The Lost Son

Finally, we come to the last story in Luke 15, commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son, or as I like to think of it, the parable of the lost son.  For again it ends with the theme of the lost discovered.  When the lost son is “found”, a party ensues and the father explains the celebration to the older brother with these words, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” (Lk 15:32). 

Let’s go back to the start of the story.  A wealthy landowner had two sons.  The younger son requested his share of the inheritance from his father so he could set out on his own.  The father agreed and the younger son took the money and headed off to a far away country.  After squandering his inheritance on loose living, the son ended up working on a hog farm in a time of famine and was in the process of starving to death.  When the son came to his senses, he said, “My father’s servants are treated so much better than this.  I will go to my father.  I will throw myself on his mercy.  I will offer to become a servant and work off the money I wasted.”  So the son returned home.

Meanwhile back at the family farm, Jesus paints a picture of a lovesick father waiting and yearning for his lost son.  When the son returns, the father sees him from afar, is overwhelmed with compassion, runs to embrace him, kisses him, and announces a feast in his honor.  He will have nothing to do with his son’s plan to pay off the debt, but instead proclaims to all who will hear, “Rejoice with me.  My son who was as good as dead has come back to life.  My son who was lost has been found.” (Lk 15:23-24).

Let’s stop the narritive right here and say, “Wait just a minute.”  Are we to believe that after squandering his father’s money and inflicting the emotional pain of leaving without a trace, that all is forgiven?  What about working off the debt?  What about some probationary period to make sure the son’s change of heart is genuine?  And is Jesus’ parable really suggesting that the attitude of this father – celebrating his son’s return with forgiveness and no thought of repayment – is a picture of how God, the Father, accepts us?

That, my friends, is the absolute unadulterated beauty of the Christian message!  When we change our minds about Jesus Christ and embrace His message, all is forgiven.  There is no probationary period.  There is no “good works” requirement of being better than my neighbor, giving to charity, or performing any acts of penance.  To our calculating and cynical minds this is too good to be true.  That is the uniqueness of the Christian message.  And this free gift is being offered to you right now.

When you strip away the media caricature of Christianity, when you strip away the uninformed biases we have heard all of our lives about Christianity, at the heart of the Christian message is the story of a lovesick Father rejoicing in and accepting without reservation the person who embraces His message of good news.  And the good news is this:  Jesus Christ died for your sin problem and offers to set you free from its penalty and its power.

What sin problem?  In our human condition, in our default mode, all of us are guilty before a holy God of breaking His moral code.  Like the compassionate father’s offer of forgiveness and celebration to his son, God has a forgiveness and celebration offer for you.  His offer is summarized best in this single verse from His book, the Bible, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23).

On the one hand, we have earned death as a wage for our sin.  This is the human condition.  We were born into it and have confirmed it by our sinful actions.  But in contrast to what we have earned, God offers eternal life as a gift.  The means to receive the gift is through Christ Jesus; by embracing His message of good news.  Good news for the needy.  Good news for the lost.  Good news for the oppressed.  Good news for sin’s captives.  Good news for you and me.

If the idea of embracing the good news message of Jesus Christ is new to you, let me offer you this.  When Jesus came to earth, He initiated a new arrangement between God and man.  His message of release from the penalty of our sin was totally founded upon His death, as a substitute for each of us, on a cross.  Under God’s old arrangement, the default arrangement for the whole human race, we stand guilty of breaking His moral code.  But that all goes by the wayside when we agree to God’s new arrangement by acknowledging our guilt, accepting the free gift of Christ’s death in our place, and embracing what Jesus says as true.  If you wish to say “I’m in” with this new arrangement, tell God in prayer about your decision.  Then, talk to someone about it.  If you would like to know more about God’s offer or talk with us about a decision you’ve made, please drop us a line at our contact page.

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