THE LOST SON
In this section of the parable is revealed the compassionate heart of God and the joy that is His in His readiness to embrace the returning wanderer.
We pause to remark that in this renegade we can see ourselves in our sinner state, and God would have us remember the condition in which He found us-" dead through your trespasses ... walking according to the course of this world ... in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind ... children of wrath" (Ephesians 2.1-3).
Though the prodigal had treated his father in a shameful manner, yet on confession of guilt and unworthiness he is brought in to share the best a father's heart can conceive, and the utmost his means can provide.
So it is with the believer today. On his coming to God through Christ he becomes the object of grace. "God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2.4-7).
Whatever the fears of the prodigal as he journeyed home, these were quickly dispelled by the father's loving arms and fervent kiss, for he kissed him much, as the revised margin shows. Doubtless he would need to be cleansed before he was decked with the best robe, the ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. Thus he was made meet to take his place at the father's table, there to enjoy the fatted calf. And they began to be merry, gratitude filling the prodigal's heart, and joy the heart of his father.
We, too, should be filled with joy and gratitude as we consider what God has done for us. The psalmist says:
Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfieth the longing soul,
And the hungry soul He filleth with good" (Psalm 107. 8, 9).
We should be engaged in "giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins" (Colossians 1.12, 13). Such is the blessing of those who draw near, not only to hear but also to receive Him.
Now the elder son comes on the scene. Travelling from work he hears noise and music. His attention is arrested. His inquiry is answered by the servant, "Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound." Can you not see the change in the countenance of the brother? We can almost hear him exclaim in disgust, "What, that fellow! He that has disgraced our name, and caused us shame! Going in there? Not I!" The elder brother stays outside. Like the Pharisees, he stays without and murmurs.
The father comes out and intreats him. But let us hear the elder brother. Let him state his case. Listen!
"Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but when this thy son came, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou killedst for him the fatted calf."
Can you hear the Pharisee's voice? It is all what I have done, and what I have not done (see Luke 18.11, 12). Yes, "both the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." It was said of them, " ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter " (Matthew 23.13).
Son," said the father, "thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine." Ah, you ask, how can this fit in? Let us recall that the Pharisees, though refusing to come to the divine Saviour, were the more orthodox party of the Israel nation-a nation to which was entrusted "the oracles of God" (Romans 3. 2): "whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Romans 9. 4, 5). Yes, God had bestowed His best upon them, yet there they stood, like the elder brother, in the outside place, refusing to acknowledge their need of the Saviour, their self-righteousness barring their way to the festive hall. We hope that all who read these lines are inside.
Yet there is room! The Lamb's bright hall of song,
With its fair glory, beckons thee along.
Pass in! pass in! That banquet is for thee:
That cup of everlasting love is free."