December 15th ….10 NIGHTS TIL CHRISTMAS 

                        THE PRODIGAL SON


“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, behold,this  child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.”[Luke 2:34]


Jesus told the now-familiar story of the prodigal son  2000 years ago, and practically everybody has heard it,  so I think it’s appropriate to mention it here when we talk about adoption. Why? Because it’s important for us  to understand  that true Christianity is not a religion in the normal sense of the word— it is a relationship with  God the Father. The gospel story is not only about salvation (rescue from bad news), but also about the good news of a new relationship with God and our fellow human beings. And this relationship is with a person, who understands our weaknesses and who goes to extraordinary lengths to get us back after we have gone astray.

After Simeon prophesied that Christ would be “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” he spoke some ominous words to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” What does this mean?

I think the story of the prodigal son helps us to understand.  Prodigal means “wasteful” or “recklessly extravagant”. A wealthy farmer had two sons and a large estate, and one day the youngest son asked his father for his inheritance.[1]  The father gave the son what he had intended to give him after his own death. This young man then went away into a far country, where he squandered his inheritance by wild, reckless living. When he finally ran out of money, there was a famine in the land ( a depression) and he  wound up working for a farmer feeding pigs. In his desperate condition, he realized that back home his father’s servants had plenty to eat, and here he was starving, so “when he came to himself” he decided to return home and beg his own father for a job. He was expecting only to be treated as a hired servant, but as he crested the hill overlooking his father’s estate, to his surprise his father, who  had seen him coming, rushed out to meet him, embraced him, and welcomed him back home. Most amazing, the father put the family ring back on his finger— and held a celebration in honor of the return of his son, saying “this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found.”

The reason Jesus told this story is because of the hardness of the religious people all around him.

The Jews were terribly religious. Every moment of the day, every activity was ruled by some sort of religious rule. They had 613 such rules which governed their whole lives. Worse, if you were a Jew you were expected to keep all these rules, so you became a social outcast or a criminal if you didn’t— just like in the Middle East today, where there are mutaween (religious police) patrolling the streets to ensure all the women are properly dressed.[2]

Religion, unfortunately, has the power to make people miserable and put them in bondage, precisely because of an overlooked aspect of human nature: all human beings are sinners. They all have desires which ought to be kept in check by self-control. When these desires get out of control they turn into vices, and when vices become visible they tend to bring out the religious police.

Here I need to remind us all that “sin” is any action that is not in harmony with design. God designed human beings with the need for food, clothing, money, entertainment, excitement, sex, rest, relaxation, etc. but because of our sinful (selfish) natures we are all inclined to cross the line called “enough”.  Every vice is a need gone out of control.

So, for instance, the “prodigal son” had a need to control his own life. He had a need to experience certain thrills which were not available back home on the farm. But when he cut loose and went out to fulfill those “needs”,  he overdid it. He got out of balance. He exceeded his resources, and no doubt got hooked on certain pleasures— we get addicted to what we like to the degree that it controls us and overwhelms us and eventually destroys us.

Unfortunately when we overindulge in anything it becomes noticeable, and when the folk around us who do not overindulge in that area see us doing this, they often become proud of themselves. Secretly they say to themselves, “I’m glad I’m not a sinner like him!” That’s what the Pharisees were like in Jesus’ day. They saw him hanging around with tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers,  and they said, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” That’s one of the reasons the Pharisees later had him killed. He was making them all look bad— he was supposedly encouraging people to obey God’s laws, and at the same time hob-knobbing with people who had reputations for breaking them.

But Simeon reminds us that life is a process.  He said, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” First there is the FALL, then there is the RISING AGAIN.

What does this mean? It means we must all first fall to the point where we realize we are sinners.

For some people who are very prim and proper this is very hard. Those of you reading this who are rich, or were born into a good family, and you have a great number of advantages, it’s hard for you to discover you are a sinner in need of a Saviour. You’ve never woken up lying in a gutter with a hangover. You’ve never been caught stealing, or hanging around in a bar. Because you are either  rich or very disciplined and self-controlled, you may not have any unfulfilled needs that have turned into vices.  Vices are usually unsavoury habits, things considered bad in fashionable circles.  But such vices as greed, selfishness, and unconcern for  others are generally ignored and not considered sinful.

For instance, if you are wealthy, your need is to protect your wealth and increase it. That’s not sinful. But if you see a drastic need and shut up your compassion— that smacks of selfishness and greed.  We are quick to quote the don’ts in Scripture but seldom recognize the do’s . But not doing what we can do is as much sin as doing what we shouldn’t do. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” [James 4:17]

My point is, God’s main purpose is to save sinners. The Apostle Paul, who before his conversion was a bully, a terrorist, and a hired gun, said this: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief”. [1Timothy 1:15]

The only way some people discover they are sinners, is when they FALL.  Since falling seems to be a necessary part of the process for some people, why don’t we love those who have fallen and do everything we can to bring them back into the family?





 [1] The whole story is in Luke Chapter 15, which is all about LOST THINGS, so read the chapter from the beginning. The story of the prodigal son starts in verse 11 and  is actually Christ’s final example of how God  searches after lost and troubled men and women.
[2]The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, also abbreviated CPVPV; Arabic: هيئة الأمر بالمعروف و النهي عن المنكر), also informally referred to as Hai’a, is the Saudi Arabian government agency employing “religious police” or Mutaween (مطوعين), to enforce Sharia Law within that Islamic nation. FROM: WIKIPAEDIA