Almost everyone knows the story of the prodigal son, including non-Christians. The message has been widely and much used as a teaching of redemption and return. It is a wonderful parable and has a number of good messages for Christians. This is the third message of the Lord in this chapter of Luke that looks at seeking the lost so let’s have a look at it.
Who was the prodigal son?
The prodigal son was with his father and brother and he was the youngest member of this family. Like many young people he wanted to go out and see the world. He was not content where he was and he thought that there were bigger and better things outside the family that he wanted to see and explore.
When we consider the meaning of this we can consider that this person was part of the family of God, that is, they were followers of the Lord. But they were young in the Lord just as this son was young. They were immature just as this son was immature and did not recognise the value of what they had, but were seeking more.
Losing the Way
The prodigal son then goes to the father saying, “Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.” Then the son left shortly after to go out to a far off country and see the world. The Bible tells us that he squandered his property on loose living and came to be in want as a famine arose in that country.
For those who are young in Christ there can be similar situations arise. Some who come to the Lord are not content where they are and flit from church to church looking for excitement or a new doctrine. They search for teachings that will “tickle their ears” rather than lead to strength and maturity. Paul wrote about this issue to Timothy saying, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
There is a lot of rubbish taught in the name of Christianity that has no biblical foundation, and it is often these lies that lead God’s people astray. Thus they are like the prodigal who left his home seeking new adventures.
But then we see that the prodigal son came upon hard times. He had wasted all of his living and was in want. In desperation he takes a job feeding swine and was so hungry he would have gladly eaten the food given to these pigs.
The analogy here is that he hit an all time low point. He hit rock bottom where all his fair weather friends deserted him and he was left alone with nothing. We should understand how low the man had fallen for swine or pigs were unclean animals to the Jews and it would be totally abhorrent to those Jesus was speaking to to even consider such an occupation. That is how low this person has fallen. They have become the lowest of the low.
But in this lowly state, the son comes to his right mind and recognises his fault. He realises what he has lost and that he needs to go back cap in hand and humbly ask forgiveness of his father. He says to himself, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.” (Verses 18-19)
Here the son recognises his wrong and is seeking forgiveness. He is repenting of the wrong he has done and seeking to return to the family.
Likewise those who come to the Lord and repent, seeking God’s forgiveness are seeking to come back to unity with Him. They are seeking to return to God’s family and to be reconciled with him for they recognise there is something better for them with the family of God than in the loneliness of the world where no-one cares.
This is the key to coming to the Lord or coming back to the Lord. There is nothing you have done that cannot be forgiven by God if you are humble and repentant. When you turn to the Lord seeking his forgiveness, that is when you start to move up out of your own “swine feeding” state. That is when you begin to rise from rock bottom.
Forgiveness and Redemption
So the son comes to the father in humility, not looking to be considered as a son but as a mere servant. But what does the father do? Does he reject him for his foolishness and errant ways? No. He is watching and waiting for his son’s return and when he sees him from afar, he runs and embraces him and bestows honours on him and kills the fatted calf and throws a great feast for the returned son. Why? His words are, “…for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (verse 24)
What can we learn from this. First we note that the father was looking for the son and waiting for him to return, just as the Father is waiting and watching for people to come to Jesus. Then we see the father run to the prodigal son and embrace him, not when he comes to the door, but when he sees him from afar. Likewise whenever a person even remotely looks to the Lord seeking to return, the Father will also go to that person and embrace them, welcoming them into the fold.
Then we see the father shower gifts and make a big fuss over the prodigal son. So too it is not uncommon for the Lord to do wondrous things to people when they first come to him. He opens their eyes to know the truth, he often does healings or provides deliverance from physical bondages and he provides his people to help and comfort the repentant person. God is welcoming the repentant sinner into his home and into his family, and when a sinner repents it is a great reason for joy.
These things are not unusual for a person when they come to the Lord. I personally have witnessed such things and know of others that have seen such things too. It is a great blessing to come to the Lord Jesus and to accept him as Saviour and enter the family of God, and God wants people to know they are blessed.
But like all things the party does not last forever. That does not mean God leaves you alone for the Bible says, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) But rather as we learn, grow and mature in Christ he works with us in other ways for he is teaching us how to stand. And to learn how to stand we need to face adversity so that we learn to place our trust in him. We need to learn so that our faith becomes strong and so that when we are attacked we can stand in the face of opposition.
Jesus will and does do all of these things as our relationship with Christ grows and matures. And that is how it should be. Not always a party, but ALWAYS blessed in the knowledge and care of the Lord.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Adrian Lynch)