Joshua 5.9, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11-32
“Child, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead and lives again. He was lost and is found” (Luke 15.31-32).
Which son is lost? The one who cuts his family ties, parties away his inheritance, and in a famine finds himself a starving servant at a hog trough, forbidden to eat the sweet pods he feeds the pigs. The younger son bottoms out at the pig trough, changes his mind and heart, and turns back to his family. His self-centered lifestyle has starved him into recognizing he needs sustaining relationships. The pig trough turns out to be a holy place. The younger son confesses he has sinned against God and his father, who restores him as a son with robe, ring, and sandals and sets a homecoming table for him. This son was lost but has been found.
So who is lost? The father has to seek out and beg the older son to come in to the party. But the older son is stuck in anger that his brother gets more for repenting than he gets for obeying diligently. The father isn’t fair; he’s merciful. The younger son doesn’t get the punishment the older son thinks he deserves for “devouring his father’s property.” The father’s mercy angers the older son. It reminds us we can’t earn or deserve God’s love. It’s a gift that reveals who God is.
In this parable Jesus is addressing the scribes and Pharisees who criticize him for welcoming and eating with sinners. The parable invites them to the sinners’ homecoming dinner. Will they come? Will the older son? Will we?
Where have the pig troughs in your life been—the holy places where consequences have revealed the emptiness of a job, a habit, a relationship?