v. 11-32 Jesus said "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living." After he spent everything there was a severe famine and he hired himself out to a pig farmer. He was so desperate that he wanted to eat the food that was given to the pigs. He longed to return home so he set out to see his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'" The father had his servants get the best robe to put on his son, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. They had a feast for the returned son. "The older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come, and your father had killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 'Look all these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
The parables Jesus told had several meanings and this is no exception. This story talks about the lost son who left then can home which is all of us who decide to come to the Father and the older son was the Pharisees who couldn't believe that God would celebrate sinners into His kingdom. This son was selfish and rebellious. He must have broke his father's heart, but the father still gave him his inheritance. This young son left and squandered the money that his father gave him. The son wanted to be free and lived as he pleased, but there is always a price that in most cases we would never really be willing to pay in the end. Like many when they hit rock bottom the only direction left is to look up.
Then he was faced with a decision to go back home humiliated or try and find work. He went to work feeding pigs. The Jewish people thought pigs were unclean so having to work with them must have been the lowest job anywhere. He was so hungry that he wanted to eat the pigs food which put him in the depths of despair. He was willing to humble himself before his father, yet his father ran to him and showed that he was thankful for him coming home. The idea that God would run to me after I was away for so long is one of the reasons that I am in awe of Him. He will not force us to Him, but He is always near waiting for the day that we will return and is full of joy when it happens.
"In the two preceding stories, the seeker actively looked for the coin and the sheep, which could not return by themselves. In this story the father watched and waited. He was dealing with a human being with a will of his own, but was ready to greet his son when he returned. God's love is constant and patient. He will search for us and give us opportunities to respond, but He will not force us to come to Him. The sheep was lost because it foolishly wandered away; the coin was lost through no fault of its own; and the son left out of selfishness. God's great love reaches out and finds sinners no matter why or how they got lost." NIV notes
A lessor talked about part of the story is the older brother. I believe this is very important also. The older brother represents the Pharisees, anyone who is proud, sometimes actual family members, those who can't believe someone else is worthy of being saved because of what they have done. There are those who do things right, but who are bitter. When that happens they cut themselves off from love. This older brother could not be happy that his younger brother returned because all he saw was how unfair he had been treated and his brother should not be celebrated for getting a second chance. He did not want to forgive his brother. Do not let anything hold you back from forgiving someone. If you have thought: How can God forgive those especially wicked sinners? I would never do that! Then this story is for you. When someone turns to the Father we should celebrate them, not look down at them and think they don't deserve it. The fact is none of us deserve God's favor, yet he gives it anyway just like the father in the story. He knows we may fall away for a time, but when we come home there is such an amazing celebration that the angels rejoice!
Sometimes what appears to be the worse sinners are actually the best representatives for God.