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The Prodigal Son


This past weekend I completed the God Series with one of Jesus’ most familiar stories — the story of the prodigal son. I think one of the reasons this story is so popular is because we all identify to some extent with the poor decisions and lack of judgment made by the prodigal. But the story of the prodigal son is really not a story about a son. It’s really a story about a Father. Jesus told the story to illustrate the extent of the heavenly father’s love.

Jesus began the story by telling of a father who had two sons. One of them came to him and said, “I’d like my inheritance now, please.” The father doled out his portion of the inheritance. Several days later the son packed up his new convertible and sped away. He was off to see the world. His request revealed his heart and what was of highest priority to him. He would rather have the money than the father. It was as though he wished his father was dead. After all, inheritances usually assume the death of the benefactor.

You know the story…the son left, spent and squandered. But when the party was over he found himself broke and alone. The only employment he could find in a down economy was feeding pigs, which wasn’t particularly appealing to a young Jew. For the first time he experienced need. And no one was there to care or to share.

Why did the father let him go? The father not only let him go, he financed the trip! I don’t think anyone would say that the father was clueless as to what the son would do once he got his hands on the money. So why did he let him go? Wouldn’t a loving father hold him there at home and forbid him to go? Not this father.

The father’s greatest gift was not the inheritance. The greatest gift any father can give his child is his love. The prodigal preferred stuff, but the father let the son go so that he would learn that there is nothing on this earth that compares to the supremacy of the father’s love.

Isn’t that exactly what God does for us? God’s greatest gift to us is himself. His love for us is unconditional and incomparable. But our heavenly father, just like the prodigal’s father, permits us to go to the “far country” so that we may learn that there is nothing worth having in this life without him. God’s desire for you is that you would value and cherish his love above all things and supremely love him in return.

As the story continues, we read that the son came to his senses. When he came to his senses, what made sense? His father! Sometimes we look at the mess that is our lives and evaluate it in the third person. Like the prodigal son, we assess the chaos that is our life and we come to our senses only to discover that what makes sense is God. Like the prodigal, we repent and return to find our heavenly Father watching for us and welcoming us home.

His father saw him a long way off because he was looking for him. And when the father saw him, he abandoned all that he was doing and ran to him and embraced him. The behavior of the prodigal son didn’t deserve this kind of reception. But the nature of the father demanded it. The father unconditionally loved, forgave, and restored his son to the family.

In a very real sense, we’re all prodigals whom the Father has pursued. Maybe we haven’t spent, squandered, and wasted our fortunes in riotous excess, but we’re prodigal nonetheless. Just like the story describes, our Father watched for our return and welcomed us home. Not because we deserve it. It’s just the way God is. His nature demands it.

Categories : Father, God, Prodigal Son

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