The Christian Gospel is explained for us in the parable (an illustrative story) of the Lord Jesus Christ known as The Parable of the Prodigal Son. This can be found in the Bible in Luke chapter 15, verses 11 to 32.
‘Prodigal’ means extravagant, reckless, wasteful. The prodigal son took his inheritance money, even before his father had died, and left home, going abroad in search of the so called good life.
He foolishly used up all his money seeking after pleasure and ‘self-fulfilment’ (“he wasted his substance with riotous living” – Luke 15:13). Then what he least expected happened – there was a famine in the land, and he became destitute. (Non-believers often forget how quickly the earthly comforts on which they rely could be taken away from them).
The wayward son could find no one to help him, and had no choice but to become the slave of a pig farmer. His task was to give scraps of barely edible rough food to the farmer’s livestock. In hunger he longed to eat the scraps himself. He came to realise his utter foolishness in having left his family home, where he would have been happy, secure and lacking nothing. At his wits’ end, he decided to travel back to his own land and to return to his father.
Upon reaching the family home, he said to his father,
“I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:21).
The father’s response to this acknowledgement of his sinful and reckless behaviour was to joyfully welcome his son with open arms.
This parable illustrates that:
1. All without Christ are far off from their heavenly Father, as if living in a foreign land.
2. All without Christ are slaves to the desires of their sinful and corrupted hearts.
3. All without Christ are dying of spiritual hunger.
4. All without Christ, as they reject God and His commandments, will one day discover their terrible mistake.
Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross bearing the penalty for the sins of the world, the punishment for sin that we all as individuals deserve. He thereby opened up the way for the sinner to be reconciled to God the Father, because in the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the justice and punishment which our sins deserve has been satisfied.
Each person needs to realise that he or she has a sinful heart which inevitably leads to sinful actions :
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
“There is none righteous, no, not one … all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3;10,23).
The only way in which we can deal with the problem of a sinful heart and of our having committed many sins is personally to trust in the Lord Jesus for mercy, confessing our sins and humbling ourselves before Him. The only way to find God’s the Father’s mercy is to trust in what His Son did for us by His death on the Cross.
“This is a faithful saying … that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).