Today’s reading is drawn from Luke 15:11-20.
Jesus encounters a woman in a synagogue who has been bent over for 18 years. It’s the Sabbath, but he heals her anyway. The synagogue leader is furious. Jesus pushes back — Satan has hurt this woman for 18 years, but the Pharisees want to keep her from Jesus because of a strict, superficial teaching.
Some Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod wants to kill him. Jesus explains that he’s going to die in Jerusalem. Then he grieves for the city he has longed to gather under his protective wings though its residents refuse to come to him. He tells a parable about a man who invites people to a banquet, but just like God’s people Israel, they refuse to come.
Sinners love Jesus, and the Pharisees can’t stand it. They see sinners as both notoriously evil people and those who don’t follow their man-made laws. Jesus tells two stories — about a man who celebrates after finding one lost sheep and a woman who celebrates when finding a lost coin — to explain God’s great joy when one person comes to him. He tells another parable of a father who rejoices when his wayward son repents and comes home. But the father’s older son sneers. Like the Pharisees, he “never disobeyed” the father’s orders. The loving father still invites his elder son in. Jesus wants the Pharisees to see that his Father’s invitation to them is still open.
The King’s Heart
In the parable, even though the son has grievously hurt the father, the father still looks for the son. Perhaps he has done so every day. Because he is looking, while his son is still a long way off, he spots him and runs to him.
In Jesus’ culture, a father would normally wait to be addressed by the son and to receive some indication of respect before responding. But this father is so excited that he can’t contain himself. Then he clothes his son with his best robe, places a ring on his finger — a symbol of authority — and throws a lavish party.
The One who knows the Father is painting a picture of the heart of the Father — the Father who longs for his people to come home, the Father who rejoices when they do. Jesus says that angels throw parties when one sinner repents. Perhaps they are taking cues from the Father’s joy.
God had let his people be taken into exile because of their sinfulness. But then he brought them home and restored what they had lost. Historically, God had already lived out Jesus’ parable about the sinful son who came home and was welcomed back. He had lived it out with his very own people.