PRODIGAL GRACE

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, as I meditate on your Word today, please give me fresh insight into what might be familiar, yet is hugely significant.

Read LUKE 15:11–32

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Read full chapter

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Read Romans 8:15 and 16 aloud. Repeat it as though it’s written just for you (e.g., ‘by him I cry’). Ask the Spirit to embed these truths in you.

Think Further

Sometimes naming something affects how we understand it. If we call this the parable of the lost son, which son do we mean? Both are lost, estranged from the father in different ways. The younger asks for his inheritance; the older does nothing to prevent this—and he also benefits.

We could also call it the parable of the prodigal father. First, astonishingly, he grants the younger son the means to repudiate him; next he runs to welcome the wastrel home. With ring, robe, and calf, the father teaches us that we are to welcome, not despise, the younger son on his return (vv. 22–25). That’s what turns the self- interested calculation of verse 19 into the repentance that causes the returning prodigal to become a son again (v. 21).

The most significant point is that the parable is left unfinished. While the first redemptive arc is complete, the second is paused, breathlessly, waiting to hear what the older brother will do. He humiliates his father by demanding a public confrontation (v. 28). He denies their kinship (‘this son of yours,’ v. 30), exaggerates his brother’s crimes (‘prostitutes’), and cannot rejoice that his brother has come home (young goat vs fatted calf, vv. 29, 30). Once again, the father shows extraordinary grace in going out to ask him to be reconciled to them both (‘this brother of yours,’ v. 32).

In leaving the parable unfinished, Jesus invites the Pharisees to see themselves as older brothers, unable to rejoice at the return home of sinners. Celebration is the only right response, something Jesus stresses through all three parables spoken in defense of his attitude to sinners. Jesus is asking the Pharisees, ‘Will you also come home? Will you be reconciled to the Father who shows outrageous favor even to tax collectors and sinners?’

Apply

Reflect on the Father who runs to embrace the returning son. How deep has his love sunk into you? And is there anyone who needs the same grace from you?

Closing prayer

Father, thank you that you will always welcome and forgive me when I come to you in repentance. Help me to have your heart when others seek my forgiveness.

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by kingstar

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