The parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) ought really to be called ‘the parable of the two sons and a father’. Dave preached from this passage this morning, looking at it as a drama in two acts, a parable Jesus told because his audience had been complaining that he associated with sinners.

In the first act, we see how the younger son goes off the rails, insulting his father by asking for his inheritance even before the father has died. The father, patiently enduring a loss of honour and respect, not to mention the pain of rejected, unrequited love, allows his son to go off, squandering his wealth in wild living. In Scene 2, we see this son, ending up in the poverty of the pig-sty, finally returning home in Scene 3, to find his father not only welcoming him home, but lavishing extravagant love and gifts on him. If by ‘prodigal’ we mean ‘recklessly extravagant’, then this adjective applies as much to the father as the son!

But the story does not end here. In Act 2, we see the reactions of the older son, a type, perhaps, of the scribes and Pharisees – the ones who didn’t break the law, but who were yet filled with their own righteousness and pride and were just as far from the Father as the more disreputable ‘sinners’ they despised. The older son, on hearing the commotion caused by his brother’s return, is absolutely furious. He will not join in the celebrations, snubbing his father by remaining outside. The father, however, loves both his sons and tries to reason with him – to no avail. The older son feels unjustly treated. He has been outwardly obedient all his life, but despite appearing to be a paragon of virtue, working hard and being self-disciplined, he does not really have a heart for his father. He has been trying to earn his way to righteousness and has ended up refusing the offer of grace.

The outrage that Jesus’s audience would have felt on hearing this parable is often glossed over. The ‘bad’ son, the ‘sinner’, has entered into his father’s salvation, but the ‘good’ son, who has obeyed the rules not out of relationship but to get things for himself, is left outside. The man of moral rectitude, at this point, is still lost.

It has cost the Father a great deal – the death of His only begotten Son – to purchase our salvation. Are we going to embrace this ‘outrageous grace’ and enter in or are we going to remain on the outside, trying to earn our own salvation through our own righteousness?