“So he got up and went to his father.”
If you are ever discouraged, down on yourself, or just find that life is a bit too much for you, then you need to read the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s Gospel is for people with problems. I call it the Gospel of the social worker because that community of people seem to be highly involved with people who have special kinds of needs. Social workers are found working with ex-convicts, the elderly, widows, abused people, people on welfare, and so on.
The author of Luke’s Gospel was a physician so he too was daily working with people who had issues, specifically medical ones. So Dr. Luke seemed to have a heart for those who were in pain of various sorts. As he carefully researched the life and teaching of Jesus (Luke 1:1-4) he found it especially interesting that Jesus did a lot of work with individuals on the edge of social circles. So his biography of Jesus is filled with stories of Jesus mingling with the outcasts, poor, and others who had trouble coping with life.
For example he tells of the lowly shepherds arriving at the birth scene of Jesus the very day it happened. Luke is the only Gospel that tells the story of the repentant thief, the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, etc. So people with social issues, who suffer and are lonely, have a lot to gain from reading this amazing account of our Lord’s life.
I know that the story in Luke 15:11-32 was told by Jesus for the sake of the elder brother’s reaction to the prodigal coming home. Jesus was in the midst of some Pharisees and teachers of the law who were complaining about how Jesus was so welcoming of the social sinners. They were horrified that Jesus would even “stoop” to eat with them.
Jesus told this story of the prodigal to stress the fact that God wants the “sinners” of every age to turn from their way and come to Him for forgiveness and blessing. This short story is very compelling as the prodigal “came to his senses” (Luke 15:17 NIV) and decided that simply being a hired hand on his father’s estate was much better than starving in a foreign land.
It might appear from the story that the father had been looking for his son to come home because he saw the young man a long way off, was filled with compassion, ran to greet him, embraced him, and kissed him. The verb to kiss used in the story seems to mean a repeated gesture, such was the joy of the father. The son confessed his sin against his father and said he was not worthy to be called his son.
The father’s response was to treat the returning prodigal as a special guest, put the best robe on him, gave him a ring, so everyone would know the prodigal was honoured and had status in the home. The sandals the father gave him indicated the son was a freeman and not a hired hand in the father’s house. Then the father had the special fatted calf prepared quickly for a feast. What more could the father do to welcome the prodigal home?
If you have wandered from your Creator and wonder if you dare turn back to Him after denying Him so long, see the point Jesus is making. God in heaven is joyful when someone “wakes up” to their distance from Him. He looks for any who will start the journey to Him and joyfully runs out to greet them and celebrate their return to the One who made them in the first place. Will you get up and go to your Father in heaven today? He is a Father worth having.