As I sat on the edge of a prickly field in Pendleton, Oregon visiting family, I am again, in awe of God! In my morning devotions, I was directed to Luke 15, specifically verses 11-32, the parable of The Prodigal Son. I have read this numerous times, heard it preached and teached, (ok, it is really ‘taught’ – but it rhymes) it is packed FULL of wonderful principles. We can look at it through the eyes of the wayward son, through the frustrated older brother and the father, oh the father! Today I see it through new eyes, a fresh perspective; this is what Holy Spirit showed me, this is what I am learning. (Stay with me this is good)
The parable begins with “Jesus continues…” What was He continuing? Looking at the prior verses, there are two parables above, First: ‘The Lost Sheep’ Jesus ends the mini story with “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (v7) Then, the second Parable of the Lost Coin, He too ends with “there is rejoicing … over one sinner who repents.” (v10) Jesus is teaching on repentance. Even then, I go back further, the first verse of the chapter; it says, (Looking for where they were, who was there) “Tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Him.’ But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NIV, emphasis mine, can you hear the ‘hissing’ in their muttering!) The principal pulled forward: Do WE position ourselves to listen or so distracted with criticism, perhaps MISS what Jesus is saying. (Ouch!)
The Parable of the Prodigal Son: In brief rundown: A father has two sons; the younger decides to leave, demanding he gets his inheritance NOW! It is given, he takes off and treks far away completely wasting all his money on wild living. When his pockets are empty, a famine hits, he’s hungry – he finds work at a farm, his boss puts him to work feeding the pigs, he sees what he is tossing to the pigs, being so hungry, even THAT looks good! The story comes to a pivotal point when “He finally comes to his senses…” (v17, complete sermon in those few words) He says to himself, ‘even at home, dads hired servants get better than this, I will go home to dad and tell him; “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, I am not worthy to be called your son, please take me on as one of your hired servants.” Here’s the key verse (to me) Verse 20, “So he returned home to his father.” As he nears home, the father sees him, so excited the father takes off running, meets him, embraces and kisses him. The son begins his speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son …” Not getting to finish, his dad turns and calls to the servants “Get the robe, the ring, sandals, and kill the calf we’ve been fattening up – let’s celebrate! My son who was lost is found!” (The story goes on; the older brother notices the celebration, he begins throwing a smaller ‘pity’ party version – the dad comes out and tells him to get over it, all I have is yours already!)
I want to reach down and unpack a few things: I noticed as Jesus told this story, there is no reference to the father speaking any words to the younger son; we only hear a one-sided conversation. When the son returns and gives his dad his speech, the father does NOT reply to the son but calls to his servants. The father gives no verbal response – but only ACTION. His dad’s forgiveness is action-filled, he gives him a ring, robe, sandals and a BBQ. (The significance of each for another time).
I also noticed, the son refers to his dad’s servants, and his dad calls to his servants. Each time they both use different words. The son (see verses 17, 19) uses (in the Greek) ‘misthios’ meaning ‘wage earner.’ The father (v22) uses ‘doulos’ – meaning, ‘one whose will is consumed with the will of another.’ The son was going back ‘for the paycheck’ – NOT to be taken over by his fathers’ will. Let that sink in. HOWEVER, (pause) I am fully convinced, that as the son saw his father’s response, no words, just action – regardless of how empty his stomach was, everything changed! Actions speak LOUD! Action can detour any conversation, there were no ‘follow up’ words, ‘BUT DAD…’
I see also that good intentions only profit – IF we act on them, while the son was still in the pig pen, ‘he said’ – he not only ‘said’ but also he got up and went TO his father. He could have continued in the pen and rambled on and on and on, the neighbors could hear him lamenting over at their place! But he truly repented – repentance is not just turning away FROM, but in the same movement – it is turning TO! It has purpose! Repentance took him away from his icky pig pen, and home TO his father. His dad couldn’t do anything about his son’s situation until he came home. (Read THAT again) Yes, Jesus is teaching about repentance.* (See defined below)
The prodigal son, YES, he messed up, but took notice of his situation, was humbled, responsible and sought resolution, (RIGHT AWAY, ‘when he came to his senses’ – there was no delaying, sat on it – wrote ‘Dear Abby’ – consulted his friends) – he put action to his personal repentance. This father put his forgiveness into action as well. What about us, are there circumstances that have us in the pig pen, whether small or fills the back 40. Do we need to quit just talking about it, but get up and DO! A purposed turning from and turning to (God). Or perhaps, we need to offer forgiveness to another, oh we may not need to throw a robe over their shoulders and put sandals on their feet, but we may need to back up our forgiveness with action. Point to ponder – remember, the father gave his son his portion of the inheritance, but upon returning, the father had MORE to give, – our God has and IS more! And sometimes, God allows us to go the full run of our sin, to truly appreciate the MORE of HIM when we come home!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Repentance means a change of place, or condition, to exercise the mind, to relent, a true change of heart toward God. The OPPOSITE of repentance: To continue. [The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament] Those who, conscious of their sins, are intent on obtaining God’s pardon. [Thayers Greek-English Lexicon] To change one’s purpose [ Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament] Perceiving one’s prior opinion, feelings, or purpose was wrong, taking on the sense ‘to regret’ – in so doing, a change is made. [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament] Interesting side note: ‘Prodigal’ in the Greek means: Extravagantly wasteful because of “loose living.” [ Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament]
Pictured above, the sunny skies over Pendleton.