Luke chapter fifteen contains a set of three parables about rejoicing. The first two have three important elements: something lost, a loser, and a celebration when the loser finds the lost. Jesus asks the men and women listening to imagine that they have each lost a sheep or a coin. When they find it they are so happy that they gather their friends and neighbors for a party. Heaven rejoices far more when a sinner changes his mind and starts to live in relationship with God.
The third parable is more detailed. There is a father whose son scorns him but returns to a joyful reception. But Jesus introduces a fourth element, as if for emphasis—an older son. The change of pattern must have piqued the audience’s interest—why did Jesus add an older son? The parable grates and grinds to an uncomfortable end. Inside the house, a lavish celebration; outside, a pouting older son arguing with his father. It’s an unfinished story, inviting the Pharisees and scribes to make their own happy ending.
We should be uncomfortable too. Talk about a dysfunctional family! This one is bad: The younger son insults his father by asking for his inheritance early, as if to say, “I can’t wait for you to die. I have no interest in you, just your money”. The father agrees to the demand and later welcomes back his debauched son, paying no attention to the shame he had brought on him and his household. No wonder the older son was angry.
But let’s view the parable through the lens of heaven, and consider what the happy ending could be. The parable holds keys for revival—for us and our communities. Too many of us are still living as one or other lost son in the parable.
- For revival to come we need to understand that, although our heavenly Father feels the pain of our scorn and straying, He remains secure. He requires no shame-walk or restitution before restoring us to full relationship with Him. He answers to no onlookers or older sons who might think Him soft for making it so easy. Lost children need to accept that the only prerequisite for restoration is humble repentance—not groveling. The younger son thought that his best hope was the position of a farm worker; the Father interrupted him before he could say it. Instead the Father lavished on him symbols of sonship—a robe, a ring, and a rich feast. Humility releases grace.
- For revival to come those of us who hang out around the Father’s house must have our spiritual eyes opened to the truth of “all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). We have been adopted by the King of kings into His kingdom. If we are doing our own thing on the outskirts of the farm, relying on our own initiative and resources then we are missing out. And why run off with a diminishing trunk of treasures when we can live with a King who provides a steady stream of blessing?
- For revival to come older sons must stop arguing that they know best. All the inherited tradition, and all the training and experience in the world is second to guidance and fresh fire from the Father. New wine needs new wineskins. Also, older sons often want to override their father and advise on strict rules of return. They can be blind to the depth and beauty of the father’s love for their lost siblings. “Such immaturity is a hideous and shriveled distortion of what God intends for His children.”1 Humility releases grace.
So, for revival to come to us, whichever son we relate to, let’s throw off dead religion and dive into our life as adopted children of the King. Make your own ending!
Please share Bible Maturity with anyone who would benefit from other Bible devotions like this one.
- From: The Name Quest – explore the names of God to grow in faith and get to know Him better, by John Avery, Morgan James Publishing, 2015. Used with permission. [↩]