The younger son, the prodigal, was mired in a muck of loneliness brought on by sin. He was dead to his own will and in his wretchedness, he experienced something beyond his pain—he experienced his lostness!
As he thought of his father, he wanted to go back to him—to surrender himself completely. He knew he could never repay his father or please him by any good works. He also realized that he was wholly dependent on his father's grace and love for any kind of restoration to take place.
But the older son never had a sense of his lostness, of how hopeless it was to try to bridge the gulf between himself and his father, so he never faced his need to die to self.
Beloved, that chasm can never be bridged by works, promises or self-effort. Our acceptance in the love of the Father comes only through the blood of Jesus Christ. There is no other plea. The cross alone bridges the gulf.
You may protest everything I have written here. You may say, "Brother Wilkerson, you're telling sinners that if they'll just repent, everything will suddenly be okay—and God will wipe out their past and immediately bring them into His favor and blessing."
Yes, that is exactly what I am saying because that is just what Jesus is saying in this parable! Whenever a sinner turns to the Lord in utter repentance, brokenness and humility, he is immediately brought into the loving arms of his Shepherd.
Grace is freely bestowed on those who have died to feelings of self-worth and have acknowledged just how lost they are!