I love the parables found in scripture. Jesus often used these fictional stories to teach spiritual truth in unorthodox ways. While they frequently make truth more understandable, parables can also have the opposite effect on those who are not open to Jesus and make them miss the truth.
Luke 15 records three of Jesus’ parables. The Lost Sheep is about a shepherd who left 99 sheep to pursue a single missing lamb. The Lost Coin tells of a woman with 10 valuable coins who lost one and turned her house upside down searching for it. When she found the coin, she threw a party.
The chapter concludes with one of the Bible’s most famous parables, The Prodigal Son. This fascinating story has inspired millions. It has several unexpected twists which catch readers by surprise. It is about a wealthy father with two sons. The younger approached his father asking for his share of the inheritance. It was an extremely rude request; the boy was essentially saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead so I could get on with my life.”
Halfway through the parable, the story feels complete when the wayward son comes to his senses, returns home and asks his father to give him a job as a servant. The father refused, instead throwing a huge party for the boy and restoring him to the family in what seems to be a “happily ever after” ending.
As radio personality Paul Harvey used to say, “…and now, the rest of the story.” The prodigal’s older brother had faithfully stayed home and worked on the family farm. He was not at all excited about his brother’s return. He refused to attend the celebration and complained his father had never thrown a party for him.
I find the second half of the story to be the most fascinating part. The father patiently explains that although his younger son had for all practical purposes been dead, because he repented and returned, he had, in a sense, been reborn. The older son was unmoved. The parable concludes without telling readers whether the angry son attended the party or not.
The parable could more accurately be called, “The Prodigal Sons.” The father in the story represents God and how he loves those who believe they are worse than everyone, however, it also demonstrates his love for those who are convinced they are better than others. The ultimate point of Jesus’ story is while the very worst people require God’s forgiveness, the very best do as well. No matter how good or bad you and I are, each of us desperately needs God.