The Prodigal Son: The Return

Have you ever woken up in a pig sty? Well, maybe not a literal pig sty, but a metaphorical one. A situation where you have run from God, run from far from home and made a total mess of things? Only to come to your senses and then try to navigate your way back home.

It could be the sin struggle you’ve stopped fighting, or the unhealthy relationship that your friends have been trying to get you out of for years, or the string of bad decisions that finally caught up with you. Whatever the situation is, the follow up questions are always, “How do I make it right?” or “How do I find my way back home?”

The return of the prodigal son can give us a helpful framework to start our own journey from the pig sty back to the loving, expectant arms of the father.

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[17] “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ [20] And he arose and came to his father. – Luke 15:17-20

Realization 

The first necessary step is that we must realize that something isn’t right. The younger brother “came to himself” (v.17). There was a moment of clarity where he realized this isn’t where he needed to be and something needed to change. Simply put, we must be honest about the situation we are in and do something about it.

Repentance 

Second, we must repent of our sins, which means to turn from our sin and back to God. The younger brother realizes that he has sinned against heaven and before his father (v.18). He has a Psalm 51 type moment.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” 

Return 

Lastly, we must just start walking home. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word for repentance, teshuva, means “to return”. Inherent in our repentance is a returning back to the Father. We are unable to truly repent of sin unless we are willing to go back home to the table God has prepared for us. At the end of this section, he eventually starts to make the journey back to his father’s house (v.20).

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The younger brother gets it mostly right except for one thing, which we find in verse 19.

[19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” – Luke 15:19 

He didn’t comprehend the grace of his father. When we wake up, come to our senses, repent and return to God, we don’t forfeit our sonship. We are still worthy to be called son or daughter. Not because of our works, or even because of our repentance, but because of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Christ took our unworthiness and made us worthy. Jesus took our sin and gave us his sonship. When God brings you back, it’s not going to be as a “hired servant”, but as the beloved son or daughter that you are no matter what you’ve done.

So realize your true situation, repent of your sin and return home where you won’t find rejection or the bottom of the pig sty, but acceptance, the love of the Father and a feast.

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