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Luke 15: Extravagant love and two lost sons

<11>Jesus continued, ‘There was once a man who had two sons. <12>The younger son said to his father, “Father, give me my share of your estate that will come to me when you die.” [In this way, the son was basically saying, “I wish you were dead.”] So the father divided up his inheritance between the two sons.

<13>‘Soon after that, the younger son cashed in his inheritance, packed up all his belongings and left home. He travelled to a country far away, where he spent his new-found wealth on a binge of wild, reckless living. Boy, did he have a good time! <14>But after he had got through all his money – down to the last penny – a severe famine devastated the whole country, and he was left with nothing … absolutely zilch. <15>So he went and linked up with a local farmer, who sent him out into the fields to feed slops to the pigs. (Because Jews considered pigs unclean, this menial work would have been deeply humiliating for him.) <16>He became desperately hungry: he even longed to eat the pods in the swill that the pigs were feeding on, but there was no one he could turn to who would give him anything to eat.

<17>‘But when the son hit rock bottom, he finally faced up to reality. He came to his senses and recognised his own guilty wretchedness. He said to himself, “How many of my father’s servants, who are paid a pittance, are better off than me? They’ve more than enough food to eat, while here I am starving to death! <18>I’ll get up and go back home. I’m going to turn back to my father. He’s my only hope. I’ll not put it off a moment longer. I’ll throw myself on his mercy. I’ll confess to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. <19>I no longer deserve to be called your son, but because I know that you’re generous even to your paid servants, make me like one of those.’”

<20>‘He knew that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so he acted on his decision, got up, left the distant country and went back to his father. But while the son was still a long way from home, his father saw him. His father had been in anguish ever since his son had left home. But now he saw his son – this thin, weak, dirty, smelly, miserable figure – but nevertheless still his son! – walking along the lane. The father threw all caution to the wind big time and jumped for joy! He felt the deepest mercy and compassion for his son, ran out at breakneck speed to meet him, gave him the biggest hug in the world and kissed him tenderly over and over again!

<21>‘The son began the confession he’d rehearsed, saying to his father, “Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son …”

<22>‘But the Father interrupted his son, telling his servants to welcome him back home, “Quick, we’ve got to honour my son! Fetch the best robe and put it on him. Of course I take him back and accept him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet to restore his full dignity as my son. <23>Bring out the fattened calf, the one we’ve been keeping back for special occasions … well, if this isn’t special, then what is? Pull out all the stops! Let’s have a party and celebrate his homecoming, <24>because we thought this son of mine was dead but he’s now alive. He’s come back to life again! Once he was lost, but he’s now been found! I’m going to give him a fresh start.” And they began to celebrate.

<25>‘But the elder son was out working in the field, and as he came close to home, he could hear music and dancing as he caught the smell of roast veal wafting through the air. <26>He called one of the servants and demanded to know what was going on. <27>The servant told him, “Your brother’s come home, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he’s got him back safe and sound.”