“Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” Luke 15:15-16
This Sunday – the third Sunday of Lent – we read one of the most well-known and beloved stories of the entire Bible: the parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-32 if you need a refresher).
Why do we love this story so much? What is it that makes this particular parable melt our hearts the way that it does?
It’s more than just the love of the father or the forgiveness he shows to his son; there’s more to it than that. There’s something in this story that stirs the heart of everyone who hears it or reads it.
What makes this story so touching? What jumps out to me is how LOW the boy had fallen and how HIGH he was lifted after that.
It’s the discrepancy or change from start to finish. At one point, he had sunk to the lowest of lows – the textbook definition of “rock bottom” – but by the end of the story, he had ascended to the highest of highs – the receipt of amazing grace and an incredible deliverance.
How deep had he sunk?
We often have this picture of the prodigal son eating pig’s food with dirty animals in a pen. But actually that is NOT what the story says. It doesn’t say that he ate food with the pigs; what it says is actually even worse:
“And he would GLADLY have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” Luke 15:16
The gospel doesn’t say that he was eating pig’s food; it says he “would gladly” have eaten pig’s food but even the pigs wouldn’t share with him. Go read that line again.
Wow! That’s low. That’s really low. That’s about a deep a pit as you can imagine. The boy had nothing. No home. No food. No family. No friends. No opportunities on the horizon. No future to look forward to. No reason for hope at all. He was deep in a pit.
And what makes it even worse is that if you were to take a survey and ask 100 people, “Did he deserve to be in this pit?”, I’d bet that 99 out of those 100 people would say YES. Yes he deserved it. He made his own choice. No one forced him to leave his father’s house. He made his own bed and now he has to lie in it.
99 out of 100 people would probably say that, including the prodigal son himself.
But there’s one person who would disagree. One person who would say that no matter what he did, he doesn’t deserve that? Who is that one person? THE FATHER!
And the good news is that the Father’s opinion is the only one that really counts. Aren’t you glad that you have a Father like that?
Like the father in the story, your Heavenly Father is full of love and compassion for you – no matter what you may have done to sink yourself into a pit. No pit is too deep and no fall is too much for Him to overcome and deliver you from.
I want you to read these words of Scripture carefully – but don’t read them as a story about someone else. Read them as a personal message from your Father in heaven directed right at you – especially if you’re feeling like you’ve sunk too low or too far:
“Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:22-24
The more I read/pray/think about it, the more I realize that we weren’t made to live in pits. We weren’t made to live in dark places – low places, full of mud and mire and despair. No way. You and I weren’t made to live in a pit; we were made to live in the palace!
That’s the message that your loving Father sent His Only Begotten Son into the world to preach. It’s a message of salvation, forgiveness and redemption – a message that says no matter how low you’ve sunk, there’s a story of great deliverance waiting to be written about you as well.
All you have to do is come back home…