So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
The story of the Prodigal son is one of the more intriguing stories Jesus tells us from many Jesus. It is a story that has many characters who play different roles. There is the father, the eldest son, the younger son and others. This parable tells a story that the listeners of Jesus time would understand. It would describe a normal family living in a community familiar to those around Galilee. The family would seem to be wealthy, owning land, and having many herds. The father would have been well-respected in the community. In this culture, we are looking at a typical family where the oldest son would have eventually received at least 75 percent inheritance. The younger son comes to the father and asks him for his inheritance. Shockingly the father gives it to him. The young man leaves and parties until the money runs out. That is when his troubles start closing in on him. No money, no friends, and no food.
How often have we seen this scenario play out today? There are prodigals all around us. People who leave for a variety of reasons and disappear and become trapped in their situations. They become lost, helpless and hopeless. They just vanish. The truth is we miss them. We are concerned about their well-being and their lives. It is difficult to live each day wondering if???? If they are all right, if they are safe and even if they are alive.
Some prodigals leave because they have made some very bad choices. They get caught up in themselves and cannot make better decisions about their lives. Too often, families shut their door behind them and just let them go. Of course, there are many circumstances, may opportunities, and many heart aches. Too often we just shut the door.
In the story from the Gospel of Luke, the young boy “comes” to himself and realizes his predicament and makes the decision to go home. As it says, even a servant has a place to live. He heads home knowing exactly what he would say and do.
In the story, I believe the father looks for his son every day to return. Waiting expectantly. One day he sees him, rushes out to meet him and welcome him.
There are many signs of grace. The father could have said angerly; you are not welcome here. He could have said you are not my son, and I do not trust you.
What he did say was, I love you. Welcome home. This the ultimate example of grace and unconditional love.
There are prodigals in our families…will we let them come home? Will we??
They want to.