The account of the Prodigal Son is very familiar, so I won’t go into the details of the story. I do want to say, however, that it is not primarily about a lost son. Rather, it is about the delight of the father.
Certainly the parable of the Prodigal Son is about returning (Luke 15:11-31) but it is not just about the son’s finally coming home. It is also about what keeps the son home. It is about grace, forgiveness and restoration. Read the story again, and you’ll note that the story doesn’t end when he returns—and this is significant.
What is it that keeps the son home? It is the knowledge that his father delights in him! “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry…[with] music and dancing” (15:24-25).
The Prodigal’s father never rebuked him, never condemned him, never even spoke about his running away. Instead, he threw a great party and invited all the family’s friends and neighbors. This father had been longing for his son to come home, and now it had come to pass.
The Prodigal protested at first, telling his dad, “No, no, I’m unworthy.” But his father ignored him, calling for a robe to be put on his shoulders, rings on his fingers and shoes on his feet. Now everything that the father owned was once again made available to the son. And there was great rejoicing, with music, dancing and feasting.
I believe that love brought this young man home. But it was the father’s delight that kept him there! You see, the Prodigal was kept with the father by the simple act of waking up each day to see that his dad was pleased to have him home. His father delighted at having him present with him. Moreover, everything in that young man’s life that had been eaten by the cankerworm was being restored.
I have known many former addicts who are like the Prodigal. They can focus only on what was lost years ago because of their habit: a spouse, children, a ministry. They feel the Lord’s chastening, and that can be grievous, but Jesus tells them in this parable, “Nothing is lost in my kingdom. You are going to be made stronger through this. You are home now and my grace will restore you in full.”