It is surely the greatest story Jesus ever told. It was the crowning story of three in response to the criticism that he was the friend of tax collectors and sinners. He told of the man who had a hundred sheep and lost one. He left the 99 to search for the one until he could find it. Then in excitement he called his friends together to rejoice with him over one sheep that had been lost. Jesus explained there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just ones who live right all along.
Then he told the story of the woman who had ten silver coins and lost one of them. In desperation she lite the lamp and swept the floor searching for the one coin that was lost. When she found it she called her friends together to rejoice with her because her coin was lost and now is found. Jesus adds, “even so there is joy among the angels of the Lord when one sinner repents.
He crowning story was of a father that had two sons. The youngest came asking for his father to go ahead and distribute his wealth to his sons even though he wasn’t dead or even sick. He wanted his inheritance now and the father gave it to him. It is indicated about the other son that he received his inheritance at the same time and would have received twice as much as the younger boy. The younger son took his money and high tailed it out of there to go to the far country and spend the money having a good time. He would use his money to make friends and have a great time doing it.
What happened to the older son while the young one was off having a high old time? He stayed at home and worked everyday in the father’s herds and farm produce. No doubt there were many in town who looked at the situation with the boys and thought to themselves that the father was lucky to have a son like the older brother who was ready to work in the fields day after day taking care of his dad’s things. They thought the younger son was bringing shame on the whole family while the older son was taking care of things at home. He would have been seen as the son that would qualify his dad to become an elder in the church so long as people didn’t think much about what was going on with the younger son.
The younger son spent all his inheritance living a lousy life away from his dad. It never takes as long to spend all the money we have as we think it will. How often have you watched people who had a pocket full of money thinking that they had plenty to do them for life, only to wake up one day to the fact they had spent it all and were now in need. In that state of shock the younger one went out and glued himself to a property owner who sent him out to take care of the pigs. Don’t you suppose he was thinking every day about what it used to be like back home and now he is starving and wanting to eat what he was giving the pigs for good.
He had an awakening. Even servants at home have plenty to eat and some left over. I going to get up from this stinking pig trough and go back home to my dad and ask him if I can come back as a servant instead of as a son. “‘l’ll admit my sin and plead for mercy.” He started the journey home and would be prepared with his speech to his dad the moment he saw him.
The Father’s response was better than he could have ever imagined. When he got close to home his father was waiting and as soon as he saw him he ran to meet him, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The boy tried to make his speech. The Father told servants to hurry and get the best robe for the boy, get shoes for his feet and a ring for his finger. “Let’s have a party. My boy was lost and is found. He was dead and is alive again.”
Now the son that disqualified his dad from being a shepherd would qualify him but the one whom the people would have bragged on for being faithful to his father,turned out to be the one who would disqualify him in the minds of many. He came in from the field and heard the music and dancing and called a servant to find out what was going on. When he learned his brother was home and the father had thrown a party he was angry and wouldn’t go in. He pouted and stayed outside feeling sorry for himself that he had been faithful to the father all this time and didn’t get a party.
He wasn’t happy to have the brother home. He was just mad that the father was happy to have him back. When the father came out to plead with him to come in and enjoy the party he continued his whining like a spoiled brat of a man. “All these years I’ve served you and never broke one of your rules. Yet you never gave me even a young goat for me to enjoy with my friends.” If the father hadn’t been such a man of character he would likely have said, “What friends?”
The father talked about “your brother” coming home and rejoicing to see him. But the older brother kept talking about “Your son that wasted all you have with prostitutes.” We can never enjoy sonship while refusing to enjoy brotherhood. When anyone hates his physical brothers and sisters or his spiritual brothers and sisters, he can’t possibly love God as his father.
What should we learn from this story?
1. God is a loving, graceful, and accepting father who readily takes us back when we return to him from the world of sin.
2. You can’t know what will happen in a son or daughter’s life from picking one moment in their life to make the decision. It is only when a life has ended and you can look back that you can decide what kind of life the person lived. Many we thought were doing great turned into snobbish, judgmental, petty excuses of human beings who with small minds and smaller hearts turn away from everyone who doesn’t fit into their tiny mold. Many others that we thought were beyond hope not only came back but turned into great disciples who lead many others to the Lord.
3. Any time a brother or sister comes home it is time for a party. Just think if the angels in heaven have a party when a sinner is saved, how ridiculous it is for us to act like nothing has happened. Too many churches and homes have gone so long without a party that anyone who came near to hear the music and dancing would wonder what in the world is going on.
4. When you refuse to go in where the party is happening you miss being with God. The father in the story is God.
5. How we treat people in the church or in the home has a ton to do with whether or not they ever come back after going into the world of sin. The prodigal son remembered what it was like at home and knew if he were even made a servant it would be far better than what he had in the world of sin. If he had been in the same hog pen and remembered home as a place that was critical, had to ever do anything right and one that looks down on everyone that doesn’t act like them, I doubt he would have chosen to go home. Even living in the hog pen seems better than that.
Praise God that he is that loving father who rejoices when one sinner repents.