The parable of the prodigal (lost) son is found in Luke 15:11-32. The parable is about a father who has two sons. The older son stays home and tends to his father’s farm. The younger son leaves home with his inheritance and squanders it. After realizing his mistake, the younger son longs to return home but is so ashamed of his actions he feels unworthy. He ultimately returns home asking his father to hire him on as a servant. This young man is starving, defeated, and wallowing in the muck that surrounds us when we find ourselves wallowing in regret. But his father doesn’t hire him as a servant- his father is elated to see him! His father throws a banquet in his son’s honor, overjoyed that the son who once was lost has returned home. The older son is not so enthusiastic. He is jealous. After all he is the one who stayed with his father and tended to the business. Envious of the hoopla over his brother’s homecoming, he wonders where his banquet is?
We are the prodigal. We are the ones who get lost and God is rejoicing over us when we return home. He throws a banquet in our honor. His son or daughter who was lost is back home where we belong.
I think that if we get in a really honest place with ourselves we can recognize times in our lives where we’ve played each of these roles. We’ve been lost, jealous, and forgiving. That’s the reason why Jesus included these three distinct roles in the parable; so we would see reflections of our lives in the story.
We’ll spend this week meditating about the roles we play in this parable. Sometimes we are the prodigal, sometimes we are the brother, and sometimes we are welcoming a prodigal home.
Let’s kick this off by recognizing how it happens. How do we get so lost? In a nutshell, we wander off. We take our own path, we carve our own way, and we get ahead of God.
Have you ever been the lead car in a caravan and had this experience? One of the folks following you decides to pull ahead and for the next few miles you wonder how this is going to work because the person who has no idea where they are going is now ahead of you. Eventually that person has to slow down and work their way back into the caravan behind you to follow you to the destination.
This is what happens when we become the prodigal. We get ahead of God. We stop following Him, we go off in our own direction thinking that we know what is best, and we end up in a murky pit of a mess praying to God to save us from it, and He does. Can’t you just see Him shaking His head and saying “how did you wind up here? This is not what I had for you.” And every time, like the father in the parable, He welcomes us home.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Jeremiah 31:3 makes it clear. God’s love is everlasting and unfailing. It isn’t dependent on what we do. There is no “except for” clause in the verse. There is no variance, or scale of love based on our actions. It is everlasting and unfailing. So welcome home, prodigal.
Tomorrow we’ll meditate on the role of the brother in the parable.
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Lyrics from Sidewalk Prophet’s “Come Running Like A Prodigal”
It’s been a long time since you felt peace
In the valley you made where you’re not meant to be
Where the shame throws shadows on you
But don’t you forget
That you’re headed to more
But you’ve settled for less
Don’t buy the lie “it’s as good as it gets”
The same feet that left you lost and alone
Are the very same feet that can bring you back home
Wherever you are, whatever you did
It’s a page in your book, but it isn’t the end
Your Father will meet you with arms open wide
This is where your heart belongs
Come running like a prodigal.