You have heard the story. In fact you are probably going to complain that I am beating a dead horse (sorry for the graphic portrayal). But the story I want to discuss is about a young man who took his portion of his father’s inheritance and squandered it on riotous living. The whole time singing: “Cigarettes, whiskey and wild wild women; They’ll drive you crazy, they’ll drive you insane . . .”
Yeah, yeah. Like I said, it is a story you have heard ad infinitum. However, do you remember how he ended up broken, ruined in health and spirit, feeding pigs (and being a young Jewish man, that was the lowest of low) and at his lowest point he decided to go back home and submit to his father. He arrives and is about to say, “I have sinned against you and God . . .”
Now the point you need to remember is that the dad could have responded, “Yeah, you got that right!” But he didn’t. . Scripture tells us that, “when he was still a long way off [before he had a chance to confess to his dad], his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
My point is that nothing could stop this father’s forgiveness of his son. There was nothing the boy had to do — not even confess his sins — because the father had already made provision for reconciliation. Indeed, it happened all by the father’s initiative; he ran to his son and embraced him as soon as he saw the boy coming up the road. The truth is, forgiveness is never a problem for any loving father—likewise, it is never a problem with our Heavenly Father! The key here is that the son came with a repentant heart. The son had full intention of repenting. His heart was broken.
We are beginning to hear the heretical teaching that everyone will be restored; everyone will live eternally with the Creator. But that is not the case. There must be a repentance and a calling out for forgiveness.
After the prodigal’s heart is broken, forgiveness is no longer the issue. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t enough for this prodigal merely to be forgiven. The father didn’t embrace his son just to forgive him and let him go his way. No, that father yearned for more than just his son’s restoration. He wanted his child’s company, his presence, his communion.
Even though the prodigal was forgiven and in favor once more, he still wasn’t settled in his father’s house. Only then would the father be satisfied, his joy fulfilled when his son was brought into his company. That is the issue in this parable.
Here the story gets very interesting. The son clearly was not at ease with his father’s forgiveness. That’s why he hesitated to enter his father’s house. He told him, in essence, “If you only knew what I have done, all the filthy, ungodly things. I have sinned against God and against your love and grace. I just don’t deserve your love. You have every right to cut me off.”
Notice how the father responds to his son. He never utters a single word of reproof. There is no reference to what the prodigal had done, and there was no mention of his rebellion, his foolishness, his profligate living, his spiritual bankruptcy. In fact, the father didn’t even acknowledge his son’s attempts to stay outside, unworthy. He ignored them! Why?
In the father’s eyes, the old boy was dead. That son was out of his thoughts completely. Now, in the father’s eyes, this son who had returned home was a new man. His past would never be brought up again. The father was saying, “As far as I’m concerned, the old you is dead. Now, walk with me as a new man. No need for you to live under guilt. The sin problem is settled. Now, come boldly into my presence and share in my mercy and grace.”