I want to tell you the story of a father’s heartbreak. As a father myself, I find this to be a very touching story. It is a story that Jesus told. I am speaking of the story of the “prodigal son”. However, I wish to visit it from the father’s perspective.
Luke 15:11-12 “And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.”
Can you envision the disappointment of this father? He has worked hard all his life, has built a livelihood for his family, and has no doubt hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps. He has planned to turn over the family business to his sons when he retires.
Now his son is asking for his share of the inheritance before it is time. The father could refuse. If he does, his son may hate him forever, may go away on his own, destitute and bound for disaster. But he loves his son, so after weighing the advantages and disadvantages like any wise father, he calculates what is due his son, and gives him the value of it. Maybe in his heart he is still hoping that the son will start a business of his own, make his own wealth, and find a good wife with whom to settle down. There is still a chance that the young man will be successful on his own.
Luke 15:13 “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.”
The young son leaves home. He doesn’t go across town, or down the road—he leaves the country. His father is heartbroken. The son for whom he had such high hopes is gone. He is out of touch–so far away that his father can’t check up on him to see if he is all right, so far away that His father cannot give him godly advice. This is no doubt a deliberate choice by the son, to keep his father from interfering with his choices.
He wastes his inheritance, blows it all on wasteful living. He wastes it on prostitutes and ne’er-do-wells, fair-weather friends who abandon him when the money is gone. You know the type. Hangers-on who are in it for the short haul, draining him dry until all his inheritance is spent. Then they leave him alone.
His father pauses from time to time throughout the day, wondering where his son is and what he is doing. Is he behaving? Is he in trouble? What if he needs guidance, or assistance of some sort? He thinks back on the joyful birth of his younger son, the happy youth as his son grew into a young man. He remembers the innocent child at play, the eager young boy who listened to his father’s words.
The father looks away toward the horizon, tears blurring is eyes, longing for the familiar silhouette of his son, returning from the far country. Stare as he might, there is no one there. Sadly, he turns away and goes about his business. Life is not the same as it was. The happiness is gone. He asks troubling questions of himself. Did I do the right thing? Should I have refused my son his inheritance? He would have despised me! But I have lost him anyway! Where did I go wrong?
Luke 15:14 “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.”
Can you picture how low he has sunk? The Jews did not eat swine–or hogs–and certainly his father would not have approved of his new vocation. But it is all that he can find, because there is a food shortage and times are hard. Have you ever been around a hog-pen? The stench of hog urine and feces is so over-powering that one can hardly bear to approach it.
My family and I were on vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains one summer when the kids were younger, and I always loved going to the pioneer homestead over the mountains in North Carolina. There were buildings and displays set up to show life as it was in a quieter time. Tourists were walking about, looking at the displays, checking things out. I noticed that when they approached a certain area, most of them wheeled about and walked quickly away. Curiosity overcame me, and I approached the exhibit. When I was about ten feet away I detected the deterrent—it was a hog pen. Believe me when I tell you that this young man would have found other employment if it were available!
Luke 15:16 “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.”
The boy is so hungry that he is willing to eat the cast-off grain husks that were not fit for human consumption. Why do you think that they were feeding them to the pigs?
About this time the father is undoubtedly receiving reports from migrants looking for work, or traders passing through. He hears reports about the famine in the far country, and he wonders about his boy. Is he all right? Is he getting enough to eat? Is he able to hang onto his inheritance? Basic necessities become very expensive when they are scarce. He stands outside, looking toward the far country. He weeps, crying into the night: “Son, are you alright? God forgive me for letting him go away like that!”
Luke 15:17 “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
The boy starts thinking about his situation, and realizes how much his father means to him. His father is a kind and generous man, a godly sort. He would be much better off working as a hired hand for his father, where he would be well-fed and looked after. He gets homesick, and sick with the realization of the terrible mistake he has made. He longs for his father’s love. He wrestles with the pros and cons of returning home, poverty-stricken, emaciated, and spiritually broken. He finally makes up his mind.”
Luke 15:18 “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”
The boy realizes that he has sinned against his father on the earth, and his God in heaven. He decides to go home. He dreads it. His father will be angry that he went away and wasted all his inheritance, and is reduced to this pitiful state. Yet, having somewhat matured lately, he decides to return home to his father.
Luke 15:20 “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
The father, ever watchful for his son, dejectedly gazes across the fields, watching the path home as he has done hundreds of times. He spies a figure, a familiar silhouette—could it be his lost son, returning home? He breaks into a run, half fearful that he is mistaken, half joyous to think that his son is at long last returning home. Weeping uncontrollably, he runs to his son, throwing his arms around him, kissing his neck.
Luke 15:21 “And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
The son knows what he deserves. If his father were to disown him and demand that he leave immediately, that outcome would be deserved.
Luke 15:22 “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”
The tearful father is overjoyed beyond belief. His lost son has returned home. His son has learned his lesson, and he knows where safety and comfort are. His father rejoices, and calls for a celebration, a big party to welcome his son home. He gets out his nicest suit of clothes, gives him a ring—a sign of both wealth and trust—and has his tired and damaged feet sheathed in comfortable shoes. Now he orders up a fatted calf, reserved for special occasions, and orders a feast prepared.
Why? His son had been lost to sin and the world, but now is safely at home in his father’s tender, loving care. The household is buzzing with laughter and preparations for merry-making. The lost son is alive, and home, and his father is happy once more.
Luke 15:25 “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.”
The faithful, older son is returning from a grueling day of work out in the farm fields. He is tired and hungry, ready to eat and rest. As he approaches the house, he hears the sounds of a party. What is going on? Upon hearing the news of his brother’s return, the elder son grows angry and resentful, so much so, that he refuses to go into the house where the party is in full swing.
His poor old father is distressed. Happy to see his lost son returned, he now has to deal with the animosity of the elder son. He begs to the boy, “Please come inside, my son. Join the celebration. Your brother is snatched from Satan’s grasp. Rejoice with me.” He is hurt and puzzled by the elder son’s behavior, wishing him to understand the importance of what has transpired.
Luke 15:29 “And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
The son is still angry and obstinate, seething with resentment toward not only his younger brother, but now his father, as well. “I have behaved well”, he reminds his father, “I have done everything you asked me to do, working the farm hard and helping hold things together. And did you ever reward me with a party for my friends? No, never!”
“My brother took half the family fortune, that you worked so hard for, and threw it away on prostitutes—whores—and you reward him with a party?” He is incredulous, beside himself, in his anger.
Luke 15:31 “And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
Ah, the loving father! Through tear-clouded eyes he understands what his son misunderstands. “But, Son, everything I have is at your disposal. It is yours! When we divided the inheritance, your brother got his, and the rest is yours! Don’t you see that? It is all yours!”
“But as a responsible, mature person, surely you see that it is proper for us to be glad that your brother, who could have lost not only his fortune, but his life as well, is returned safely to the family. Don’t you see—he was brought back to us from the dead? He was lost, but no longer—he is home!” What a loving father!
My own fleshly father abandoned my mother to fend for eight children when I was a little boy. But I have a loving Father in heaven. I look forward to the day that He throws His loving arms around me, and cries, “Welcome home, my son!”
Friends, if you have sinned against your Father in heaven, I want you to see the tears in His eyes and feel the pain in his heart. He has lost His little child to sin and to the world. Daily He watches for your return, hoping against hope that you will decide to return home before you are utterly wasted and destroyed. Why don’t you lighten His heart by returning home to Him before it is too late?
Luke 15: 4 “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
Repentance comes from a root word that means “almost”. Salvation is derived from a root word that means “entire”. Can you see the regret in the young son’s heart, when he realized that his former lifestyle was “almost”, or incomplete—instead of what it should have been? He returned home to safety, his salvation, where his life was complete, or “entire”, again.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Acts 3:19 “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
Acts 2:37 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”
There is a celebration in heaven when the wayward child returns home. Won’t you come home? Your Father is watching for your return tonight, longing for your return, waiting with tears in His eyes, tears that can turn to tears of joy. Won’t you make Him happy, and yourself whole, by coming home tonight?
*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Bernie Parsons