So the son started out on the road back home…
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son– ‘
But his father said to the slaves, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.’ So the party began” (Luke 15:20-24).
Notice how the father received his son- he didn’t say, “You loser, get out of here!” or “Ha! I knew you’d come crawling back to me!” or even, “I told you so!” The father cut short his son’s little speech and started hugging and kissing him!
Then he told the servants to bring out the best food and clothes so they could begin to celebrate together. The father gave his son the best robe (which almost certainly belonged to the father himself) and put a ring on his finger which meant that he now had a position of authority. The “fattened calf” was only served for a really special event or super-important sacrifice so it’s clear that this was a big-time celebration.
So now the party’s on and everything’s great, right? Well, not exactly…
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working; when he returned home, he heard dance music coming from the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast to celebrate his coming home again unharmed.’
The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place'” (Luke 15:25-30).
So now the older son enters the scene and he just can’t believe that his father would throw a big party for someone who wasted his entire inheritance on wild parties, prostitutes and a totally reckless lifestyle. When you think about it, it does sound like he has a pretty good point, right? Well, here’s the father’s explanation…
“‘Look, dear son,’ his father said to him, ‘you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!'” (Luke 15:31-32).
You see, the older son didn’t have a good understanding of the love that the father had for both his sons. Notice that the father didn’t deny the truth of anything that the older son said because it was undeniable that the younger son had done something really, really wrong.
The problem was that the older son had the right idea about his brother but the wrong idea about his father. His father was not celebrating the fact that the prodigal son had gone out and wasted all his money on prostitutes and crazy living. He was celebrating the fact that his son had changed his ways and had returned to him. The father was expressing his deep joy at the fact that his son was now back in the family!
So what’s the point of all this? Well, this story illustrates God’s attitude towards us whenever we return to Him with the same kind of attitude as the younger son displayed when he returned to his father. Like the prodigal son in this story, we have all messed up towards our Heavenly Father (see Isaiah 53:6). But if we come back to God with an attitude of humility, respect and an admission that we’ve done something wrong, then we can expect God to respond to us just like the father in this story. As we’re told in 1 John 1:9…
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJ).
So whenever you’re tempted to think that you’ve made such a bad mistake that God doesn’t want to have anything more to do with you, just remember I John 1:9 above and think about how the father in Jesus’ story accepted the prodigal son.