Who knew it? Jesus threw parties. There were big parties. And, the parties haven’t stopped. They continue but too many of us Christians have stopped going. There may be a variety of reasons why. It could be that its been so long since the party was for us that we lost the passion. It could be that we have lost our joy. It could be that we don’t think that Jesus should throw a party for some of the people. It might just be that we don’t even like some of the people who are invited to the party…and we might not even like who Jesus threw the party for! So, we will stay home. Yet, we receive an invitation. We are invited and given a place of honor. The party may not be for us this time, but we are privileged to come and fellowship and have cake…with Jesus. It seems to me that Jesus told this parable for people who had lost the passion to party.
Luke 15:1-3; 11-32
It’s the parable of the prodigal son. It is a beautiful story of grace and redemption, joy and celebration. But, that isn’t all the story is about. Notice that this is a story…it is a parable. That means that it is a lesson. Jesus is teaching a lesson to those who are listening. Are you listening to the lesson?
This is the 3rd parable in the series. It is in answer to the Pharisees and the scribes (and probably others that felt religiously privileged). They are wondering what in the world this man who is suppose to be a religious leader is doing talking to sinners and tax collectors…and even further, eating with them. They are unclean, unworthy, unkept, and unwelcome as far as they are concerned. And, yet, Jesus is welcoming them, eating with them, loving them. So these parables answer that.
The story is about a father and his two sons. One son goes off on his own, disowns his family by taking his inheritance and leaving. The other son stays by his father’s side and works with him, always faithful. Through a series of events, he has found himself feeding pigs and starving. Pigs were unclean animals and he is working for Gentiles (non-Jews). He realizes he has messed up and decides to return to his home as a servant…not as a son. He knows he doesn’t deserve the position of son any longer. He just wants to be a servant for his father. And he plans what he will say to beg his way into just being a servant. His father, though, sees him and is overjoyed. He barely gives him time to begin the spill he had planned the whole walk home – dad has given him the place of son and thrown a big party – invited the neighbors and anyone who will come. It is a time of celebration.
The older brother is less than impressed. He has been there…faithful…not insulting the family name…not doing any of the things that his younger brother has done. He sees the big feast and is mad about it…he is not going to the party and wonders what in the world is going on – he hasn’t ever gotten a party like this. Notice the father…again in the unexpected. He comes out to where the older son is…and he pleads with him to join the party. He allows his son to vent and then explains why he has thrown the celebration. Very uncharacteristic of the patriarchal system during this time.
Notice just a few things about this parable. First, the focus of the story is not on the sons – either of them. The focus of the story is on the father. He is loving and welcoming and forgiving beyond measure. What does the father do? He welcomes the son home with open arms and throws him a party. It isn’t about what the children have done – they don’t deserve anything – either of them. They are both sinners. One has made a blatant mistake against his father – but that doesn’t mean the other is perfect. The father has grace for them both. The father and his love and grace are the focus of the story.
Second, neither of the sons deserved the party. They were privileged to even be able to sit at the table. Through the younger son’s adventures, he learns what a privilege it is to be in the father’s house and just wants to be a servant, not even sit at the table. Yet, the father doesn’t just invite him to the table, but gives him a place of his son. Does that mean the older son loses his place? It doesn’t. The older son still has a place with the father at the table…a place of position. A child of the father still sits there.
Third, the older son – he wants to decide why a party should be thrown and for whom…and some sinner such as his brother is no good reason to throw a party. He didn’t want to sit at the table with him or celebrate his return. He had forgotten that he didn’t deserve to be there either. He had sat at that table so long that he forgot that he was privileged to be called son.
What about you and me? Have we sat at the table so long that we have forgotten what a privilege it is? Are we new to the table, new on the invitation list for the party? Are we excited when there is a party for someone new and that person comes to sit at the table or have we decided who is worthy? If God throws a party for someone who we don’t think is worth it…do we pout and not participate?
May we never forget the grace that has been given to us and how much we don’t deserve to be in the house at all. And, may we find the joy in the invitation and come to the party. There is too much to celebrate to sit and home and sulk.