The power in the story of the Prodigal Son lies in the unexpected ending. Those listening to Jesus tell this story knew full well that the younger brother returning to his father deserved to be met with rejection and anger.
The younger brother acted with the utmost disrespect for his father, essentially wishing him dead, only desiring what he could gain as an inheritance from him. And then on top of everything, he went off to waste all of his father’s wealth. It was bad enough to take someone’s money and wish them dead, but then spending it all on worthless things just added insult to injury.
Imagine standing in the crowd of listeners as Jesus explained that while the younger son was still a far way off, the father began running toward his son. They probably listened in horror, wondering how violent the father’s response would be. But then something very unexpected happened—the father wrapped his son in his arms and welcomed him home without question.
In John 6:28, the disciples ask Jesus the question, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?”
Essentially, all the disciples were sitting around begging Jesus for the secret tip on how to be in good standing with God. You can almost imagine Jesus smiling and leaning toward them, maybe even drawing it out for dramatic effect, and then answering with utter simplicity, “Just believe in me.”
Like the son returning to his father, we aren’t required to clean ourselves up before returning home to God.
We’re invited to believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross already put us in good standing with God, regardless of our past mistakes. Take the advice that the disciples received; believe that because of what Jesus has done, God runs to welcome you home.
Did you realize that God loves you so much, that He would run to you as you return to Him?
How does understanding this about God change the way you live your life?