Our story of all stories ends with a great party. Not only did the boy receive a robe, ring and a pair of shoes; he also received the ‘fatted calf’! The father was not just a forgiving father; he was also a giving father.
Again, you will find the story in Luke 15 in the Bible.
The 'fatted calf' was a grain fed animal reserved for celebrating the presence of honored guests and visiting dignitaries. It would easily feed between 100-200 people. Clearly, a great number of people were invited to this party. It would have included the whole village, not just the immediate family. The father wanted everyone to honour the reconciliation that he had orchestrated.
So the dad threw a party for the whole community. The reason is simple:
We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life.
He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
I love how Jesus simply added the words, ‘so the party began’.
The story started with great rejection but ends with great reconciliation. It began with great sorrow, but know it ends with great rejoicing. All this calls for a party.
A Tale of Two Parties
This party the dad threw was a great banquet with music and dancing. It was a joyful celebration. It was the kind of party the boy was looking for when he left at the start of the story. But it was much different than what the boy experienced. The difference is found in the reason for the parties.
The reason for the son’s parties when he left was self-centred, physical gratification and the celebration of self. The father’s party is focused on his loving welcome that he gives the boy upon his return. Its purpose was to celebrate a miracle.
Welcoming the Lost
It is important for me to point out that this story is just the last of three Jesus told in Luke 15. He first tells the story of a shepherd who has 100 sheep but loses one. He leaves the 99 behind to look for the lost one. When he finds it he HOLDS A PARTY TO CELEBRATE.
There’s that party theme again.
Jesus then tells the story of a woman who has ten coins but loses one. She searches the whole house until she finds it. When she finds it, she calls her neighbours and HOLDS A PARTY TO CELEBRATE.
There’s the party theme again!
Why does Jesus emphasize this? The answer is in the first two verses of chapter 15 where we learn who Jesus told these stories to. The stories were addressed to ‘religious people’.
Who were these people? What were they like? The same as they are today. They could not stand that Jesus loved eating and drinking with those people that ‘good people’ look down on. In other words, they could not stand the inclusive nature of Jesus’ welcome. They did not like that Jesus opened heaven up where everyone was welcome to receive the Father’s love and acceptance. They did not want a community where the despised could find the extravagant compassion of God.
These religious hypocrites are still with us today, still feel the same way and are still just as wrong.
Jesus loved to get under the skin of these hypocrites who claimed to be the real thing but were the farthest from that. So do I!If you have felt the harsh brunt of such people, remember they do not speak for your Father in heaven.
And that, finally, is why the older brother appears in the story. To show us the difference.
This story, and these blogs, have been about our picture of God. I have said Jesus told this story to paint a picture of what His Father in heaven is really like. You see, the dad is the real focus of this story, not the boy.
I wonder whether you have ever thought of God as one who rejoices? I wonder if you have ever seen God as a party-throwing Dad? In this story, we see He can be a laughing Father who is passionate about partying and able to rejoice with great abandonment. Have you ever imagined God like that?
Our Father in heaven is not a cold, miserable judge. He is a dad who smiles and laughs, rejoices, celebrates and who weeps with joy when His children come home.
Jesus is saying, ‘this is what God the Father is like!’ It’s not that He doesn’t feel the wounds of our rejection or neglect. It’s not that He doesn’t treat that seriously or that He isn’t holy. It’s just that He doesn’t hold it against us and knows that the best way to woo us home is with a great display of compassion and grace; not with thunderous roars of wrath.
O that the church would learn this!
I don’t know about you, but I think the dad in this story is the best dad you could possibly imagine. If/since God is really like this, I want to get to know Him. I want to establish a relationship with Him. I don’t want to miss out on the party!
Maybe its time for you to come home to the Father you’ve been waiting for.