3 Characters, 3 Lessons From the Parable of the Prodigal Son

dan delzell opinion page

Jesus knew just how to address the needs of everyone, from the rebel on the run, to the person dripping with self-righteousness. And whenever the Lord told a parable, it spoke to a variety of situations and a wide spectrum of people. Jesus wanted everyone to know how much we all have to learn about the kingdom of God.

Each one of us can relate in some way to the parable Jesus told about a prodigal son, his father, and his older brother. (Luke 15:11-32)

First, there is the son who was restless and driven to experience whatever sinful pleasures money could buy. He wanted his share of the inheritance, and he wanted it immediately. In that culture, it was the height of disrespect for the son to make this request while the patriarch of the family remained in such good health. And yet, he couldn't seem to stop himself from chasing the golden goose and sowing his wild oats.

As often happens, it wasn't until his money ran out that he began to reflect upon just how good he had it before he went off on his lustful tangent.

Such is the nature of man. We feel driven at times. We get tempted. And if we are not careful, we make decisions which are rooted in fantasy rather than reality. The prodigal son chased his fantasy, but his fanciful dream eventually turned into a nightmare.

Thankfully, "he came to his senses." (Luke 15:17) That's when he started to realize everything he had given up, and how he had "sinned against heaven and against his father." (Luke 15:18) You could say he "hit rock bottom." And so there was no place to look but up. 

This is the point in the story where the love of the Father explodes onto the scene.

The son headed home, "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." (Luke 15:20)

No condemnation. No guilt-trips. No waving of the finger while saying, "I told you so." Nothing but love, pure and unconditional.

"God is love." (1 John 4:8)

And the love of the father in this parable points to the amazing grace and endless love of our great and mighty God. 

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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