As a young child, I went shopping with my mother at a local department store. Although instructed to stay by her side, I playfully weaved throughout the clothing maze and soon found myself lost. In those few minutes of separation, my mother ran up and down aisles searching for me until a loud wail directed her my way. Decades have passed, but I can still vividly remember the panic felt when I realized I was lost. And seeing my mother rush toward me with her arms flung wide—the elation of being found—is something I’ll never forget.
- Think of a time when someone received you with acceptance, love, or joy. What impression did it make upon you?
READ THE WORD: LUKE 15:11-32 (ESV)
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Trace the younger son’s trajectory from greedy to needy (vss. 11-19).
- What do you note about the younger son’s heart attitude from the first interaction with his father to the second (vss. 12 & 21)? Against whom did he feel he had sinned?
- Upon his son’s return, what did the father see, feel, do, and say (vss. 20, 22-24)? What repeated phrase did the father use to explain his joy (vss. 24, 32)?
- Where was the older son during the homecoming of his younger brother (vss. 25-28)? What were his reasons for being so angry with his father (vss. 28-30)? In his anger, what did the older brother completely overlook (vs. 31)?
- As the father in the story illustrates our heavenly father, what does this tell us about God? Do you believe that God stands at the ready to forgive and receive you with a boundless grace?
RESPOND TO GOD
On any given day, we might find ourselves acting just as the sons in this story—demanding our rights, squandering blessings, being obedient for wrong reasons, or spewing angry ingratitude. But like the compassionate father of the parable, God is always ready to receive repentant people with forgiveness and an open-armed grace. It is a generosity wholly undeserved by you and me, issued from an amazing God who joyfully celebrates the “found.”
- Thank God for his unconditional love and generous grace. Confess, and repent if necessary, if you feel lost or far from him. Ask for his reassurance that you are deeply loved.
- If there are prodigals or angry brothers in your life, ask God to show you how to offer grace to them.