Response to Jesus: Joy is found in the adoption we have received into the family of God
He looked his father in the eye and wished him dead. The son told the one who gave him life that he valued his stuff over their relationship. He took the money and ran, forfeiting his right to be called family from that day forward.
The son became a scoundrel, wasting what his father gave him on food, drink, and luxury. Until one day the money ran out, the good times ended, and so did the promise of experiencing the world. He had been lied to by his own desires. He had nothing and nothing to show for it.
The scoundrel became a slave, tied up by consequences of his reckless spending. He was resigned to work for a few pennies, scrounging for food alongside the animals he was paid to care for. He had exhausted every option, he was stuck, no better than the servants at his father’s house.
The slave became an orphan, deeply repentant. Aware of how much he had fallen short and how much he had lost, he felt the blow of isolation. He thought that being outside of his father’s control would bring complete freedom, but all he felt was utter loneliness and separation. He knew there was no way his father would take him back- he had wished him dead, spit in his face, used him. Desperate, he turned back for home, expecting to work his way back into his family.
But oh, what joy awaits him. From a long way off, the father sees him stumbling toward home. He doesn’t wait for him to come explain himself in a rehearsed apology but runs to meet him, hugging and kissing his lost son, now found. Out of the father’s joy in the return, the son turned scoundrel turned orphan is adopted back. Not as a slave with something to earn, but as a son with everything already given to him. The father holds a party of the century to celebrate with friends and neighbors and allow them to share in his joy.
Here enters the older brother to the story with a heart breaking plot twist. He had been home the whole time, working in the field. He had watched with disgust as his younger brother took the money and ran. He found a certain pride in being the good brother, the one who stayed. When he sees the younger brother walking back home, he does not run to meet him. He keeps to his work in the field, thinking how satisfying it will be to hear his rehearsed apology and make him earn back all he lost. When his father reacts with grace it shatters him.
He had been here, working the whole time, how dare his father throw this scoundrel a lavish party with the money he helped earn?
We see the true identity of the sons revealed: the older son comes out as the true imposter, the one who is lost, the one who thinks the family name is earned by self-righteousness and hard labor. Oh, how dangerous it is to presume upon the adoption of God by acting as if you are the one who signed the papers, paid the high cost of orphanage fees, and carried yourself into your new home. That is a responsibility only the Lamb of God is worthy of bearing.
What will your response to the Father be? Will you scorn his gifts, his grace, his salvation? What is your response toward his acceptance of you into his family? Is it something you are still trying to earn, or have you experienced the joy of being adopted into God’s family?