When last we saw the Prodigal Son, he was watching covetously as the pigs in his charge ate. We're in the middle portion of the parable now, with the Prodigal Son experiencing a moment of self-realization. The parable continues,
But when he came to himself he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.’”
He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.” They began to celebrate. (Luke 15:17–24)
Have you ever had a moment of self-realization like this? All of a sudden some barrier in your mind is removed or some veil lifted and you truly see your condition or your circumstances. You realize how silly it is for you to continue on in your current state and that you want out. Whether the question in your mind is “Why am I doing this?”, “What am I doing?”, or any other variation on this theme, I think we all can relate. The realization is this: “I have sinned.”
It's hard to admit when we have done something wrong. Depending on how much time we have spent entrenched in sin far away from our heavenly Father, it could be one long and difficult journey. But I think Jesus tells this story to illustrate that we will never take that journey in vain.
Even though we may deliberately set out in sin and distance ourselves from our Father, we can still come home. We can return home starved and gaunt because our Father will recognize us and will prepare a feast to fill our empty bellies. We can return home dirty and clothed in filthy rags because our Father has clean and fine clothing to cover us. We can return home in humility, ashamed of the sins we have committed and with a sincere desire to work for our Father. But though we confess our sin and our unworthiness to him, acknowledging that the way we have lived is not suitable for a child of God and that we are only fit to work for him as hired servants, he will throw his arms around us and rejoice that we have come home. Our relationship with God is not based on the work we do for him. He is always willing to accept us back into his family as his very own children.
Scripture quoted from the World English Bible. The World English Bible is in the Public Domain. That means that it is not copyrighted. See copyright information here: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/World-English-Bible-WEB/#copy.
The image of the Prodigal Son was downloaded from the Brooklyn Museum website. As of 9/16/2014, it is believed that this work is in the Public Domain. You may review the image and related text here: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4538/The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_Le_retour_de_lenfant_prodigue