“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'”
– Jesus, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:21)
Jesus has brought His story about the father and two sons to its climax, by describing the father’s costly display of love and affection to his son. By running through town, the father has taken the shame that would have been reserved for his son. He now embraces him, kisses him, and welcomes him back as son, not a servant.
Now, the son speaks, and his planned speech takes on new meaning. Stunned by his father’s unconditional love, the son acknowledges, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you” and then rightly concedes, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son!” But he leaves out the rest of his speech.
The son understands his unworthiness to be a part of the family and receive such love. He recognizes the weight and depth of his sin and he remembers the shame and agony that he has put his father through. But he is now truly repentant! He no longer mentions his plan to become a hired servant.
He realizes that the problem was never just about money, the inheritance, and all the squandered belongings. The true issue had always been the broken relationship, which had now been restored due to the father’s outrageous display of love and acceptance. The father had accepted the boy back as a son, not a servant, not a scoundrel, and not as an infidel.
The son, undoubtedly moved by his father’s action of running to him, has broken down and repented, allowing himself to be found by his father there at the edge of the village. He can resist no longer. The father has won him over by his love and sacrifice. The son accepts his sonship.
Many believe they must work their way back to God to pay the price for their sin, when He has already paid the price through Jesus’ sacrifice. Will we fall into His arms of grace? Will we give up our futile attempts to earn our way to Him and instead, trust Him as Father?