“His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’” (Lk 15:31, 32; TM)
This is known as the parable of the prodigal son. But a better name could have been the parable of the sad religious son. Our Lord spoke this parable in response to the accusation coming from the Pharisees; that Jesus is a ‘Friend of sinners’. They complained: “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story. The main character in this parable is not the prodigal son. It is the older brother who represents the religious teachers and leaders. The main lesson here is not repentance from backsliding, coming back from the world of ‘harlots’. It points to a religious proud spirit found among the people who attend church. The father stands for God. Here we have the clear revelation of the Father’s love for men, for sinners. Their repentance produces joy in heaven.
Who is this older son? First of all we can say that he is a good boy. Any parent will like a son like him. He goes to church always, active in ministry and he pays his tithes. He marries a Christian girl and they have nice children. He is a hardworking man. He is a friendly man with his own group of faithful friends. So then what is wrong with him? You can never discover his fault, except by the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit.
He is a religious man who obeys God’s laws but without joy. He is faithful to God and to his wife, but without holy romance. His has forsaken his first love and he is not bothered about it. He does not understand the ways of love. He plays safe. He does not understand the Lord, who came to seek and save the lost. He does not understand why God should be excited about saving sinners. If the Father had quietly killed a small goat for the welcoming party, he may have hidden his anger and jealousy. But sacrifice the special fattened calf? Are repentant sinners’ royalty? He does not believe that!
He does not understand a heaven who bubbles with joy for the sake of one sinner who falls on his knees and repents of his sins. He does not understand the power and the passion of the Cross. He does not understand the fountain of Blood flowing from Emanuel’s veins… He does not understand the risk love is taking to stretch its hand to a desperate lost soul. He does not understand the price love is willing to pay so that one weak, foolish and confused soul may be set free. He does not understand why the ointment of the alabaster box should be wasted at the feet of the Lover… He hates a God who loves sinners. He hates the love that invented Calvary. His religion is good but cold. His feet are steady but they never dance. His handshakes are strong but they never touch another. His salvation is sure but there is no song, no romance and no holy joy in it. Does this describe you?
Listen now to God the Father speaking:
“Son, you do not understand Me… you work so hard… so close to Me, living every day, in My house and yet, you do not understand My heart… or My longing to set the prisoners free, to make the blind see, to destroy the spell of ignorance, sadness and fear in the hearts of men… to declare the acceptable year of the Lord… the reveal the miracle of resurrection life imparted to humble broken men… to see Salvation revealed on earth… to offer things money cannot buy… to hear men lovingly calling the name of my only Beloved Son… to have a place of praise so that I can inhabit the earth in their mist… Son, you do not understand Me… Pray that you do, for only then we can have true fellowship together… only then you shall taste and see that I am good… let’s draw together with joy from the wells of salvation on earth… open your heart and your eyes and see… this very season it is wrong to be sad and serious… it is the right thing to celebrate… No bride should walk to the altar with tears on her face… she should smile and dance and rejoice, for her childhood dream has come true… listen to the sound of laughter… join in the dance…sing with the willing volunteers who assemble to make the choir… this is a wonderful time for all of us… for heaven and for earth… for angels and men… feel My heart… feel the fire of love that never fails to cleanse… see the light of love that never fails to shine… love is strong… love lifts higher than you imagine, embracing eternally… we are forever one…
My Son, please, understand…”