Luke 15:18 - Longing For Home
After the younger brother quickly squandered his wealth in wild living in a distant land, there was a severe famine in the whole country. He finds work on a pig farm that, from a Jewish perspective, is offensive since they are unclean animals. In desperation he even longs to eat the food given to the pigs, but no one gives him anything.
Finally he comes to his senses when he says,
How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!Luke 15:17
He begins to long for home when he remembers the situation in his father's house.
God created mankind with a need for rest that can only be found in him. When people do not have rest in God, they become restless. Augustine, an important early church father, prayed, "O Lord, you made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." Augustine recalled how he spent his youth in wild living and experienced great restlessness during that period of his life. He did not experience rest until he turned to the Lord in faith, and discovered wonderful peace with God. Then he learned, "Our heart is restless until it rests in the Lord."
The younger brother became restless in that distant land, so he longs to return home and enjoy the rest he remembers. With this parable Jesus explains to the Jewish leaders why the tax collectors and sinners were coming to him. A life of sin does not give peace, but it only leads to a feeling of terrible emptiness. There is no joy in being a rich tax collector, hated by others. There is no security in a life of prostitution, and no stability in adultery. Neither was there any way for these sinners to be accepted back into Israel, for they were despised and rejected.
But they noticed something different about the preaching of Jesus, for he showed that he really cared about them. He took compassion on their situation and held out hope for them by revealing that he came to open a place for them in his Father's home. They flocked to the Lord Jesus because he proclaimed to them the grace of God. This parable reveals God's grace when the younger brother repents and says he will go back to his father:
I will say to him, 'I have sinned and therefore I am no longer worthy to be called your son, just make me one of your hired men.'
When he returns home, his father already sees him in the distance, and immediately runs to his son, throws his arms around him, and kisses him.
Before his son even uttered one word, the father had already accepted him. He says, "My son who was lost has been found." The father freely accepted him, not because he was worthy, but the father took him back out of grace. The son had longed for his home, and the father now accepts him again as his son with open arms. Our salvation does not depend on whether we are worthy or deserving, but the Father in heaven accepts all those who come to him in faith.
Many who have left the church in disobedience find it difficult to return, for they feel they will not be accepted. We can make it difficult for people to return to the church because of our attitude. With the attitude of the older brother, we can convey the message, "What are you doing here?" We can act like the Pharisees who did not make it easy for sinners to come back to the LORD'S ways.
So what do we do about those who have left the church? Do you pray for them? Do you ever follow up with them and encourage them to return and experience God's grace? After many years, there may be a longing in the hearts of many to return to the Father's home but they are afraid to do so.
It is important that they know there will be great joy when those who are lost are found. Christ reveals how the Father rejoices whenever one of his lost ones returns, and that he will accept them back with open arms. If the Father rejoices at the return of the lost, then we too, must rejoice when the lost return to him.