Summary: The example of prodigal responding is given to us in the Father’s example.
February 19, 2005
We all know the story of ‘the Prodigal Son’. Today, I’d like you to put yourself in the position of the younger son, in this story and consider the response to the openhearted and openhearted response of your father. You know the story- you find it in Luke 15, and can review if you want. Here was a son who really worked at breaking the relationship he had in the family- he worked hard at being obnoxious and rude, in demanding his share of the inheritance prior to his father’s death- he was impatient- unwilling to wait. Then he roared out of there and headed off to live his own life, likely thinking he had enough to last a very, very long time. But, as it turned out, he spent extravagantly and, likely, foolishly. I’m sure he gained a lot of ‘fair-weather friends’ along the way, and that they helped him to spend his money, so that before too long, he had nothing. He had to go to work- to real hard and demeaning types of work in order to have enough to eat. This drove him to examine himself and he came to an incredible realization- he had a ‘voila’ moment. He realized that even his Dad’s servants had more than enough to eat. With this realization and the personal humbling he experienced, he decided to swallow his pride and return home, as a servant- not as a son. So, he prepared a speech for his Dad, which, he hoped, would allow him back into the home. (Can’t we all remember some time when we had to have a ‘speech’ for Dad?)
Meanwhile, back at home, his father had been in deep mourning for the loss of this younger son. Every day, he went out on the road and looked for him, hoping for his return. He prayed for his return. He longed for his return, and one day, all this anticipation and hope was rewarded. He knew his son- his way of walk and stature. He recognized him on the road, he thought. At first, no doubt, he shook himself to be sure he wasn’t just seeing things. But, he wasn’t. He ran to meet his son and with his arms wide open, he embraced his son and hugged him to himself. They cried together, but, then, his son started to say something and tried to establish himself as a servant and not a son. The father would have none of this and cut him off midstream- he wouldn’t listen to this line of reasoning- it wasn’t what he could or would accept. This was his son, and that was that, so he ordered the biggest party the family had known in a long time, and began celebration for the son who returned.
Can we even begin to feel what happened here- oh, we can ‘know’, but to ‘feel’ at our depths is where this story is to take us? Can we begin to go there? The son thought he deserved to be only a servant- he thought he had ‘blown it’ as far as being part of the family. He knew what he had done- he knew how he had thrown away thousands of dollars and he knew that he hadn’t honoured his father in some of his behaviour, so he knew his father would be more than justified in even sending him away. He fully expected that he might not be received, but hoped to be, at least as a servant. But, this! What an incredible response! His father didn’t even listen to him, and he was glad, for once, that his father didn’t listen to him. The result was so much more than he could have imagined. He didn’t imagine there would be a party in his honour, but that’s what happened. Can we put ourselves there, even a little bit?
This is, perhaps, the greatest of Jesus’ stories to tell us about the Father’s love for us. Notice the context- Lk.15.2, 7, 10- it’s all about the way God receives…US! This is how God receives you and me. Have you ever gone off from the Father? Have you ever taken your inheritance and used it inappropriately? Have you ever tried to do on your own, without getting advice from the Father? Have you ever gone off and willfully or willingly sinned after He received you when you were converted? Have you ever been the ‘lost child’ of God, the Father?
Of course you have…and so have I! This is OUR story- an incredible story that is so very hard for us to accept as our reality.
How many of us feel ‘unworthy’ before God? How many of us feel that God has every reason to send us away from the family? How many of us feel that we have let God down? How many of us feel that God doesn’t have to put up with our doubting and unbelieving and our lack of regularity in personal devotional time with God? How many of us know that we are ‘the lost child- son/daughter’?