So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24
At one time or another, we have found ourselves lost and without hope. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three short stories about the plight of the lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a prodigal son. Reading through these tales, you cannot help but notice the drastic responses and searches that took place to rectify the situation.
The shepherd left behind the ninety-nine sheep to find his one. The woman went to great lengths to locate her coin. She turned her house upside down looking for that precious coin. The father set his gaze to the horizon in anticipation of his son's return.
What occurred when the thing lost was finally found? The shepherd, upon his return with the sheep, called his friends so they could share in the joy of the recovered sheep. The woman and father did the same. Celebration broke out.
The shepherd, searching woman and hopeful father seem to represent God while the wandering sheep, the silver coin, and prodigal son symbolize us. We think the "one" isn't insignificant. Quite the contrary. We are not merely lifted on the shoulders of the shepherd or placed in the purse of the woman. The beauty of the Gospel is that when a prodigal returns, all of heaven gathers and rejoices.
In Jesus' eyes, being found is equated with repentance. If repentance is being found then being unrepentant must mean being lost. Being found is defined by belonging. The sheep belonged to the shepherd. The coin belonged to the woman. The prodigal son belonged at his father's side. You belong to God. If you are not where you belong, then you need to turn around. Repentance is the only way to deal with our sin and regret.
Repentance isn't a response to sin, but rather a response to grace.
The fact that the Bible speaks of being reconciled infers that there is something that separates. To restore us to our original design and deal justly with sin, God sacrificed His son Jesus Christ as a payment for our transgressions. Through Jesus, we are clean, set apart, and no longer are our sins held against us.
If a statement like this overwhelms you, feel free to hit the brakes now and take a moment. Or, maybe you have been found, yet you have lost the marvel of the fact that you belong. Pray and thank God for His grace and mercy. But, don't stop there. Because you're reconciled, you carry the message of reconciliation. You are a carrier of grace, and all around you are people in need of it.
How does the father's reaction to his son's return give us a glimpse into the experience of grace? What are we to make of the father seeing his son even though the son was still "a way off"?
God, I confess that I'm a prodigal in so many ways. There are places in my heart where I run from You. Help me to turn towards You and trust that a loving Father awaits me with open arms. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.