15 Tax collectors and sinners were all crowding around to listen to Jesus. 2 So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses started grumbling, “This man is friendly with sinners. He even eats with them.”
11 Jesus also told them another story:
Once a man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, “Give me my share of the property.” So the father divided his property between his two sons.
13 Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.
15 He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs.16 He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing.
17 Finally, he came to his senses and said, “My father’s workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! 18 I will go to my father and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers.’”
20 The younger son got up and started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him.
21 The son said, “Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son.”
22 But his father said to the servants, “Hurry and bring the best clothes and put them on him. Give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 Get the best calf and prepare it, so we can eat and celebrate. 24 This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found.” And they began to celebrate.
25 The older son had been out in the field. But when he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants over and asked, “What’s going on here?”
27 The servant answered, “Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father ordered us to kill the best calf.” 28 The older brother got so angry that he would not even go into the house.
His father came out and begged him to go in. 29 But he said to his father, “For years I have worked for you like a slave and have always obeyed you. But you have never even given me a little goat, so that I could give a dinner for my friends. 30 This other son of yours wasted your money on prostitutes. And now that he has come home, you ordered the best calf to be killed for a feast.”
31 His father replied, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we should be glad and celebrate! Your brother was dead, but he is now alive. He was lost and has now been found.”
The Prodigal Son, as this story is often called, is one of the most retold stories of the bible. But it is more than a story of a son gone astray.
This is the story of three people:
who thought he knew better and squandered what he had. Yet he realised what he’d done, knew his father would welcome him home and went back. He didn’t expect to be treated like a son any more, but knew he was better off, even as a servant, in his father’s house. He goes home, his speech of pleading and repentance prepared. Yet he doesn’t need it. His father runs to welcome him long before he gets there.
lets his son go, even knowing he will get things wrong. Yet stands watching all the time waiting for him to return. The father welcomes his son home, thrilled to see him. There is no recrimination, no making his son grovel, no awkwardness – just a celebration that he has chosen to come back.
not at all happy that his brother, the wastrel is home. Even less happy that there is celebrating. This isn’t fair, he has been a good son – stayed home, done his duty – yet no one is celebrating him. His anger and jealousy stop him seeing the good news that his brother has returned.
Jesus told this story because of the disquiet that he was mixing, and even welcoming, sinners. What about them, who had done no wrong, indeed done everything right – or so they thought. Surely God and the Messiah were for them not “them others”.
Jesus’ point here, is we may well be surprised as to who is in and who is out of God’s kingdom.
It’s good news for those who know how much they have got things wrong. It may not be such good news for those who those who think they have got everything right, yet cannot see their own mean-mindedness.
Thank you Lord
that you welcome home
those who return to you,
knowing that they have gone wrong.
that you not only accept us when we come,
but are actively watching and waiting
for our return.
Help us not to be upset
by those you welcome,
but rather rejoice as you rejoice
Sorry, the same song two days running – but themes intermingling – and you can never sing this song too often!