The prodigal returned home in great repentance before his father:
And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:21
This cannot be trivialized; repentance is the key to his restoration. He didn’t come home demanding his return to a place of respect and authority. Instead he acknowledged his error in judgment and requested a job as a servant in his own father’s house. He was humbled through and through, he was a broken man.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:17-19
Notice the fact that he didn’t go to his father or brother to repent, that wasn’t who he had sinned against, his sin was against heaven. He stated rightly that he had “sinned against heaven, and in your sight.”
His father had given the prodigal what was coming to him, he didn’t try to steal it and he didn’t infringe on his brothers inheritance. When he took off and lived a life of free spending, wild indulgence, sleeping with prostitutes, and what is generally called “riotous living”, his sin was against heaven. He ended up in the gutter and with his own revelation.
Who is the first to not only rejoice, but show us what our response should be to the prodigal’s humble return? Heaven! If we could get this, it would change every relationship we have in our families, the church, and across this world.
The prodigal left a trail of terrible excesses and sin, he, in his own distorted wisdom had strayed far from the care and will of his father. It was a cost he never anticipated or fully considered, and in a moment of grace he wasn’t absolved and freed from the repercussions of all he had done. I venture to guess he had many nightmares and sleepless nights, flashbacks, and regrets that weighed on him heavily for his actions. It probably took him years to restore what he had foolishly squandered but his father didn’t remind him of his mistakes. His father witnessed his humility and his regret, he heard his heart that repented to God, and he welcomed him lavishly!
The only thing we see is relief and love being liberally heaped on his son.
For all the prodigals and all the elder brothers who have stood in judgment, let this story guide us to a new understanding of what an amazing, loving, forgiving God we have the privilege of calling….our Father. Let us remember to reach out in the same grace we have received, looking for the returning lost and wayward souls that are confused and given over to their lusts and desires. Always believing for restoration of every last one to God’s most welcoming and loving family.