Have you ever been a prodigal son or daughter in your life in some way, my brothers and sisters? I have.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with [d]prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the [e]pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, [f]‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”
The description of the prodigal son’s fall is the ultimate rock bottom for a Jewish person at the time. Pigs were considered unclean to touch much less to eat. The young man is so destitute he is in the filth with them and struggles even to eat what the swine themselves eat.
He is profoundly humbled and decides to return. As he begins to return we get the picture that everyday his Father is scanning the horizon looking for his son, so desiring that he willingly return. And when he does see him he rejoices greatly. I am reminded of the scripture. “I say to you there will be more Joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety none just persons who need no repentance”.
The father represents God who is always looking for us to turn to Him. Notice, the father doesn’t stop the son from leaving and living the way he did. In reverence to God there is a profound principle in this, which is: ‘God follows His own laws of divine order”. Freedom is a two-edged sword. God himself will not stop us from doing evil for it would break His sacred law of freedom of will. We have to be free otherwise we would have no self, so identity, no sovereignty. Freedom is both the means of salvation and the cause of hell. But God made us all for heaven; His greatest love is for us to be whole, to make it home to Him. God uses evil to expose evil, so that we may turn away from it, come to abhor it, and to Him with all our heart.
So the prodigal son’s return is truly a time to rejoice. This story shows that the greater the distance one has spiritually ‘travelled’ to come to God, the greater the joy of salvation! The greater the fall, the greater the potential depth to which the heart is humbled; and so the greater the joy of return. Jesus: “I say to you there will be more Joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine just persons who need no repentance”.
The brother who is upset represents the just person. Often those who have lived in relative stability in life and in religion don’t have the same inner joy, thankfulness and wonder as those who had to fight to come home. They are more complacent, and potentially entitled. God knows His ways, and is not a respecter of peoples limited perception. The father in the parable said, ‘It is right to celebrate for he was lost and now he is found’. The prodigal son fell to the lowest of the low, and came back, humbled, claiming nothing, only hoping to reconcile and show his repentant love. The inner distance travelled opens up new, unseen avenues in the soul. It cracks a person open. It lets them see past the safe and settled ways of the ego, and to open to the way God sees us, loves us, and forgives us. In such a state ones ‘cup runneth over’ with gladness.
I said that I am a prodigal son. I was once in a cult in Berkeley California for a long time. It is a long story, but I suffered greatly. Mind control is abusive to one’s soul. They tried to take our self away, and to give to themself the authority that belongs to God. We fell for it, and I lost everything – money, marriage, friends, children, and family. They turned us against our own family and our own interest. But eventually there was a clash of what they did and what I felt was right with God in my core, and I had to fight very hard within for God. I found a way to leave. I returned to family and reconciled. I was cracked open to God….