In Luke’s Gospel chapter 15 Jesus gives us a story for us to see ourselves. It is a
story to teach us about, childhood, fatherhood, and motherhood. We shouldn’t leave the
females out in this great story. It is also about waiting mothers and wayward girls who rebel
and run away. It is about girls who act like the older brother as sisters. God is revealing His
heart and what should be in the heart of parents, male and female.
We need to learn from this story about God’s heart and our sinfulness. God has acted
to redeem us. He has paid the price for our sin and prodigal living. He runs to meet us.
God, all of heaven, and the angels are joyous, celebrating with gladness when we come home.
Consider what happened to the young prodigal, leaving home and family he lost
everything. He was broke, suffering, and losing everything. He did not have anything or
anyone to help him or to feel for him. The man who employed him did not care about him or
provide for him. He thought more about his pigs than he did about the young man he hired to
take care of them.
Note there is celebration gladness when one returns to God. Angels revoice and all
residents of that celestial land rejoice in returning sinners. The father misses his son,
watching for him each day. He looks down the road one day and sees his son returning. He
runs to meet him. There is something in this description of the father running to meet his
wayward, returning son. Dignified fathers do not run. They do not rush to meet prodigals.
This father dropped all his dignity, his composure and ran to meet his returning son. He
didn’t think of his son’s rejection, departure, or that he squandered his inheritance. Why?
There are many ways to answer this question. One way is to acknowledge that
money can be replaced, but a son lost cannot. The father embraced him, ordered his servants
to change his clothes, put the family ring on his hand and new shoes.
This story has different plateaus for us to consider. Jesus builds the story in such a
way that we gain a deeper understanding of human nature and God’s dealing with us. There
are many things meant by those words “with all my heart.” The father doesn’t let his
returning rebel son finish his confession. He cuts him off before he gets to the part of being a
slave. The father orders his servants to minister to the son—give him a robe, put shoes on his
feet, the ring of authority, and position on his finger. He gives him new shoes because the old
ones were used to run away and now he is returning and is at home. He deserves new shoes
to honor his return.
I am the son in this story; you are the son or the daughter in this story. The Heavenly
Father—the great God of all things, the Creator of the universe, the Sovereign
God—abandons all dignity, runs to receive us, embraces us, and welcomes us home. God the
Father is glad that you and I are part of His family.
Jesus’ story is unending. He isn’t finished with this story because there are still
others who need to come home. The father cuts the son off before he gets to that part of his
speech where he was going to confess returning as a slave.
This is news too good to be true. The heavenly father receives his sinful children
back with celebration gladness. One of the grandest messages in God’s Word is this
magnificent and incredible, marvelous promise that God is singing over his redeemed people.
It is in Zephaniah. Consider what the prophet (Zephanian 3:17),
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will be quiet in His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
There is a celebration when God’s people return to Him in repentance and contrition.
Not only is there a celebration in heaven; there should be a celebration here on earth in the
family when prodigals return and repent.
There is a pattern in regards to returning and repenting. Those who come back to the
father do so with a particular feeling and confession. This is the pattern—I’m not worthy. I
have sinned and do not deserve forgiveness and salvation, but God the Father has provided
that through the sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God celebrates with gladness over the return of sinful, prodigal children, wayward
men, and women. Can you get the wonder of this? God rejoices over you with loud singing!
Listen to the Prophet Zephaniah and recognize the wonder of this great fact. God
understands our hesitancy and gives this to us. “The Lord has taken away your
judgments” (Zephaniah 3:15). Even though you feel condemned God rejoices and sings over
you because He has redeemed you, transformed you, and there is no condemnation. In
Romans 8 Paul says, “There is now, therefore, no condemnation . . . .”
Here is an answer to people who find this unbelievable. Consider Zephaniah
3:17—“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over
you with gladness, He will –quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Consider verse 19, “Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you, I will save the
lame, and gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame in every
land where they were put to shame.” In verse 15, “He has cast out your enemies.” God does
what needs to be done for His people. Nothing can stop Him.
Surely you can believe Him! This staggers our imagination, but it is true! Jesus
saves. Jesus has come to bear our sins, to provide salvation through that sacrifice. This is
something to celebrate, something to be glad about. So there is cause to celebrate and
justification for gladness.
Consider God’s celebration of gladness as part of our community conversation. I look
forward to hearing something from you through email@example.com or by snail mail
to P. O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671. Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired