Read Luke 15:20-32.
How many of you have ever attended a family reunion? Unfortunately, the usual time for a family reunion is a funeral for a loved one. The familiar parable of the prodigal son talks about a family reunion that didn’t quite turn out as it should have.
In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus is criticized by the religious leaders for eating with sinners and tax collectors. In response, He tells one parable in four parts: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son, and the second lost son. Most of us are familiar with the parable of the lost son. A young man asks for his portion of the estate. Receiving it, he immediately spends it all on riotous living. After ending up in the worst possible position of feeding pigs, Jesus said that the young man “came to his senses” and “got up.” The man determined to return home and live at his former home as a servant. The father welcomes him back with open arms and a celebration. It is obvious that, in this story, the father represents God. Like the father in the story, God offers open-armed forgiveness to anyone who turns to him in repentance and faith. At this point in the story, the older brother returns to the noise of the celebration. Instead of joy, this man displays anger about the situation. He is self-righteous and self-congratulatory. The older brother had labored for the father for many years and had received nothing in return. We are shocked by the attitude of the older brother, especially when we realize that he represents the religious leaders who had criticized Jesus for fraternizing with “tax collectors and sinners.”
We would like to see some kind of resolution to this parable, but Jesus left the parable open. It is a kind of invitation. Do we rejoice when someone from outside, a sinner, returns in repentance and faith? Or do we stand outside and believe it is all about us?