We usually refer to the story of the wayward son in Luke 15 as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” But some suggest it should be called “The Parable of the Forgiving Father.”
At the beginning of Luke 15, tax collectors and sinners had flocked to Jesus to hear Him teach. Not surprisingly, the Pharisees disapproved of His socializing with “sinners.” In response, Jesus told three parables describing His love for the lost. The Prodigal Son story is the third and most detailed. It is also unique to the book of Luke.
In the parable, a young brother, like the greedy tax collectors, asked his father for his share of the estate. According to the law, he would have received one-third of everything (Deut. 21:17). Granting this request put the father in financial jeopardy, yet he complied and let the sinner go his way.
The prodigal squandered his inheritance on wild living. Then, a famine struck the land. In a desperate state, the young man took the only job he could find, feeding swine—a dishonorable act for a Jew. As he eyed the pigs’ food with envy, he recognized his wrongdoing and decided to return home and repent.
The father’s run to the son would have shocked Jesus’ audience. Culturally, a disrespected father would have waited for some indication of remorse. But this father’s forgiveness was exceptional. He kissed his son. Then he called for robes, rings, and a fatted calf for a feast. We can understand the over-the-top love of this father as a picture of God.
The older son represented the Pharisees who complained about justice and equality, showing no mercy to those in need. Incredibly, the father responded to him with even more grace. “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
>> Who are we in this story? Are we the younger son, running away from the father? Or are we the older son, resentful and unforgiving? Pray that God will use this story to speak to your own heart.
Your forgiveness is incredible, Lord. We know the sins we have committed; we know that we fall short of Your glory. Yet You have welcomed us—the prodigal, the resentful, and the unforgiving—into Your family!