I left home at the age of 15 to go to boarding school. This was the first major step I took to begin my journey to the ordained ministry. I distinctly remember a moment as I was leaving. My Dad told me (in the living room in front of the fireplace) “Son, I’m going to tell this only once: if you ever change your mind, you can ALWAYS come home.” (Truth is, Dad repeated it several years later.)
I was not a “Prodigal Son” as in the well-known story that Jesus told about a boy who left home and squandered his money on sinful living. But I like to think that the father in the story said to his son: “If you ever change your mind, you can ALWAYS come home.” We do know that when the boy “came to his senses,” he knew he belonged home.
The parables of Jesus contain twists that would have surprised the original hearers. This one has at least two twists. The first one is what would have happened to the rebellious son who squandered his money on sinful living. According to the laws of the day (Deuteronomy 21), the boy would be brought to trial. When found guilty, he would have been brought to the gate of the town and stoned to death. So the father’s welcome (extravagant grace) was breaking the rules!
The second twist concerns the older brother, the one who had followed all the rules. The jealousy, anger, and resentment of the older son separated him from the family. Following the rules wasn’t the complete answer.
The father prepared a feast for the younger son who returned. But it was ALSO a feast for the older son. The father, the story tells us, begged the older son to come into the party. The father’s feast was given for the one who broke the rules, and for the one who followed the rules. Jesus was teaching that “coming home” isn’t only about following the rules. It about having a good and holy relationship with the father and with the family. God’s first rule is LOVE!
The story is about us! We’re called to have a good and holy relationship with God and God’s family. How is that being lived out in your life? How and when do you come to the “party” that God throws for us?
God’s party is now. God’s family is now. God is begging us to join in!
Jesus is the way to get in. Follow him.