18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18–19, NKJV)
The young man had wasted his inheritance on self-indulgent, sinful living (Luke 15:11-13). Without money, he took a most menial job that barely kept him alive (Luke 15:14-17). Finally recognizing his dilemma and errors, his change of heart (“he came to himself”) prompted him to return to his father, not with a demand like before (Luke 15:12), but with a plea to be taken back as a servant. The devastating effects of sin are evident in this parable of the prodigal (wasteful) son (Prov. 13:15). Additional lessons are set before us as we meditate on Christ’s words. The mercy of God is on full display under the figure of the father. Instead of responding to his son with angry bitterness and resentful retribution, the father compassionately embraced his son and arranged a celebratory feast, rejoicing at his son’s return (Luke 15:20-24). God will mercifully forgive and receive every sinner who turns to Him with a repentant heart and humble, obedient life. Whatever your sin, lay it aside and return to the Father, and heaven will rejoice (Luke 15:7, 10). The older son teaches poignant lessons against failing to be thankful (for his father’s blessings) and failing to forgive his brother’s sins (Luke 15:25-32). Contrasted with his repentant brother, the older son displayed an entitled, self-righteous attitude and refusal to forgive (Luke 15:1-2). God will not forgive this person (Matt. 6:14-15). Two brothers, both sinners. One sinner was forgiven, the other was not. Which sinner reflects you and me?
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV).
The change of heart that led to merciful forgiveness in the parable of the wasteful son is well known. God is ready to receive back every sinner who comes to himself. God’s divine mercy impelled Solomon to pray about Israel coming to itself after sinning against the Lord. While dedicating the temple, Solomon petitioned God to hear the prayers of His people after their sins brought His anger and punishment upon them (1 Kings 8:46). He prayed, “Yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You…saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul…grant them compassion…” (1 Kings 8:47-53). God is ready to forgive us and receive us with loving compassion when we decide to come to ourselves and repent. Coming to ourselves about our sins takes admitting them (to ourselves and God, Ps. 51:3-4). It takes turning our hearts and lives back to God. Repentance leading to salvation is more than being sorry for sin. It is a radical change of heart that leads us to obey God instead of sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: (Luke 15:1–3, NKJV).
Simply put, a parable is an illustration of divine truth. The illustration is taken from ordinary life events, from which the spiritual lesson is drawn. Greek dictionaries define a “parable” (parabole) as “a similitude…fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral)” (Strong’s, G3850). Understanding the parables depends on the condition of one’s heart. Jesus explained this in the parable of the soils, which He said is key to understanding the parables (Mark 4:13, 14-20). An open, honest heart receives its meaning, holds it fast, and bears good fruit (Luke 8:9-10, 15). Hard, closed hearts do not receive God’s word and fail to understand and apply the parables of the Lord (Matt. 13:10-22). In today’s passage, the scribes and Pharisees complained against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners. They distorted the truth of the matter. The sinners came to Jesus to hear Him teach. He did not endorse their sins; just the opposite. He taught them the way of God in truth to save them. Jesus answered His critics with three parables. God is compassionate toward sinners (Luke 15:4-7), God values each and every soul (Lk. 15:8-10), and God mercifully forgives sinners who repent and return to Him (Luke 15:11-24). Like the elder son, the complainers were ungrateful of their blessings and unmerciful toward sinners (Lk. 15:25-32). Powerful lessons for those who have “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9).
21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” (Luke 15:21–24, NKJV)
God’s mercy and joy over one sinner who repents is on clear display in the parable of the prodigal son. What is equally observed is the wasteful son’s repentance that prompted him to return to his father and humbly confess his sins. God is ready to show mercy and forgive every sin; of that there is no doubt. When we sin against God, the probing question is whether we will recognize our terrible spiritual condition, humble ourselves before God and repent (Lk. 15:14-19). We must take personal responsibility for our sins. We cannot blame our sins on others. When personal accountability for our sin is coupled with godly sorrow, we can move forward to repent and receive the merciful forgiveness of God (2 Cor. 7:10).