Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no-one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.’”1
Pause and think about these one at a time. Go back to the story if needed.
- The Father is the only constant in the story; his love never changes.
- The Father loves the son even when he asks for his inheritance essentially saying, “I wish you were dead” or perhaps, “You’re dead to me”.
- Extreme rejection doesn’t change love because “Love bears all things”.
- The Father loves while the son is squandering all that was given him. The Father waits and is continually looking for the return of his son.
- The Father continues to hope because “Love always hopes”.
- Up to this point in the story the Father has experienced the “Pain of loving”. Next we see the Father experiencing the “Joy of loving”.
- The Father sees the son when he is still far off and runs to him. The Father was daily looking for his son’s return. He meets his son, welcomes him with a warm embrace, the best robe, a ring, and sandals.
- The ring may have been a signate ring giving the son access to the Father’s wealth and power.
- Clearly the Father has forgiven the son; the Father has not kept a record of the son’s wrongs so he remains free to love the son.
- The Father even orders the fattened calf killed for a feast and celebration. The calf couldn’t have been fattened overnight, therefore it must have been prepared for an occasion just like this. The Father hoped and prepared for the son’s return.
- The Father is expressing the joy of loving and his joy overflows by including all those around him. Many people are blessed by the Father’s love.
- The older son refuses to enter into the Father’s blessing. His words indicate that his heart may have been hardened through judgments against his Father.
- The Father loves the older son too although the older son doesn’t appear to have received it. He is jealous wanting the Father’s love and blessing for himself alone.
- The Father experiences the pain of loving the older son when he leaves the celebration to go to him. The pain increases when the older son refuses to remain outside and not enter into the celebration.
Consider: The story is a good illustration of God’s love for us. It also may give us, as fathers, a goal of how to love our children. Is it not applicable towards our wife and other people too?
We experience the pain of loving when times are difficult however can we not still love if we choose?
If we choose to continue to love will we not reap a reward at the proper time – will we not experience the joy of love?
Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. The joy was preceded by pain. The endurance was his expression of love and the joy was his reward.