There is good news, for all of us. Jesus has a heart for the lost and those who have missed God’s goal (aka sinners). Jesus told this story because all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. The elitists and religious leaders (Pharisees and the scribes) began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus told them three stories (parables) to explain things. Jesus is serious about the mission that God has given Him. It is to find and redeem miserable “sinners” like me.
Jesus did a “high five” when I came home. Jesus is the “patient father’. I was dead in my sins and completely lost. I wasted my inheritance as a son of God. When I came home, we had a big celebration. God is not angry. God is happy.
I am so grateful I have been let back in the family. I didn’t deserve it but Jesus loves me.
Yes, there is good news and Jesus is celebrating. The redemption of each lost soul is precious.
Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.
English Standard Version. (2016). (Luke 15:25–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
The main character in this story is the forgiving father, whose character stays constant throughout the story, is a picture of God. In telling the story, Jesus identifies Himself with God in His loving attitude to the lost. The younger son symbolizes the lost (the tax collectors and sinners of that day), and the elder brother represents the self-righteous (the Pharisees and teachers of the law of that day).
The major theme of this parable seems not to be so much the conversion of the sinner, as in the previous two parables of Luke 15, but rather the restoration of a believer into fellowship with the Father. In the first two parables, the owner went out to look for what was lost, whereas in this story the father waits and watches eagerly for his son’s return.
We see a progression through the three parables from the relationship of one in a hundred, to one in ten, to one in one, demonstrating God’s love for each individual and His personal attentiveness towards all humanity.
We see in this story the graciousness of the father overshadowing the sinfulness of the son, as it is the memory of the father’s goodness that brings the prodigal son to repentance.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?