When God commanded His people to celebrate the Passover annually, He wanted them to never forget what He did for them when He freed them from slavery and death in Egypt and led them safely through the wilderness to the promised homeland. God desires that none of His children should be separated from their true homeland with Him in heaven.
Jesus illustrates this Passover from spiritual death to life and from the slavery of sin to freedom with the longest parable recorded in the gospels. What is the main point of Jesus’ story about two ungrateful sons and their extravagant father? Is it the contrast between an obedient and a disobedient son; or the reception given to a spendthrift son by the father and the reception given by the eldest son? Jesus does contrast the eldest son’s cold and aloof reception for his errant brother with the father’s rather lavish party and warm embrace for his repentant son. While the errant son had wasted his father’s money, his father, nonetheless, maintained unbroken love for his son. The son, while he was away, learned a lot about himself. He realized that his father had given him love which he had not returned. He had yet to learn about the depth of his father’s love for him. His deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed on the husks of pigs and his reflection on all he had lost, led to his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father. While he hoped for reconciliation, he could not have imagined a full restoration of relationship. His father did not need to speak words of forgiveness to his son; his actions spoke more loudly and clearly! The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet symbolize the new life – pure, worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God.
The prodigal son could not return to the garden of innocence, but he was welcomed and reinstated as a son. The errant son’s dramatic change from grief and guilt to forgiveness and restoration express in picture language the resurrection from the dead, a rebirth to new life from spiritual death. The parable also contrasts mercy and its opposite – unforgiveness. The father, who had been wronged, was forgiving. But the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving. His unforgiveness turns into contempt and pride. His resentment leads to his isolation and estrangement from the community of forgiven sinners. In this parable Jesus gives us a vivid picture of God and what God is like. God is truly kinder than we are. He does not lose hope or give up when we stray. He rejoices in finding the lost and in welcoming them home.
It is time that we recognize, that at times we are like the “Prodigal son” and return to our Father and repent of our guilt, asking that we be forgiven through the Passion of His Son, Jesus Christ. Then and only then will we experience the joy of repentance and the restoration of our relationship as a son or daughter of our heavenly Father.