with sinners. Jesus, by telling the parable in the manner in which He did, admonishes those who do not rejoice about the interest in learning of repentance and salvation that is demonstrated by those very sinners in whom the scribes and Pharisees detested. The message is made abundantly clear: if even God and heaven rejoice over the repentance of one lost sinner, should we on earth do anything less?
In the first two parables, the lost were found by searching. But in The Parable of the Prodigal Son the younger son was found by waiting. During this time of Jesus' earthly ministry, the spiritually lost were already coming to Jesus. There was no need for Him to seek them out. They had been spiritually dead and were now showing interest. They desired to be taught by Jesus, because as Matthew recorded, "…the multitudes were astonished at His teaching: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." (Matthew 7:28b-29) Yes, Jesus received them and yes, He did eat with them. His willingness to reach out to those despised individuals would have encouraged them to keep the laws they already knew and to continue to listen to Him for more instruction in God's way of righteousness. But the parable is not pertinent simply to those Jews Jesus was teaching in the first century. The lessons to be gleaned are timeless messages for all as they depict so vividly how much great love our Father has for His lost children. He rejoices over and honors every sinner who comes to repentance. He does not require nor wait for a full and formal apology. He looks into the heart and perceives the attitude of a contrite spirit, and He comes toward us. This theme of joyful acceptance, as similarly illustrated in the first two parables of this chapter, dominates the beginning of this parable. This is the lesson illustrated by the Father: He is always ready to welcome a returning child!
May the Lord bless you!