By: The Rev. Sean Esterline, Messiah Lutheran Church
[Luke 15:1-3, 11-32]
In our text for today, we find a parable of Jesus well-known as the parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, it is the story of a father, two sons and more. A parable is a story in which everything represents something more than the story in its simplest sense. Many times our Lord began a parable with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like …” That means, all the story is an illustration of what is the kingdom of heaven, or a comparison between the kingdom of heaven, something the people did not understand, and something that was understood. So, on the surface, this parable is about a man who had two sons, “and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of property that I own. And he divided unto them his goods.” The youngest son showed great disrespect for his father in these words. He said, “Father, I cannot wait until your death. I want my inheritance right now and to leave your house.” Why did the son want out of the house of his father? It is not always easy to live under the authority of our parents. They may require a lot of us and we may think it better to live by our own rules. But God commanded us in the Fourth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” In truth, all the father’s assets should have been his until death, but the son coveted them. However, the father in his love and generosity, gave them to his son. What’s more, the Fourth Commandment gives us a promise: “Honor thy father and thy mother to be happy and live a long life on earth.” God made this promise, so when the prodigal son disobeyed the Fourth Commandment, he lost the promise and suffered the consequences: “… wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that land, and he began to want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: but no one would give him any.” The prodigal son was not ready to live outside the protection and guidance of his earthly father, nor his heavenly Father.
This is the key to understanding the larger meaning of the parable. The son rejected not only his earthly father, but also his heavenly Father. The father in the parable represents God the Father Almighty and the prodigal son the rebellion of the human heart. This rebellion began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve the first humans, when they ate of the fruit forbidden by God. In the garden they had everything: harmony among themselves, with nature and with God. Outside the garden, the human race has suffered greatly: disease, poverty, wars, pain and loneliness and ultimately death. Yet God the Father did not totally abandon humanity. Still He sent blessings such as rain for the harvest, children to continue the species, work and good companions and other good things in life for all. The Heavenly Father, as the father in the parable, always wanted to restore the good relationship between Him and His disobedient children. He did not want any to be lost.
So, according to the parable, when the prodigal son repented of his sins and returned home, the Father accepted him as his son again and rejoiced. “When he was yet far off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, and am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and dress him, and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and eat and make merry: for this my son died was, and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” This is an illustration of how great is God’s love for us. But we must understand that we have the opportunity to return to the house of God because of Jesus Christ. The Father sent Him into the world to fulfill the Law, the holy will of God, in our place, also to suffer and die on the cross in our place. So we can always repent of our sins and get back on the road home.
The oldest child symbolizes believers who have forgotten this truth. They have begun to think that they are justified by their own works. “But he answered and said unto his father, Lo, these many years I have served, having never disobeyed your commands and you never gave me a kid to enjoy myself with my friends. But as soon as this thy son, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf. He then said, ‘Son, thou art ever with me, and all I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, for this your brother was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found. ” If we clearly understand the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, we do not trust in our own righteousness, and we do not believe that we deserve God’s blessings more than others. We do not want to sit in judgment of other penitent sinners, but like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rejoice that our lost brothers have returned to the house of God and eternal life in Holy Baptism. And we understand the need to confess each day, “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” So, let us all return to the Lord’s house to confess our sins and receive absolution and the true body and blood of Christ in the sacrament. Let’s leave behind the nonsense of this world and live as children of God forever, forgiven of all our sins in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
By: The Rev. Sean Esterline, Messiah Lutheran Church
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