Luke 15:11-20 (ESV)
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs 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 more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Using illustrations, Jesus explained the joy associated with finding something previously lost. This last story begins with a father and his two sons. The younger son asks the father to give him his share of whatever he would get when his father died. It wasn’t customary to distribute inheritances while the father was still alive, and some say the younger son may have proclaimed that his father was dead to him at this point. In any case, the younger son is ready to sever his relationship with his father and wants all the cash he could get. The father agrees and gives the son his share of the property. The son wastes his inheritance, chasing after the pleasures of life, and in time, he is totally broke. To top it off, a famine hits the land. He has no money and no way to make money. Eventually, he lands a job working for a Gentile by feeding pigs. Most Jews would never stoop so low. The younger son clearly hits rock bottom. At this point, even the pigs are better fed than he. Then it hits him. His father’s servants are treated with much more kindness than he. He considers that even though he gave up his relationship with his father and forfeited his sonship, maybe his father would give him a job. The son lets the father know he is simply looking for a job, and he won’t burden anyone.
What a beautiful picture of repentance! Initially, the son doesn’t want a relationship with his father, and the father lets him go. In the same way, God allows sinners to do as they please. But when the sinner realizes that her life is awful without God and chooses to humbly ask God for his mercy and grace, God embraces her. The son probably never imagined his father would ask the servants to get out a robe, a ring, and a pair of sandals. The father restores the son to his place in the family. Then the father has a great feast so that all could celebrate with him. Let’s stop and thank God for the unearned grace he has showered upon us as followers of Jesus. Even though we don’t deserve it, he has put the robe, the ring, and sandals on us too and welcomed us into his family. What an unusually kind God we serve!