It was humiliating, but the father ran to his son. His son’s life was worth more than his own reputation and the father had to reach his son before he was stoned, or at best, exiled by the townspeople.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a touching illustration of how God’s grace surpasses the law and how self-righteousness prevents us from having intimacy with the Father.
The Law Demands & Denies
The law of Moses governed the lives of first-century Jews. Honoring your mother and father was one of the Big Ten.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
The Prodigal demanded his inheritance while the father still lived.
In doing so, he greatly dishonored his father. The younger son wanted to live the high life now, not caring how he shamed his father.
You know the story, the arrogant son blew it all on questionable life choices. He found himself in a particularly degrading job for a Jew, feeding the pigs.
He even thought of fighting the pigs for their slop.
With eyes now opened, he realized even his father’s servants lived better than he was now living.
With this realization, the Prodigal decided to return to his father’s estate.
It seems like the obvious choice to us today, but we don’t really understand the cost to the prodigal.
He knew the law and that he must forfeit the benefits of son-ship he had once enjoyed.
The prodigal also knew there was a serious risk in his return because the law demanded the stoning of a rebellious son at the town’s gate.
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All of Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Without the father’s intervention, the returning prodigal son would go through the ceremony of kezazah.
The Jewish custom at this time was to gather the people, break a pot in front of the prodigal, and declare, “You are cut off from the people”.
The law demanded his punishment, stoning or exile
It also denied him the opportunity to make amends.
But the father intervened!
The Gospel Of Grace Gives And Supplies
Driven by unconditional love for his son, the father put aside the demands of the law and replaced them with God’s abundant grace.
Ignoring the son’s declaration of unworthiness, the father put a ring bearing the family’s crest on his finger and sandals on his feet. Both actions show God’s grace and the son’s restoration to his place in the family.
The father’s display of forgiveness and the Prodigals' restoration to sonship spoke volumes.
There would be no stoning or exile for the returning son.
God the Father continues to intervene for us today.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are forgiven past, present, and future sins.
We also become the righteousness of God in Jesus.
Why? Because of grace, God wants us to have what we can never earn.
Whatsmore, Jesus already paid our penalties on the cross.
Self-righteousness Stops Intimacy With God
The real tragedy in this parable is the Older brother that stayed home.
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:28–29
The older brother was a slave to the law and had a works mentality.
In his mind and heart, years of performing had earned him the right to a feast. He felt entitled to recognition of his earned righteousness.
The father’s response was, all this was always yours to have whenever you desired, but you were too caught up in your goodness to know you only needed to ask.
The older son’s self-righteousness kept him from intimacy with his father.
What is keeping you from intimacy with God the Father?
God’s grace is boundless. He doesn’t care where you’ve been, just where you’re going.
And Jesus died to ensure where you’re going.
The Prodigal son realized his error and knew his father well enough to believe he could go home.
Wherever you’ve been or are now, know that the Father is waiting to run to you and welcome you home and that Jesus already paid your way home.