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Summary: This parable is commonly called the Parable of the prodigal son. But as I read the parable, nothing grips me more than the father.

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Parable of the forgiving father

The text

This parable is commonly called the Parable of the prodigal son. But as I read the parable, nothing grips me more than the father. Therefore I would agree with some people that the parable is better known as the Parable of the forgiving father.

(Luke 15:11-32 NIV) Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. {12} The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. {13} "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. {14} After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. {15} So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. {16} He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. {17} "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! {18} I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. {19} I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' {20} So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. {21} "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' {22} "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. {23} Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. {24} For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. {25} "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. {26} So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. {27} 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' {28} "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. {29} But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. {30} But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' {31} "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. {32} But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

Our heavenly father never gives up on us.

The son had committed a terrible sin. He asked for his father's inheritance while his father was still alive! That was unheard of in those days. Jesus' audience must have been shocked. It is as good as the son saying to the father that he wished he was dead so that he could have the inheritance now!

His father must also have been terribly hurt when the son wants to take the money and go to a faraway place. Imagine our children whom we deeply love tell us that they want nothing to do with the parents anymore. They want the parents out of their lives. Imagine how hurt the parents would be.

We may not do what this prodigal son has done. Yet every time we insist on our own way, we are hurting God. We are telling Him that we don't want Him to meddle with our lives. Sin hurts God the same way the son hurt the father.

Against this backdrop of the hurt that the father must have felt is a magnificent display of the father's love.

Firstly, we note that the father never gives up on us. We may dwell in sin for years but God is still hoping and waiting for us to come back. Unlike the father, we are quick to give up on others and declare them to be hopeless. Peter expressed this tendency that we all have when he asked God how many times he should extend forgiveness to someone.

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