“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” …
If you are a parent, I imagine you can easily identify with the father’s joy at welcoming home his long, lost son. Most parents would be overjoyed to celebrate the return of a son or daughter, even a “prodigal” (that is, reckless or wasteful) child. But we know that the father in Jesus’ parable is meant to represent God, so we must be called to identify ourselves with another character in the story. We must be like the wayward young man who laments, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Those words cut our hearts a little more deeply than we would like. Do you consider yourself unworthy? Unworthy of what? Love? Acceptance by God? A place in heaven? And if so, why? Surely, you haven’t done as many terrible things as the son in Jesus’ story. You haven’t wished your parents dead and run away from home. You haven’t wasted your family’s fortune on wild living. The prodigal son may not be worthy to be called his father’s son, but does the same go for you and me?
The sobering truth is that when Jesus told this parable, He had us in mind. When the foolish young man declares that he has sinned against heaven, Jesus was thinking about our sin. And when Jesus chose the words “not worthy,” He was speaking a hard but undeniable truth about you and me. Yes, Jesus believes you are unworthy of God’s embrace. He rightly considers you unfit for God’s glorious presence. He knows you don’t belong in heaven. That could have been the end of the story and the final judgment over our souls. We are prodigal, sinful, selfish, foolish people who don’t deserve anything good from the God we so often disobey, dishonor and disgrace. And yet, that isn’t the end of Jesus’ story or of the Gospel. Jesus came to save us, not because we are worthy of salvation, but because in God’s gracious heart, He chooses to declare us worthy of being welcomed home, of being loved as his dear children and of being celebrated in heaven above. God calls us worthy, according to his grace and because Jesus died for our sins.
The young son is struck dumb by his father’s mercy; he doesn’t speak another word in the parable. Hopefully, we can use our tongues to give thanks and praise to God for his overflowing grace. Hopefully, our hearts have been so deeply moved by God’s mercy that we will turn away from our sinful desires and choose more and more to honor our Father. Hopefully, we will remember our unworthiness and never take for granted what Jesus suffered on our behalf.
Gracious Father, I am unworthy of Your love, and I rejoice in the good news that Jesus is my Savior. Thank You for taking away my sin and for giving me the great hope of being welcomed home to Your glorious presence. Through Jesus I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian