“The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.” Luke 15.12
The story of the Prodigal Son is well known and much loved by many people. It is a parable, so was probably told by Jesus with the intention of emphasising one main point. It is risky to read too much into the details, but there are a few things to be glimpsed in this beautiful tale about a Father and his two sons.
Since the father would have known exactly what his sons were like, and that one of them had a tendency to be a bit wild and impetuous, it seems likely that the younger son’s decision to take his money and leave would not have been a complete surprise. The next time we encounter the Father in the story is when he saw his son from afar. Commentators and writers have often described this as a picture of the waiting father – a father who had never given up hope that one day his son would return.
When these two pictures are put together, the impetuous son and the waiting father, it fills us with hope. It really doesn’t matter how far we feel from God, because he is there - watching, waiting, hoping for us to come back to him and full of joy when we do. This suggests that we have to go right ‘off the rails’ for God to demonstrate his love for us, but actually there are many times when we turn away from him in small ways. It is tempting to assume that God must be quite disappointed in us, or perhaps even a bit fed up with us, but this story assures us that this is not the case and that he is still there for us.
On another level the message is also about our everyday spirituality. Can we be bothered to pray today? Is it worth reading the Bible? The picture of the waiting Father still stands. He is looking forward to seeing you and spending time with you because you are so precious to him.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission