Summary: If you have ever been in the position of the father in the story, you know the heartbreak, the sleepless nights, the wondering, and the self-reproach. "Where did I fail?" It is agony to await the outcome.
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:
"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 traveled 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.’" Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
If you have ever been in the position of the father in the story, you know the heartbreak, the sleepless nights, the wondering, and the self-reproach. "Where did I fail?" It is agony to await the outcome.
A pastor with which I was very well acquainted had a son who walked the path of The Prodigal. More sensitive than the other children in the family, Dave turned from the Lord. He somehow could not understand that this great and loving God his father preached about could have human counterparts who display such anger and prejudice in the name of the LORD and His church.
In his late teens Dave rejected his standing in Christ, and everything connected with the church. The agony of the pastor-father, and his devout wife was excruciating; so much so that they gave up serving, and the preacher became a carpenter.
After some time, shortly before his twentieth birthday, after an all-night binge, and in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, Dave came to his father’s house. He woke his parents and poured-out his heart: "Dad, Mom, I can’t take it any more. I’ve tried my best to make it on my own, and I’ve failed. This life isn’t worth living. I need to have this emptiness taken away...it hurts so bad. Then he asked, Dad, will you and Mom pray with me?" Instantly there were parents on the floor, praying, weeping and rejoicing over the son who had come home.
A new joy and purpose came into Dave’s life. He made plans to go to college, to make a life worth living.