"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him
and was filled with compassion for him."
It is interesting to consider the title we have traditionally assigned to this passage.
"The Parable of the Prodigal Son," we call it. Understand that we came up with the title. Jesus never named this story. He just told this story. We were the ones who decided that the younger brother was so interesting that we just had to name this story after him.
But truth be told, there is nothing interesting at all about the actions of the prodigal son. His is a story that repeats itself over and again a million times. Here is someone who stands to inherit a life of blessing but who chooses to walk away from it in pursuit of his own selfish desires, and who eventually winds up discovering that his dream for his life is a nightmare. Does that sound familiar? It should. It's the story of you and me. Jesus is describing our human experience in this parable. We believe in the doctrine of original sin, but there is really nothing original at all about our sin. We like to think that our lives are so irresistibly interesting, but our lives are mostly just variations on the same theme.
What makes this story interesting and compelling is not the actions of the younger brother, or even of the older brother. What should grab our attention is the action of the father. He has been shamed and disgraced by what his youngest son has done to him. Keep in mind that Jesus told this story in a time and place where a man's honor was the only thing of real value he had. The moral code of the day was such that the father should have completely written off this good-for-nothing brat. He should have disowned him, for it was the only means available to him of preserving what shred o dignity he had left.
The father does exactly the opposite. When the younger son finally comes to his senses and goes crawling back home, he discover. that the father has been looking for him all along. The father ignored his need for dignity and honor, choosing instead to celebrate that what was lost had been found.
This story anticipates the cross. God-in-the-flesh endures shame
and dishonor and disgrace for no other reason than that he wants to have back what belongs to him. That is the story that makes our stories worth telling.
"Holy God, I confess that I have shamed you in more ways than I can ever count.
Thank you that you found the joy of having me back
worth more than the disgrace you endured. Through Christ, Amen."
Written By: Chris Cadenhead