Jesus came to earth as a revelation of the heart of God. His teachings, miracles, and healings all revealed an attitude about God that had not been understood
before — God wanted to do special things in the lives of people.
As Jesus taught, the people were overwhelmed by His message. In Luke 4:22 it says, “So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which
proceeded out of His mouth…” The way we might say that today is: “They wondered at His words of grace.”
The reason the people were filled with awe was because the traditional religious teaching at that time was without grace.
Jesus went beyond the limits of what the people had ever heard by declaring God as His Father. The very idea stirred indignation and wrath in the religious
mind because they understood the implications of what Jesus was saying.
With these words Jesus put Himself on an equal level with God. The people were outraged, crying, “Blasphemy.” No one called God “Father.” It was unheard
of. But Jesus’ message did not stop there. His message was to reveal that God’s deep desire was to be our Father.
Throughout Matthew, chapters 5-7, Jesus referred to God as our Father which is in heaven. This was absolutely revolutionary. Jesus emphasized this idea
in depth with the account of the prodigal son.
The word “prodigal” has the connotation of rebellion and stubbornness; of a person running from God. But “prodigal” is not a biblical word. It is a word
tradition has added to our biblical vocabulary. Tradition also has assigned it to the lost son in Luke 15:11-24.
The central figure of this account is not the son. From the beginning to the end, the father is the center of attention. It is the response of the father
that brings real insight. This is a revelation of a prodigal father, not a prodigal son. This father reveals the Heavenly Father’s attitude.
In order to truly understand the picture Jesus is portraying of the Father, we must first understand the true meaning of the word prodigal. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines it as given to extravagant expenditures, lavish, extremely abundant.1 If we think about it, that describes the father in this story
much more than the son. The father was extravagant with his love. He lavished his goodness upon his son even though the son squandered his goods. And
he was abundantly confident that his son would return.
When the son left, he took with him the portion of goods that belonged to him. In this case it would have been one-third of the family’s possessions. The
younger son took his inheritance and squandered it away. Finally, he found himself at the point of desperation and took a job feeding swine. For a
Hebrew, feeding swine was a degrading position. Only when the son became desperate did he return to his father’s house.
Why is it that we wait until everything looks hopeless before we look to our Heavenly Father for help? It seems that things must be desperately out of
control before we reach out to God. That is not God’s intention. He does not want us to experience even the slightest break in receiving His inheritance.
We can remain in companionship with God and continue to receive from the abundant supply of His inheritance. The prodigal son squandered his inheritance
by going into a far country, away from the fellowship and guidance of his father. Don’t be among those Christians who squander their inheritance. Don’t
let God’s blood-bought provision slip through your fingers by failing to realize that you are accepted by God. Begin to respond from your true identity
in Christ today.
1Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, 2nd ed., S.V. “prodigal.”