“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
If someone were to ask you to describe God, to explain who you think He is and what He is like, this parable may be the best place to start. In fact, if Jesus had been asked to illustrate God’s character and essential nature, He may have told this story. The father, who graciously welcomes home his wayward son and who patiently draws his older child into the celebration, beautifully exemplifies the compassionate, merciful heart of God, who sent Jesus into the world to seek and save the lost. Not only does God want to save sinners and give new life to those who are dead in transgressions, the God of Grace also celebrates each transformed life. God is glad whenever a sinner comes home.
The touching beauty and profound theology of this parable remind us why Jesus told stories. His parables communicate truth, and at the same time, they reach into our souls where we are able, often beyond intellectual comprehension, to feel God’s glory and goodness. We may struggle to explain why or how God can forgive our sins or what it means to be “born again,” but when we hear this story of the merciful father celebrating his son’s return, our hearts understand God. We can taste his gracious love. We feel his compassionate embrace. We grasp his unfathomable kindness, and it takes hold of us in the joyful gift of new life.
And let’s not forget, these closing words are spoken to the older son, who had at first resented his father’s mercy toward his brother, but is now invited to join the celebration. In the same way, we who know Jesus as our Savior need to ready our hearts to celebrate the redemption of other sinners. As we see the glad heart of God, we need also to be glad and to join with Jesus in telling the world about our gracious God. Too many people believe, in part because of the church’s failings and mixed messages, that God is vengeful, angry and merciless. Jesus calls us to join him in sharing good news, the joyful proclamation that God loves people and longs to welcome them home with a glad and gracious heart.
Thank You, Jesus, for teaching me who God is and how much He loves me. Help me to share this wonderful truth with others so they can find new life in Your name. I rejoice in Your love for me, even as I love You. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian