All three of these stories paint such a beautiful picture when read together as one chapter.
God chases after those who wander.
God searches for the lost.
God celebrates when the rebellious repent and return.
It’s not always fair, though. I feel like after the first two stories, Jesus had made his point: God comes after his lost people. The third parable of the lost son seems less directed to the lost and more directed to those who consider themselves found. It’s easy to lose perspective and think that Christianity revolves around you, your happiness, your well-being and your feelings. But it’s not, and it can’t be. Jesus is constantly, constantly teaching the religious people that they are getting it wrong.
The older son’s feelings in this story are pretty relatable. He feels like his godly behavior and sacrifices have been ignored and unnoticed. His behavior is being fueled by performance and his identity is being marked by his actions. Thank God good behavior is not the currency of the Kingdom. And really, he’s acting prideful and selfish. God calls us to put others before ourselves and to regularly humble ourselves.
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” 15:31
We are called to celebrate repentance and reconciliation. Use this story to gauge your emotions. Is it hard for you to accept God’s unconditional love for other people? Sinful people who are in the wrong?
I’m so glad God is just instead of fair and that he lets us back in when we wander away. He is the perfect Shepherd.