Love is as critical to our existence as oxygen is to our body. The absence of love and a broken heart can have a devastating effect on the human soul. Unfortunately, the struggle in this life is that we look for love in all the wrong places.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12
The Bible serves as a roadmap for us to know God and experience the abundant life He has prepared for us without all the pains of learning the hard way.
In the parable “The Prodigal Son,” Jesus breaks from cultural protocol when setting up the story by introducing us to a man who has two sons. Immediately the younger son takes center stage without any specific mention of the older son.
A proper cultural introduction would have begun with the father, the first-born son, and then the youngest son. But this was intentional to demonstrate the irrational nature of the youngest child.
The first thing we hear from the youngest son is, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” Notice the future tense in the statement, “coming to me,” which means the son understood the inappropriate timing of his request.
In essence, he is saying, “Father, I wish you were dead already so I could have what will be mine.” The father responds by dividing his property between his sons accordingly.
Now Jesus used two different words for “property” when speaking of the son’s request and the father’s response.
Then after receiving his ousia, he leaves for “a far country,” Luke 15:13. The phrase “a far country” had a double meaning.
First, it was a land beyond the borders of his homeland. But it also was a metaphor for going as far from his father’s watchful eye as he could.
Then not long after receiving his inheritance and going where he wanted to go, he lost everything. It wasn’t a result of a bad business decision, an investment that went south, or by being robbed, but reckless living.
Jesus may have had Proverbs 20:21 in mind while sharing this parable, “An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” A.k.a. Easy come easy go.
With nothing left and no one to help him, he hires himself out to a citizen of this country to feed his pigs. Not only would this defile him, but we are told in Luke 15:16 that he did not make enough money to eat.
In his mind, this young man thought that by leaving his father, home, people, and God, he would find himself, but in reality, he lost everything.
Now after hearing this, Jesus’ original audience would have likely celebrated seeing the son get what he deserved. But aren’t you glad that God doesn’t see us this way? The parable is headed for an unexpected twist.
“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!” Luke 15:17
This is the turning point for the son, who has had a change of heart and mind which is an act of repentance.
“I am no longer worthy to be called you son; make me like one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:19
Here comes another plot twist. While he is still a distance away, the father sees him, breaks all customs and social norms, runs to meet his son, and hugs him. Understand that in this culture, old men don’t run.
But there is more happening at this moment than an emotional embrace.
This son’s actions dishonored his family, but it also dishonored the village, a punishable offense. As the village saw him return, they would have seized him and stoned him to death.
So his embrace meant the people would have to hit the father with the rocks intended for the son. The father shielded the son from punishment and the condemnation he deserved by covering his son.
Furthermore, the text tells us that he calls for the best robe to be put on him, a ring put on his finger, sandals on his feet, and the fattened calf to be barbequed.
- The best robe was the father’s robe.
- The ring was a family signet ring, which indicated he was family.
- Sandals were a sign that you were a son, not a servant.
So what changed? The son’s attitude went from “father give me” to “father, make me.” He was humbled but had to learn the hard way.
When we come to God with a humble heart and ask Him to “make me” instead of demanding that He “give me,” we gain more than we could ever imagine.
The father’s love transcended the son’s guilt and shame. His actions give understanding to 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
This is an image of what Jesus did for us on the cross. He loves us so much that He shields us by taking our place on the cross, enduring God’s wrath of sin, and then placing a robe of righteousness on us.
That’s the type of love God gives to us and the kind of love we are to show to others.