“A certain man had two sons, the younger said to his father, ‘give me the portion that falleth to me.’ (He) took his journey into a far country and there wasted his substance with riotous living. When he came to himself, he said, ‘I will arise and go to my father and say, I have sinned and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy servants.’ But his father had compassion and fell on his neck and kissed him and said, “Bring the fatted calf and let us eat and be merry for this my son was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:11-24 (condensed)
This familiar parable that Jesus told has several wonderful lessons. However, to understand the main lesson we need a little background. You may want to read the chapter.
The main character is not the son, but rather the father, who Jesus fashions to represent God the Father. His audience was the self-righteous Pharisees who looked down their pious noses at the less religious — those they deemed as sinners, represented here by the son.
The Pharisees had criticized Jesus for eating with and caring for such sinners. They were religious, but they knew nothing about the heart of God, who loves those whose lives are impoverished by sin.
As Jesus told this story they would have been disgusted by the son’s dishonour for his father, his deplorable behaviour and would have felt it served him right for the terrible condition he came to. Up to this point they would have nodded their heads. But what came next would shock and abhor them. The father receiving this repentant son with such openness, such willingness, such love and favour. This was so out of character in their pious, judgemental minds, that they must have been outraged at the thought. Yet, this was the point of Jesus’ story.
“There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” – Luke 15:7.
Tom Kline is pastor of Castlegar Baptist Church