The Father and His Sons
by Gary Light
Sometimes called the story of the Prodigal Son or Lost Son, I think this parable of Jesus’ is about much more than a son or one son. It’s not even just about the sons, but rather about all of them, father and sons.|
Yes the story opens in Luke chapter 15 with one son asking for his share of his father’s estate immediately so that he could leave and “live it up”. The first unprecedented act wasn’t that the son asked, most likely many had done that before as they do today, but rather that the father granted his son’s request, as heirs are not entitled to a share of an estate until the benefactor dies, usually. So, this father was either very trusting or just very generous to his son.
After the insolent son ran out of money partying and spending wildly, verse 17 says, “he finally came to his senses . . .” But, besides a realization of his previous insanity, he still had to deal with his fear, embarrassment, and humiliation wondering not only “why” he had done what he had done, but also wondering if his family and specifically his loving and generous father would take him back, even as a hired laborer. We know the result, he mustered the courage and humility to go home and face his father. We also know the end result of his restoration as “son” not just hired hand and the joyous celebration that his father gave on his behalf, but I’m not sure we know what it took for his father to do what he did.
Certainly, the father is a type or shadow of The Father, exercising his grace and giving his mercy, but he (the father) in this story is still just a man and a man in a culture that would have sneered at his giving his son his share of his estate early in the first place, and then at his running to greet his son on the road home (“honorable” men didn’t run for any reason in those days) and at his restoring his son to son-ship. I’m not so sure that the greater fear to overcome wasn’t that of the father dealing with his embarrassment of his son in the eyes of his neighbors. But, this father not only had the courage to overcome that fear, but he must have had it because of his understanding of what was really important anyway – love, family and eternal freedom.
Many of us understand some of what humility means, but do we understand that the word “humility” is just a derivative of the word “humiliation”? Moses was called the “most humble” man, but that started with his stint in the desert as a farmer and rancher. He wasn’t there because he had been rewarded with property and cattle; he was there because he was run out of Egypt in humiliation – he was rejected both as a son of the royalty and as a son of Israel. But, even in that, or more likely, because of that humiliation, God chose to use him. So, God wants us to know humility in humiliation, and, thus, to actually be of greater use to Him.
Then there was the other son of the father of this story that didn’t leave home and the work of his father. It doesn’t have to be just one other son either. It could be several of them that stayed home in duty to their father and, who knows, possibly in fear of the risk of trying something different from what they knew. Fortunately, this son was son of the same loving and generous father who provided greatly and took great care of all his sons. Unfortunately, the “stay-at-home” son apparently didn’t realize his father’s abundant grace and mercy or even his generosity, even after he had given so much to the other son. As a result, this son actually misses out the most. He misses the grace and generosity of his father as well as the comfort of his love and friendship of his brother.
This “other son” didn’t miss out on these things because he didn’t sin, like his “prodigal” brother, but rather because he felt like he needed to work at the duty assigned him for his measure of success or rewards, or possibly, again, because he simply feared asking his father for more; not more stuff, but more time, forgiveness, and grace.
None of us needs to miss out, but all of us need to realize we’re all prodigals in need of mercy and grace. We need to realize that it’s available to us when we’re willing to surrender to the Giver/Forgiver in humility/humiliation. We need to realize that this surrender and humiliation is actually in our best interest. Our reputation in the eyes of others is lost in meaningless compared to the grand realization that we are now given to Him and forgiven in freedom by Him.