By any measure the story of the Prodigal Son is an amazing story.
If just for a minute, we forget that it was Jesus who made it up, if we forget that it is a story from the Bible – just hear it as a story – it feels REAL.
You can imagine myself opening up a newspaper and reading this story, it just feels authentic, the characters are so compelling, the twists and turns so captivating.
And we read this story and we kind of ‘get’ it, but perhaps we miss some of the shocking nature this story would have had to Jesus’ audience.
In Jesus’ time the more important a person’s place in society, the slower they walked.
So the Father in this story – a wealthy and significant person in his society – should have had a slow majestic bearing that befitted his social status.
But what does the father do when he sees his returning, wastrel son – he runs!
Jesus’ hearers would have been shocked and stunned to hear this.
They would never have heard or seen anything like it in their lives.
Effectively the Father shames himself in front of the whole village, he ridicules himself.
But he is so relieved to see his son alive, so delighted to have him back safe and sound, so happy that his family is restored, that he runs.
But what is Jesus telling us through this story?
In this story both the sons are estranged from their Father.
The elder son is outwardly obedient to his Father, but his behaviour and subsequent conversation shows that there is no love in his heart for his dad.
The younger son is more honest in that he wants money so he can get as far away from his father as possible. So he can reject his father’s rules, live in any way that pleases him, do his own thing.
In the story the Father is meant to represent God – a God from whom his children are estranged.
Do we see ourselves in this story?
Maybe, maybe not.
Maybe we know that we have already been restored to God’s family. We know that He loves us and we are daily trying to love Him and to live in a way that pleases Him.
Or just maybe we do see ourselves represented here – if not constantly, perhaps from time to time.
Perhaps we live in a way that outwardly looks like we are in relationship with God – but actually it is all for show, and we know in our hearts there is no real love for God.
Or perhaps our separation from God is more obvious, our rebellion more evident?
There is one thing that we need to know absolutely:
God loves us deeply, desperately, unflinchingly.
And the very moment that we realise that God is good, the second we desire to be living in relationship with God, the instant that we accept that living with God is something wonderful and to be desired, at that exact moment that we turn around and head back towards God, what will we find?
We will find a God that opens his arms and runs headlong towards us, who will wrap us in his embrace and restore us into his family.
We will discover ACCEPTANCE.
And the ACCEPTANCE of God is a glorious thing.