Fourth Sunday in Lent
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story:
“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in 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 fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
“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 slaved 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 squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
Luke brings us to Jesus’ parables of lost things. In today’s passage we look specifically at the Parable of the Lost Son. The parable is rich and has so many applications – depending on which way you look. But if you think about it – the prodigal son is us – he is the everyman in this story. This is a story of us.
Pam and I have been reading a devotional during Lent called “Finding Life: From Eden to Gethsamane – the Garden Restored” – (Link) by Jane Rubietta. It is a great reminder of how God created us and gave to us paradise in the garden of Eden, but we weren’t satisfied with it and thought we could do better – we tried, but we didn’t do very good. Jesus came to die on the cross so that paradise could be restored.
This is really the story of the Prodigal Son. The son had it all – he had his father’s riches, but he decided that he knew better. He asked his Father for his portion of the inheritance – his father gave it to him – and he set off and soon spent it all in wild living. A famine comes to the land and the boy ends up feeding pigs – a real offense to a good Jewish boy. He longs to eat even the slop. At this point he comes to his senses and realizes that even the servants back home eat better than this.
He makes several promises – he determines that he will repent – and except any punishment his father deals out and even live as a servant – believing he is outside the realm of the father’s love.
As he reaches the gate of his father’s house, the father is looking for the son and runs to meet his lost son. The son recites his promises, but all the time the father is so happy that his son has returned and sets up a big party. It’s an interesting theme in all of the parables found in chapter 15. There is joy in finding things that are lost.
The father represents God. God the Father longs to see his children repent and come back to him. God the Father longs to throw a welcome home party for us.
And yet the reason Jesus told this story was for the so-called religious elite. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus was hanging around sinful people. The Pharisees in this story are the older brother. They too could have what the younger son had – if only they had asked. The father says, “You don’t have to be jealous, we should all be rejoicing for what was once lost is now found.”
We are reminded that we need to show everyone the love of God – to tell everyone of the amazing love of God who relentlessly pursues us.