The Prodigal Son

You remember the story; it’s one of the most famous short stories ever written. The younger son comes up to his father and asks for his share of the inheritance. Some have doubted the wisdom of parting with the money at this point, but the father in question did just that. The son, as you will recall, leaves the area to squander the money in wine and women. When he runs out of money he discovers that he has been consorting with “checkbook friends.” So, after a little hardship, he comes to his senses — and returns home.

With that introduction, may I introduce to you the character that I want to talk to you about….the father. There are three things that I would wish you to see:

Patience — note that the father is out every day, looking down the road in the hope that he will see his son coming. It apparently takes some years before he comes back, but all that time the father has not changed his mind. He wants his boy home.

Loving — you can tell by his first reaction to the sight of his son. He does not wait for him to return; he doesn’t walk towards the boy — he runs. Those who hold that the father in this parable is a picture of God may note that this is the only time in the Bible where God is pictured as running. When he gets to him, there is no explanation asked, there is no lecture delivered. The picture is one of pure joy: my boy is home.

Forgiving — indeed, forgiving to the point of restoration. The prodigal knows what he deserves, in fact, he tells the father that he has sinned and basically disgraced his family and to please let him live as one of his father’s servants…but the father gives him restoration into the family. He looks at him with completed love and forgiveness and says my boy is back!!! He forgives to the point of accepting him back as family!!!

God’s love is like that. He shows us this at the cross. For 2000 years he has been patient, waiting for his children to come home. Is he loving? The most famous verse in the Bible starts with the phrase, “for God so loved the world…” Only pure love would sacrifice a son. But it is in forgiveness that we see this most clearly. We are forgiven, not in part but in whole.

“My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
my sin, not in part but the whole
is nailed to the Cross and I bear it no more
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

In communion we can see our responsibilities simply by looking at the prodigal son. May I submit that there are three things we need to do:

  • First, we need to confess our sin. It may seem obvious, but even the prodigal son knew he had to voice it.

  • Second, we need to recognize that we are not worthy of the Father’s love — it is his free gift.

  • Third, we need to take that love into our hearts, cherish it and accept it — and then spread it to all we know.

Communion — the “welcome home” feast for all of us who are prodigals.