In Luke chapter 15, Jesus’ most famous parable appears. It’s called the parable of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal means generous and lavish, which really more appropriately applies to the Father. The story begins with a young man who wanted to get away from the authority of his father. The rebellious nature that inhabits all of us spawned thoughts of how unfair his life was. He longed for a life where he could get up when he wanted to, go where he wanted to, and return when he pleased. He wanted to see the world with no restraints.
With no thought of preserving or investing his wealth for the future, he squandered it. He would have bought the finest clothes, stayed in the finest places and entertained his friends with no expense spared. He felt great since he was admired and even envied. This was the life he had dreamed of.
There were times though even before the money ran out that he had fleeting glimpses of his emptiness. God has put those feelings in our soul as warnings. The son was sinking deeper into sin. He was in a state of reckless freefall and soon would be in want such as he had never experienced in all his life.
He spent everything he had, and then the realization came that it’s all gone. There isn’t any more. The man is sadly disillusioned as it dawned on him that he has wasted everything. He is in a miserable state.
Misery is alive and well today. Sin has its hook in people’s lives, and just like the prodigal, they thought they were on the right road only to wake up at the pigpen. The world is full of people who hunger for meaning, but there is only emptiness of the soul, complete and utter disillusionment with life. People are there all right, and no one can give them what they really need. May they come to their senses and realize like the prodigal—that they can go home to their heavenly father.
The good news is that at the pigpen where he wound up, he came to his senses and decided to go back to his father. He decided he would admit to his father that he had sinned. One powerful sentence tells the whole story: "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20).
The Parable of the Prodigal Son, shows that repentance is God’s way to receive God's grace and forgiveness. Our identity and self-esteem change for the better when we know who we are and who our father is. Being a son or daughter of God is the basis of our self-esteem.
The son prepared his speech at the pigpen: “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:18-19). He gave that speech to his father when he met him, but the father interrupted the speech. The son's unfinished speech reflects his father's forgiveness. The son had practiced it earlier. It included the line of asking to be accepted as one of the common laborers. However, it appears he never dared to dream that his father would accept him as a son after what he had done. But God did, and he still does.
The father's acceptance of his son made it clear that he was his son and not a hired man. God has not changed; He forgives repentant sinners and immediately pardons them. They immediately become his sons and daughters.