Prepare to listen. Read God’s Word with the attitude of a beginner and learner. Hear God’s word to you: I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)
Read Luke 15:11-32
11Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. 25‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” 31Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”’
This parable (and I hope you read all of it) is the best known and best loved in all of Scripture. It’s been a rich source for preachers, writers and artists (see note below). But perhaps it would be more accurate to name it ‘The Prodigal Father,’ rather than prodigal son. Prodigal, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means, “To give or spend wastefully or extravagantly; to squander; to lavish.” Two words make it seem a bad thing—wastefully and squander. Certainly, the younger son in Jesus’ story does this, taking his father’s inheritance and squandering it wastefully until he became impoverished, unpopular and ignored. There are also two words that have good connotations—extravagantly and lavish. These are two words that describe our God. He gives extravagantly and lavishly (as at the wedding of Cana in John 2; see March 29 devotion). The father in this story behaves as we would expect God to behave. Not only does he forgive his repentant ‘prodigal’ son, he lavishly spends money to give him better clothing and a rich feast. This is a God to believe in.
Can you receive God’s extravagant love and forgiveness, given freely and lavishly?
Which of the two sons are you most like?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord, your grace always astounds. May I mirror your prodigal giving of grace and compassion to those I interact with today. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world serving a prodigal Lord.
Note: If you wish to spend more time with this amazing story, I’d recommend Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, reflections on both Jesus’ story and Rembrandt’s painting of it.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.