In verse 12 we read the younger of two brothers approaches their father and says I would really like to have my inheritance now (basically so he can enjoy it before HE becomes an old man). What he is really saying to his dad is "I wish you were dead NOW so I could have what is coming to me." Wow- what a sentiment to a father whom has loved and nurtured him in great comfort!
But notice the father does not rebuke him, try to persuade him otherwise or decline him. Rather, he divides his wealth between the two brothers. Notice also the father does not weep for his son despite the ugliness he received from his youngest son. I think this is because the father knew his son's heart and he would soon run through all his wealth because he was prodigal and had no foresight of the future. A reckless child, if you will. I think he knew the son would be destitute and back home soon.
Once the impertinent youth ventures from the rural area where life is relatively inexpensive and he goes to a big city, he lives an apparent life of partying and fool-hardiness to satisfy his heart. Soon, the money gone and severe famine bring this young man to his knees. Starving, he accepts a job feeding pigs garbage and refuse, or slop.
If you have ever been around slop, you know how vile it smells, and knowing Jesus is talking to Jews, the lowest form of animal is a pig, we get a sense of just how desperate a situation the prodigal son is in. He soon realizes these animals are eating better than him, even his father's slaves have it better off than him so it is not a hard decision to finally admit in humility the error of his ways and beg forgiveness of his father so he might be a lowly slave.
In other words, the son has NO idea just how much his father loves him, and the depths of his forgiveness for his son.
As the son approaches home from afar, the father sees him and is so overcome with joy that his lost son is now home what does he do? He RUNS to the son. Again, realizing this is to a Jewish audience, the significance of his running is not lost on Jesus' audience. What it illustrates is the dignity of an elder Jewish man running, like a little boy, to bring his son to comfort and embrace him is an extremely powerful analogy of course to how much our Father rejoices when we turn our back on our prodigal lives and return to His embrace.
Meanwhile, the elder son is so busy with his works, he does not even notice his own flesh and blood returning. He is so focused doing what he thinks is right he fails to rejoice in this victory of his father. Instead, his pride makes him angry and will not permit him to enter the feast to honor his brother's return.
I must admit, I can certainly identify with this visceral reaction of the flesh. I have been wronged by believer and non-believer alike, and the flesh wants revenge but the Holy Spirit thankfully whispers to me to let it go and love nonetheless. (He is also kind enough to remind me I have offended others) which certainly helps me manage the bitter taste in my mouth.
But what the sons says next is quite revealing to me. He confronts his father and says I have "slaved" here while my brother has partied, yet you never gave me so much as a goat to enjoy with my friends."
REALLY? I'm sorry, sir, but I believe just a few short verses ago you inherited 2/3 of your father's wealth, and have continued to work it. While he may want to use the example of "like a slave" to describe his efforts, I submit that is the responsibility of a landowner. He is sustaining his wealth and livelihood by working. His pride has blinded him, making him feel he is the better son and more deserving of the father's love and adoration. I am so thankful my God does not think that way! It shows the imperfection of our flesh
But as always, there is more. He clearly missed how much HIS father loved him because he felt HE should have been recognized for doing his job! His responsibility as the eldest is to work the land and livestock! He is angry in his heart because his father never thanked him for what he had done or for his loyalty. I wonder, just how many times did he thank his father for the love and comfort he enjoyed?That is to say, the eldest sought recognition for his works!
He was not doing his works for the right reason- he was doing it out of duty and not faith. This is where I think many of us are prodigal ourselves. We often get mired in a worldly situation and lose control of ourselves and find us behaving, at least in one manner or another, like the prodigal son. Yet the Almighty Father welcomes us with open arms every time we turn our back on the world and look to Him. The sooner we do that and realize the depth of His love for each and everyone of us, the sooner we will realize and experience this love. The eldest son obviously led a life not nearly as fulfilled as God intended, but because he was focused on his efforts and not on the Lord, he missed out on so many blessings.
So I ask in closing, which son was truly lost? How many blessings are waiting for you right now?