The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) portrays God’s forgiveness in a way that everyone should read. The parable follows a son who, after receiving a share of property from his father, wandered off spent everything, and soon found himself in a life of despair. After realizing what mistake he had made (vs. 17-19), he decided to return to his father to work as a slave for him, and not a son, since it would be better than his situation now.
If you were in the son’s situation, you would expect your father to maybe not even accept you as a son anymore. After all, you ran away from your father with what he gave you and lived a careless life. You didn’t return to your father. And now, seeing how messed up your life has become, you are returning to him with nothing. You would expect your father to be disappointed with you and maybe even disown you.
But that’s not what happens. The father accepts his son back with open arms, kissing him and hugging him (vs. 20). The son then says that he is sorry for all that he has done wrong against his father (vs 21). Again, you would expect your father to merely accept your apology and go on with life. But that’s not what this father does. He asks for the best robe, and a ring and sandals, and a fattened calf, all to give to his son. He wants to celebrate that his lost son has returned! He says, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” And they celebrated (vs. 22-24).
Next, the other older son who had stayed with his father and worked hard for him all of his life complains. Why does this son get a fattened calf when he did nothing and I did everything (vs 28-30). But the father simply explains: “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
This parable shows us the love of God. In this parable, the father is God and the lost son is us. We have sinned against God so many times. We have run away from Him, taken his gifts wrongly and made our lives a life of despair. We have refused to acknowledge the gifts He has given us.
But look what happens when we return to God. He accepts us back! He blesses us with many things, and his entire kingdom celebrates! God celebrates when you return to Him, ready to love Him. And most importantly, he forgives you, completely and wholly, and it is as if it had never happened.
And just why does He forgive you? Because He loves you, more than words can describe, and because He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and make you clean forever (Isaiah 1:18).
And just like the older son, there will be people who will try to come to God with their good works. They will say, look, I am a good person, I’ve done good things, won’t you accept me to? But that is not how we are saved. Ephesians 2:8 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” You did nothing to receive your salvation. It’s only through being saved through faith. And this is a gift from God! He didn’t have to do that at all. He could have sent us all to eternal death, but instead He accepts us in for eternal life. What great news we can all rejoice in.