As Jesus was teaching, the tax collectors and sinners had gathered around him. We are not told what the latter were guilty of, but they obviously had a dubious reputation because of it. The Pharisee and scribes, of course, were looking for anything to use against Jesus; and they began grumbling about the company He was keeping. Of the three parables Jesus then tells in this chapter, the parable of the prodigal son is the most famous. But all three make the point about those who are lost, best stated in verse 7 by Jesus – “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The image in verse 20 of the father running to his son to embrace him when he returned should be comforting to anyone who has fallen away from the Lord and wants to return. No matter what we have done, God wants us to come back to Him, and will receive us gladly. The elder son is upset that his father is celebrating the return of his prodigal brother who, in verse 30, he does not even want to acknowledge as such (“this son”) because of his anger. After all, he had remained behind and did not “devour” his father’s “property with prostitutes” (verse 30). Why should his brother deserve to be received that way? God will forgive in the same way; and we must realize that it is not because any of us deserve that forgiveness.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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