20So 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.
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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
Jesus is responding to the religious leaders’ question as to why He befriends sinners. His first story is about one sheep out of a hundred being lost. The second is about one coin in ten being lost. This last one is about one brother in two being lost. The emphasis is on the preciousness of each individual soul to the heart of God. Each story tops the previous one in the value of the lost thing and the joy in finding it.
This was a radical departure from the Jews’ understanding of God’s attitude toward sinners. They tended to see them as those who God was just waiting to blast away. They did not want to be near them because the judgment of God might fall at any moment and they might be harmed in the process. What a difference in attitude! No wonder they could not understand Jesus’ compassion for the dregs of society.
In this parable, the son had insisted on taking his inheritance, which would have been one-third of the estate. The father and remaining son had to live on the remaining two-thirds. The son who took the inheritance quickly wasted it on wild living and ended up in poverty. As he fed pigs, he began to long to fill his stomach with the pig slop. Finally, he came to his senses and decided to go home and plead for forgiveness. He hoped his father would let him be a servant.
His father must have been watching for him, because he saw him coming and ran to him. This was very undignified for a Jewish father. Compassion had overridden his dignity. Instead of being hired as a slave, he was given the robe of a guest, the ring of authority, and calf reserved for the entertainment of an important guest was cooked for a celebration feast. Could the desire of God to welcome the lost into the Kingdom be any clearer? (continued tomorrow evening)
Consider: When you came to Christ, God ran to meet you!
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