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.’”
Typically, a son would receive his inheritance at the time of his father's death. The fact that the younger brother instigated the early division of the family estate showed a rebellious and proud disregard for his father, not to mention a selfish and immature attitude.
Pigs were unclean animals. Jews were not even allowed to touch pigs. When the son took a job feeding pigs, even longing for their food to fill his belly, it reveals that he had fallen as low as he could possibly go.
This son represents a person living in rebellion to God. Sometimes we have to hit rock-bottom before we come to our senses and recognize where we are in life.
The father is a picture of the Heavenly Father. God waits patiently, with loving compassion to restore us when we return to him with humble hearts. He offers us everything in his kingdom, restoring full relationship with joyful celebration. He doesn't dwell on our past waywardness at all.
Reading from the beginning of chapter 15, we see that the older son is a picture of the Pharisees, a first century group of religious legalists. In their self-righteousness, they have forgotten to rejoice when a someone turns to God. Bitterness and resentment keep the older son from forgiving his younger brother. It blinds him to the treasure he freely enjoys through constant relationship with the father.
Questions for Reflection:
As you think about the questions below look also at the picture below. This is Rembrandt’s interpretation of the moment when the son has returned home. Look carefully at all the figures, at the attention to detail and how light is used.
Consider the following after re-reading he story and studying the picture
Who are you in this story? Are you the rebellious son, lost and far from God?
Are you the self-righteous elder son, no longer capable of rejoicing when a sinner returns to God?
Maybe you've hit rock-bottom, come to your senses and decided to run to God's open arms of compassion and mercy?
Or are you one of the servants in the household, rejoicing with the father when a lost son finds his way home?
What characteristics of the Father in the parable do you think reflect God’s character? To build relationships you need to spend time together.
What can we do to spend more time with God to build our relationship with him?