Consider how this chapter, with its three parables about being lost and found, begins. Jesus hears the grumbling of religious leaders who reveal that they don’t embrace the truth of a scripture verse they have surely memorized: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6). In case his stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a prodigal son have not transformed those who are grumbling, Jesus adds a finale that makes the truth hard to miss. His final scene focuses on a character who bears a remarkable resemblance to the Pharisees and scribes. The elder son doesn’t consider himself “lost,” but whether he chooses to be “found” is still up in the air. Maybe this story should be retitled “The Lost Brothers.”
Yes, the younger son is the one who openly wears the wayward prodigal label and who leaves his father to feed his rebellious longings. But the elder son also loses his way. The vast land of arrogant pride and addictive self-righteousness becomes too appealing and he wanders away from his father’s example. His inner journey of self-centeredness distances him from his father who longs to share with this son all of the blessing and goodness he has to offer.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way….” Until we recognize that everyone falls short, but God’s grace wants to claim us anyway, we will miss out on the full and celebratory experience of God’s love. Jesus invites us to realize our need to return to God’s love daily. Again and again, we all come before God to be received and forgiven.
What helps you recognize your daily need for divine forgiveness?
God of the wayward like me, help us come to ourselves and run to your open arms again and again. Amen.