Prodigals (part 1)

On Sunday I spoke about the “lost and found” stories Jesus tells in Luke 15, including the story of the lost sons. One of my professors at Regent College, Prof. Darrell W. Johnson, calls this familiar story the “Gospel in the Gospel.” He sees within this text a distillation of the entire Gospel story – the story of heartbroken father longing for the return of his children and running out to meet them.

I grew up in the church and have held on to the faith all through life. I’m quick to think of myself as the older brother (who’s just as lost as his younger brother, by the way, but more about that later): I’m like the son who’s stayed with the father, close to home. I’m like the “good” older brother.

But I must also humbly identify with the younger brother. Regardless of how good I’ve been (or how good I’ve convinced others I am), my sin nevertheless is rebellion against God. Because I am fallen, even my best, purest thoughts and deeds are tainted with sin. And any sin – no matter how slight – is repugnant to God and puts me at a great distance from him.

Robert Barnun, 'The Prodigal Son,' downloaded from

I need to beware of thinking of myself as a “good Christian.” (Just recently I heard someone warn against saying you’re a “good Christian,” that, on this side of the new heaven and new earth, it’s a self-righteous oxymoron!) I’m easily tempted to think that I’m a little better than that no-good, runaway younger brother.

But I need the Father’s grace just as much as he does.

“The Prodigal Son” by Robert Barnum; watercolor, 1998.
From the “Prodigal Son Collection”
at the Calvin College Center
Art Gallery. The younger son looks to be in pretty rough shape!
This 4-part series appeared on my blog before
but I feel it’s worth dusting off if for no other reason
to remind me of the beautiful truth of the Gospel.

One thought on “Prodigals (part 1)

  1. Carla Walhof says:

    Great reflection!


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