People have called this parable “The Prodigal Son,” but a better title might be “Prodigal Son, Prodigal Father” – wasteful selfishness forgiven by extravagant love.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” It is an oft repeated story and it is something that is happened over and again throughout the centuries. It’s basically the pattern of rebellion, recklessness, ruin, and and regret. Rebellion, “I’m tired of being under my dad’s thumb.” Recklessness, “I’m going to take what I have and enjoy it while I can.” Ruin, “Whoops, it’s all gone.” And regret, “Oh man, how did I get myself into this?” Have you ever been there? The truth of the matter is everyone of us can probably think of times where we have been in rebellion, and have been reckless, and have come to ruin, and have experienced regret. Maybe that’s where you are right now, and it is certainly where this young man was. You know we read these words as Westerners and we say, “He’s down on his luck.” But for a Jewish person of the first century these words are even more profound and even more painful. The guy ends up with not a cent, not a shekel, to his name, and the only work he can get is taking care of pigs. For a devout Jewish individual there is no animal more unclean than a pig. I’m not farmboy but I married the Farmer’s daughter. Over the years one of the things that I especially enjoyed was Jan and I and then our kids visiting her folks. They lived out in the country. Beautiful area in Wisconsin where they’ve got these wonderfully paved roads so that the milk trucks can get through. It is a great place to go biking. I’m an avid cyclist and biking on those country roads it was just a joy, very little traffic, nicely paved. As a city boy it was just especially enjoyable to be riding out there in the country, taking in nature, and looking at the animals on the farm. Even though I was not farmboy I could very quickly learn the difference between a dairy farm and a pig farm. The difference is something you could smell from a mile away. It wasn’t a matter of seeing that those are pigs out there. You could smell them long before you could see them. That has forever impacted me as I read the Scriptures. I think of this Jewish boy working in the slop of the pig farm, wishing he could eat what the pigs are eating. Have you ever watched a pig on the farm in the slop? Well, we are not going to go any further than that, but you get the picture. Anyone who wants to eat what the pigs are eating is desperate, incredibly desperate. This young man he’s gone from rebellion to recklessness to ruin and to regret. Perhaps you’re there in your life today. Rebellion maybe not against your parent, may be so, but rebellion against God’s plan for you. Perhaps you been reckless and you come to ruin, and right now you’re filled with regret. Perhaps like this young man you’re thinking to yourself, “If only I could start all over again. I wish I could rewind this story and redo it.” But you know you can’t rewind and you can’t redo, and that’s what this young man understood. I can’t get a do over, but perhaps I could go back.
People who are proud about their own accomplishments, who feel that they have earned what they have in the sight of God they always have trouble with Jesus, because Jesus is concerned about the broken, and the hurt, about the lost and ashamed, about the desperate and the despondent. So often the very people who ought to be saying, “Let’s celebrate! This lost son has come back home.” Are the ones who are instead saying, “Well, I never.” And God says, “Oh yes you have.” The Scriptures are very clear all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. “There is not one who does good, no, not even one”, is what the book of Romans tells us as the apostle Paul quotes the Hebrew Scriptures. All of us like sheep have gone astray, but God has laid on Jesus the sins of us all, and by His stripes we are healed. All of us need to understand the mercy of the Father. All of us need like the younger son to come to a point where we not only recognize our rebellion and our recklessness, we not only admit that we have ruined things and we regret it, but we come to a point where we repent, and we say, “Lord I desire to return. I desire to return to You, to Your mercy and Your love. I will no longer look at others and judge them on the basis of my performance. I will instead look at my Lord Jesus and realize how good He is and that I like everyone else needs Him, Savior, Deliverer. Our God is good. The Father is loving and merciful and He did not spare His Son, but gave Him up for us, so that in Him we may know forever the goodness of God.