The Parable of the Lost Son Found
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
YOU REMEMBER that the enemies of Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes, said of him, "He gives welcome to bad men, and eats at the table with them!" Jesus in answer gave a parable or story to show how God welcomes a sinner who turns from his sin and seeks his heavenly Father. This is one of the most beautiful among all the parables of Jesus. It is called "The Prodigal Son." The word "prodigal" means one who spends his money, throwing it away in a careless manner; and this story is of a young man who spent all the money that his father gave him. Here is the parable:
"There was once a man," said Jesus, "who had two sons. The older son stayed at home and helped his father in the care of his farm, but the younger son was restless and wanted to go away. The young man said to his father:
"'Father, give me now the share of what you own which will come to me after you die.'
"So the father divided all that he had, his land, his vineyards, his olive orchards, his fig trees, his houses, his flocks of sheep and goats, and his money, into three equal parts. Two of these parts he kept for the older son; and the third part he gave to the younger son; for in that land it was the rule for the older son, as the head of the family, to receive twice as much as a younger son.
"After a few days, the young man sold out his share of the property for ready money, and then went away to a land far off, where he could live as he pleased. There he began to lead a foolish and wild life, feasting and drinking wine with worthless men and women. It did not take him many months to spend all his money and to be in great want. None of these people who had helped him in his pleasures were now ready to help him in his need. And what added to his trouble was that just then food became very scarce in that country and there was not bread enough for all the people.
"This young man was in want of everything. His clothes became rags, his shoes were worn out, and what was worse, he could get nothing to eat and was starving for the want of food. Never before had he done any work, but now, driven by hunger he went everywhere looking for something to do which would give him a mouthful of bread. At last he found a man who was willing to hire him. This man sent him out into his field to take care of his pigs and feed them. This was a work felt to be disgraceful, for no Jew would eat pig's meat or in any way touch the vile animals. But even this work the poor young man was compelled to do rather than starve to death. In the field he was so hungry that he was ready to snatch up some of the bean-pods on which the pigs were feeding; and no one in that country cared for him or would even give him something to eat.
"So there in the open field among the grunting hogs sat this young man, ragged, famished and almost ready to die. Suddenly the thought came to him of his father's house, where once he had enjoyed plenty and lived at ease, waited upon by servants. He now saw how foolish, how ungrateful to a kind father, and how wicked he had been. It seemed to him as if he had been living in a dream, had now for the first time awaked and had come to his senses. He said to himself:
"'Why, even the hired men on my father's farm have more food than they can eat; and here I am almost dead with hunger! I will get up and will go to my father; and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I don't deserve any more to be called your son; only make me one of your servants working for wages."'
"So the poor young man left the field and the pigs, and went back to his father's house. There in the door sat his father waiting and watching for his wandering son. While the son was still a long distance away, the father saw him and knew him, barefoot and ragged as he was. He felt pity for his son, whose looks showed his utter misery, and ran to him, fell upon his neck, placed his arms around him and kissed him.
"'Father,' said the young man, 'I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I don't deserve any more to be called your son--' But the father did not wait to hear him any further. He called out to the servants:
"'Be quick, bring some new clothes, the very best in the house, and put them on him; bring a ring to place around his wrist and sandals for his feet; go pick out the fattest calf in the stall, and kill it for a feast! Let us all eat and have a happy time together. For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and is found!'
"So they began to make merry. Now the older son was out in the field; and as he came near the house, he heard the sounds of music and dancing. Wondering what was the cause of such gladness, he called to him one of the servants and asked what all this meant.
"'Your brother has come home,' answered the servant, 'and your father has killed the fattest of the calves, and is having a feast, because he has him back safe and sound.'
"This made the older son very angry. He would not go in to the supper, but stayed outside. His father came out and begged him to come in and give a welcome to his brother.
"But he refused, saying, 'Think of all the years that I have been serving you! Never have I once disobeyed you; and yet you have never given me even a little kid out of the flock of goats, for me to have a merrymaking with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours comes home, who has wasted your money with vile people, you kill the fatted calf and for him make a great feast.'
"'My son,' said the father, 'you and I are always together, and everything that I have is yours. We could not help being glad and
rejoicing; for your brother here was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"
You can see that in this elder brother of the story was the spirit of the Pharisees and the scribes, who were displeased because Jesus was willing to welcome those who had been sinful, when they came to him, sorry for their sins.