Stories can captivate our attention and our heart. They help us see ourselves and others more clearly. The story of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of the most well-known stories told by Jesus. It is the third and final story in a string of parables that Jesus used to critique the religious leaders. They were critical of Jesus’ associating with sinners and tax collectors. Each parable highlights the rejoicing after something lost is eventually found.
We relate to each story because there is a person who is devastated by what has been lost. For example, the shepherd leaves his flock of 99 to look for the one lost sheep. A woman lights a lamp, using precious oil, to look for her lost coin. Have you noticed that in the third parable, no one goes to look for the lost son? In the 1st-century culture, it was often the responsibility of the oldest son, to go look for his younger brother. In Jesus’ parable, the elder son stays home and leaves his father to anxiously wait for the younger son to return (v. 20).
When the younger son eventually returned, the father was elated, and he celebrated with the entire community (vv. 22–24). However, the older son was aghast and angered. How could the father forgive his brother who humiliated the family name, squandered the wealth, and lived a sinful lifestyle (vv. 25 30)?
The older brother in this parable is meant to represent the Pharisees. Like the parable, they too must have been astonished that Jesus would welcome sinners into the kingdom. As the religious experts, it was their duty to go after those that were lost, but they were too self-righteous to give others a second chance. Our God is constantly seeking the lost. When one person puts their trust in Jesus, all of heaven rejoices!
>> If you have experienced God’s forgiveness, make it your mission to seek others who need another chance, too. Then join the celebration!
How can we proclaim Your grace to the nations? Heavenly Father, show us who is searching and needs our testimony to help them and set them on seeking You. Show us who is ready to hear and respond to the truth about You.