in luke 15.11-32, jesus tells the parable of two lost sons. below is a broad look at the general theme the parable deals with, viz, repentance. the parable takes us to consider repentance in quite a different light…
how do you see yourself — a servant or a son?
the older son sees himself as a servant — “these many years i have served you,” (literally, slaved [gk. douleuow] for you) was what the older son said to his father, (v.29.)
but the younger son, the prodigal, did similarly — “let me be as one of your hired servants,” [gk. misthiown — hired servant] was what the prodigal son intended to say to his father, (v.19.)
in this regard, they stood on the same platform with respect to their father — the older son saw himself as a slave in his father’s property, the younger son would return as an employee, a hired servant who earned his keep (for food, v.17) and who lived outside the father’s property.
but the father saw both sons as sons, and acted in a similar way, appropriately, to each of his sons, ie, stooping down to both, in acts of humiliation.
when the older son would not come inside the house, because he was angry, it was such a disgrace. but the father went outside to ask him to come inside, (v28.) it was such a shame. but instead of showing displeasure and indignation, the father’s love brought him to act in humiliation.
when the younger son took all his possessions and wasted them in prodigal living, (vv.12, 13,) he brought shame to his father. and when he returned home, his father instead of showing displeasure and indignation against the prodigal’s misdeeds hiding his face from him, he went outside and ran to meet him — hugged and kissed him, (v.20.) this (a nobleman running) was regarded in those days as an act of humiliation. an act of humiliation, brought about by a father’s indescribable love.
thus, in each case, the father’s indescribable love brought him to stoop down in an act of (public) humiliation.
the obvious change in the prodigal’s words, i.e., the difference between his intended speech (v.19) and actual (v.21,) is the strongest argument for a change of heart — repentance. when the prodigal deleted the clause ‘make me as one of your hired servants’ from his speech, it was clearly in response to the out-poured love of his father that he had just witnessed — his father running out to meet him, hugging and kissing him — love demonstrated in humiliation, (v.20.) the prodigal son accepted the father’s offer of grace, of sonship renewed.
the parable ends with the father pleading with the older son — ‘son, thou art ever with me, and all that i have is thine,’ was the father’s unqualified offer, (v.31.) this prompts the careful reader to ask, ‘will the older son (also) accept the father’s offer of grace, of sonship?’
how do you see yourself — a servant who slaves away, or a son who accepts grace (love demonstrated in humiliation) as the basis of sonship and its blessings?