Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 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 15:11-24
Our Bible passage for today is my absolute favorite story in the Bible. It's actually a parable Jesus told, often called "The Parable of the Lost Son" or "The Prodigal Son". A parable is a fictitious story which teaches a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus told many parables when teaching the crowds that seemed to follow Him everyone. Sometimes these stories were hard for the people to figure out and He'd have to explain them later. But this specific parable is not hard to understand. And I just love it. I can't ever read it (no matter how many countless times I've read it) without tearing up.
Then one of my favorite music groups, Phillips, Craig and Dean, came out with a song about it. Gets me every time. I looked on You Tube for a video of this beautiful song to share, but most of them looked kinda cheesy. But here is one of the group performing it live and I have to say they sound better in this video than the recording.
Did it move you, too? Sigh. The lyrics so perfectly portray how much the father in Jesus' story loved his son and earnestly, patiently waited for him to someday return home. And that the father was so happy and excited when he saw his son coming, that he ran to meet him! Jesus used this story to show how much God loves us and how He longs for us to return to Him, accept Him as our Father, and live with Him as His precious children.
Nothing is stronger than a parent's love for their child. If you have children, I daresay you feel the exact same way as I do about my children. I can't help but love them unconditionally, no matter what they do-even at their naughtiest. I can't imagine loving them anymore than I already do. If I did, I think my heart would explode!
Well, the Bible tells us that God loves His children, the people He created, even more than a human parent loves their child. Can you even wrap your mind around that? As Jesus said,
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~Luke 11:11-13
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." ~John 3:16
And here is a prophesy foretelling God's sacrifice of His own Son for us (note the mention of us being engraved on the palms of His hands, which refers to the nail marks on Christ's hands from being nailed to the cross). All because He loves us that much:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; ~Isaiah 49:15-16a
Did you also notice that in Jesus' parable, the father doesn't scold or reprimand or punish the son for leaving their home for a life of rebellious sin? Actually he welcomed him back, unconditionally, with compassion and happiness, and threw a huge party! Not one mention of the son's rebellion, shame, unworthiness, or how long he'd been gone.
That is exactly how God welcomes us. And unconditionally forgives us. It didn't matter to the father in the story what horrible things his son had done while he was away. And it doesn't matter what bad, sinful things you and I have done. When we realize our need for Him and His forgiveness in our lives, He immediately washes us clean of all our sins, to be forgotten and never held against us - forever.
That, my friend, is a Father's love unlike any other. He is our perfect Father. Our earthly parents make mistakes sometimes because they are human just like we are. And yes, we might need some therapy sessions to get over ways they've messed us up! But our Heavenly Father only gives us good things, blesses us, guides us, protects us, comforts us, provides for all our needs, loves us unconditionally...no matter our past.
And that is why this is my favorite Bible story. Because Jesus wanted us to clearly understand how it doesn't matter that we've rebelled, how long we've rebelled, what bad things we've done. God the Father gave His perfect Son, Christ Jesus, to die for us, so that we can be reconciled to Him and spend eternity with Him. He is just waiting for us to come back to a right relationship with Him. He is looking out for our return, waiting. And when He sees us coming, He will run to greet us, with unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, and love. Then the angels will throw a party in heaven!
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. ~Luke 15:10
Are you living a life of rebellion against God? Or are you a born-again believer who has chosen to go down a wrong path or has been nursing a sinful habit that you know is keeping you from a right relationship with God? Perhaps you have a loved one who is living a life of sin and you have been praying a long time for them to seek God's forgiveness and give their life to Christ. Or maybe you just feel far away from God.
In any of these difficult situations where there is a broken or damaged relationship between someone and God, this story of the lost son tells of all it takes for one to return to God. Just come home! Come back to God, your Father! He is waiting for you! He can't wait to throw a party to celebrate your return! And He won't make you feel guilty or unworthy when you come seeking His forgiveness and acceptance. On the contrary, He will run eagerly to meet you when you're still on your way back, enfold you in His loving arms, and compassionately forgive and welcome you back to Him, never to lose you again!
Oh, dang it all. It got me again. Where's the kleenex?