Jesus was a master storyteller. Usually, when someone struggled to understand God’s heart, Jesus would tell a parable. These parables were simple stories that illustrated deep theological truths.
On one occasion, a group of religious experts were upset because Jesus was spending time with a bunch of sinners. They felt that He should only interact with other God-fearing people like them, not with the riffraff. They did not understand that God loves these sinners just as much as He loves the righteous. So Jesus told them a story that illustrated the depth of God’s unwavering love.
It is a story about a father and his two sons. The youngest boy prematurely asks for his inheritance and, when he gets it, he runs off to live the high life. Eventually, the money runs out and this wayward child finds himself living in a pigsty, covered in the filth of his poor choices. He feels he is no longer worthy to be called his father’s son, but he decides to go home and beg to be a servant instead. Yet, when this father, who represents God in the story, sees his prodigal son walking home, he hitches up his robes in a most undignified manner and runs to meet his boy. Instead of giving him a lecture, the father throws his arms around his son and rejoices for this child who once was lost but has been found. That is the part of this story that most of us remember, and it beautifully illustrates God’s unwavering love for sinners. However, the main point of the parable is still coming.
The focus of Jesus’ story now shifts to the older son who never left home. When he hears that his father has forgiven his little brother, he becomes angry, much like the religious experts are upset because Jesus is spending time with “sinners.” But the father reminds his prideful son that his love for the prodigal does not diminish his love for him, and he invites his older boy to come rejoice that their family has been reunited.
The story of the Prodigal Son is one of three parables that Jesus used to illustrate God’s joy when the lost are found. Read Luke 15.
• What do all three of these stories have in common?
• What do these stories teach us about God?
• Who did Jesus tell these stories to, and what do you think he was trying to teach them?
• Why do you think Jesus used stories to teach?
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father could have easily focused on his son’s mistakes. Instead, he rejoiced that his wayward child had come home. Share a story of how you have experienced God’s unwavering love in your own life.
Furthermore, the next time that your son or daughter confesses to a poor choice, choose to celebrate their honesty and repentance rather than focusing on their mistake.