Continuing in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, a father’s younger son claimed his inheritance early, wasted it, and then found himself stuck in a foreign country during a famine. In one of the smartest moves that this son makes throughout the entire parable, he returns home.
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.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:20-24 NIV
If you know this parable, this turn of events probably isn’t a surprise to you. However, think about what the early disciples, followers, or students of Jesus might have thought when they heard it for the first time. Early in the parable, we have a son being insulting to his father, but the father still accommodates his request. Then, the son clearly wastes the money, and does things that he probably shouldn’t have. When the son finds himself in a pig pen, it’s easy enough to think that he got what he deserved. From some points of view, maybe the parable could have stopped there, as a lesson about obeying our Heavenly Father, and the consequences of bad behavior.
However, Jesus is teaching us about the importance of finding what is lost, especially when it comes to His Father and lost people. The father in this story (like our Heavenly Father) doesn’t only permit the son to return. He doesn’t accept the son’s proposal to work as a servant (although it looks like the son didn’t get a chance to even finish his prepared speech). Instead, the father welcomes and celebrates the return of his son.
In the same way, when someone at our church confesses their desire to follow Jesus and is baptized, the audience always celebrates, usually with applause and sometimes even with cheering. We understand that this is a really good thing for the person making this decision. That celebration of someone returning home to their Father in Heaven is natural for those who have found the same joy themselves.
Let me ask this, though: Do we have the same desire to be able to celebrate salvation for our enemies, too? I suspect that you know people who have told you off, offended you, insulted you, or just wasted their lives, their resources, and their talents on personal entertainment or other selfish pursuits (i.e., “wild living”, like the younger son in this parable). Do we look forward to the return of these people to the family of God, just as much as we seek the same blessings for those who grew up in the church and in a Christian home? It appears that God wants even rebellious lost people to return home, not just “pretty good” people who we expected to become Christians anyway.
Note that the father isn’t the only one to celebrate, here. We might have memorized Luke 15:7 from this same chapter, but do we also remember to celebrate about things that cause God to celebrate?
As a result, I encourage you to not just wait for other people to find Jesus (both people who you like, and people who you don’t like). Go out and let them know that their Father is waiting for them to come home, and that you are looking forward to celebrating them when they make that decision, too.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 23, 2022
- The Lookout, May 22, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.