When we celebrate Easter we are celebrating the gift of our salvation. Salvation is coming home. Leaving the land of slavery (to sin) and entering the Promised Land, (our new home.) The Jewish people had been slaves in Egypt until God miraculously freed them and led them across the Jordan River into a land He had promised them – Israel. Our salvation is somewhat like that in that when we believe in Jesus and follow Him we are miraculously given His Spirit to live in our hearts and lead us home.
Jesus told a story or parable about coming home. There is a Father with two sons, and the story starts with the younger son asking the Father to give him his share of the inheritance money early. (Luke 15:11-32) Inheritance money was meant to go to the son after the Father was dead. But the son doesn’t want to wait so he demands his money right away. And the Father sadly agrees, giving the son half of his money, even if the Father might need it in his old age. The other half of the inheritance would go to the older son.
The younger son leaves home carrying a big bag of his Father’s money. And he travels far away to the big city where he falls into drinking and fighting on back streets, boozing and gambling in bars and dens and hanging out with prostitutes and strippers in the gutters. Drugs and liquor, fighting and wild women! The son spends his time and money in riotous living.
But then one day all of the son’s money is gone. And all of his friends are gone too, -all the loose women and the drunken men. They don’t seem to like the son now that he has spent all of his money. The son roams the streets alone and homeless. Cold and sick, hungry and desperate. What is he to do? No one will help him! The son tries to find a job and a farmer hires him to feed his hogs. He eats the food the hogs leave and he sleeps with the hogs out in the field. Cold and dirty, starving and alone in the cold and the wind, the son has lots of time to think about things.
Of course the son thinks about how good things used to be back when he was home with his Father and his good hard working older brother. His Father’s workers were paid good wages and had plenty to eat and here the son is out in this pig pen shivering with cold and eating dry husks. The son tells himself that he will go back to his Father and say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son: make me like one of your hired men.” Being my Father’s hired hand would be better than staying here and starving with these hogs, he tells himself.
Every day since the son has been gone, the Father goes out to look down the long lonely road that leads to the far away country where the son has gone. Day after day the Father keeps watching and hoping he might someday see his wayward son coming back home. The Father loves and misses his son so much and his heart is so heavy with longing for his son. And then one day it happens! The son is still many miles away when the Father thinks he can barely see a man way off in the distance coming down the long road. Could it be his long lost son?? The excited Father rushes out of his house and runs down the long dusty road. Finally, when he reaches his son, the breathless Father throws his arms around the son, kissing and hugging him.
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” the son started telling his Father. But the Father won’t listen. “Quick” the Father calls to his servant, “Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. We will have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.”
So there is a great celebration in the Father’s house that night. The good faithful older brother is out in the field working when he hears music and dancing coming from the house. When the servants tell him that his younger brother has returned and that his Father is throwing a party for his younger brother, he is furious! The older brother refuses to go in the house where neighbors are partying. He doesn’t want to see his younger brother. He has been the good son all these years. He has faithfully worked in his Father’s fields and his Father has never thrown a party for him! But now this no good younger brother of his has taken his Father’s money and wasted it with loose women and now his Father is celebrating his homecoming! He is hopping mad!
The Father goes outside and begs his older son to come inside and join the party. The Father says: “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because your brother was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found.” Jesus ends the story here with the older brother still standing outside angry and refusing to come in to the party. Did the older brother stay angry forever or did he eventually forgive his younger brother? Jesus never says. He leaves us hanging! Maybe we are supposed to finish Jesus’ story! Maybe we are part of the story!
I think the older brother believes that there is not enough money to go around. He feels that he is better than his younger brother because for years he has worked hard for his Father and obeyed all the rules, where his younger brother has not. What if the Father in the story had gone to market the day the younger brother came home? And what if the older brother was home to greet his younger brother when he returned? Would the older brother have represented his loving Father? Or would he have refused to let his brother in?
Could we be the older brother in Jesus’ story? Have we worked hard for many years and seen another brother skipping out and breaking rules? Are we angry and feel that it isn’t fair? Do we believe in giving this prodigal brother a second chance? Or do we leave him out in the cold? Who represents the loving forgiving Father in our world today? Do we? How do we finish Jesus’ story?
And the loving Father in Jesus’ story represents God, our loving heavenly Father. When we go astray our loving heavenly Father misses us and watches anxiously for us to come home to Him. And when we are still far away, He runs down the long road to meet us and bring us home. It doesn’t matter how far we have strayed; He is anxious for us to come back. Our heavenly Father’s love for us is so great that He gives His Son to bring us back. He wants us home that much. If we want to come home we can have eternal life. (John 3:16) That is what Easter is all about!