The story is commonly called the parable of the prodigal son, but that is too narrowly focused. It might be more aptly called The Tale of Two Lost Brothers. And in the way Jesus told this parable to conclude a set of three parables, there’s a buildup we must not miss. The first story is about a lost sheep. One out of a hundred sheep had gone missing, and the farmer left the ninety-nine to go in search of the one. The next story involves a lost coin. A woman had ten coins and lost one. She turned her house upside down in search of the one. In the third story a father had two sons. One asked for an early inheritance—a slap in the face to his father—and then added shame to scorn by squandering that inheritance on wicked living.
But you see, Jesus told these parables to show escalating ratios of lostness. Each story ups the ante, increases the probability that His listeners were lost. When they heard the first story, they may have thought, One out of a hundred? Yeah, I know someone just like that. It’s too bad they’re not around to hear this message. And then with the story about the coins, they may have chuckled and said, “Yeah, one out of ten—that’s more like it. Lots of bad people out there.” But when Jesus moved to a story about two brothers, His listeners might have felt their heart pound just a little more in their chests. “One of two? That’s 50 percent! I didn’t think there werethat many rebellious, wicked people around! But, you know, things are getting worse in our world. Thank God I’m not like them!”
And when the final moment of the third parable arrived, they may finally begin to see it: Both brothers were lost. Both sons left the house.
There was no escaping it now. The people in need of saving are not those people. It’s me: I need saving. I am lost.
This is what keeps us from welcoming others into the family. This is what prevents us from extending the blessing to people we do not like: we have forgotten that we, too, were lost. It hurts to say it. But only when we do are we able to see the stunning love of God.
You see, the father left the house to come after both sons. With the younger brother, in his shame and brokenness, the father held him and wept. With the older brother, in his pride and resentment, the father came to plead and persuade. The father’s love wouldn’t let go. God comes after us in our shame and in our pride, in our mess and in our self-righteousness. Both rebellion and religion can make us leave the Father’s house. But only the love of the Father can call us home.
When you see that you, too, were lost, when you understand that all of us like sheep have gone astray—not just one out of a hundred—you understand how magnificent the mercy of God is. Oh, what love the Father has lavished on us!
Excerpt from “Blessed Broken Given”. Order wherever books are sold. Official Amazon link HERE.