The Father’s House Part 3 of 3
by John Lowe
I began tossing this parable over in my mind. I tried to imagine possible endings to the story, since the Bible doesn’t say how things turned out. At first, I thought the story probably ended with the young son who had rebelled coming back into the household, but only as a servant. After all, he had spent his inheritance and he didn’t deserve anything else. He would serve his father, and then his older brother when the father passed away. He would live the rest of his life as a hired servant, just as he said. But the father in the story puts a ring on his finger and a special robe on his back. And He throws a banquet. So it becomes obvious that the father has other ideas, and has no intention of making him a slave.
THE SECOND ENDING I came up with was that the older brother finally gave in and forgave his younger brother. He shared the inheritance with him and they both lived in the father’s house as brothers once again. But the interesting thing in the story is that the oldest son stays outside the house. He never comes in. There is singing, drinking, eating, dancing and partying, but the Bible says, “The older brother became angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:28). The father even went out and pleaded with him, and that’s something he had not done with his younger brother, but the son was outraged and wouldn’t come in. He refused to be reconciled to his brother or his father.
Then it dawned on me what the most likely ending to the story was: the older brother became increasingly bitter against the father and left his house, and the younger brother inherited everything. This is exactly what happened historically. Those who wanted to deserve God’s favor by their obedience have rejected God’s grace, and a relationship with him built on grace. They became bitter against the Father and accused him of wrong. They rejected Jesus, the embodiment of God’s grace. They hated Jesus for loving sinners and attending parties in their homes. And in their hatred, they killed him, thinking they would inherit everything. But in so doing, they lost everything, and the kingdom belongs to Christ and to those who have followed him into the Father’s house where there is feasting, singing, and dancing.
Fredrick Buechner, in his book The Alphabet of Grace, tells about Mark Twain at the end of his days, as he describes him as being, “riddled with guilt and fame.” Late in life, Twain wrote, “There is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream — a grotesque, foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought — a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.”
The Christian message is the opposite of Twain’s message of despair. It tells us that life is real, we are real, God is real, and that we are not homeless, wandering vagrants, but people with a home —the Father’s home where we are welcomed, embraced and, yes, celebrated.
THE FATHER’S HOUSE HAS BECOME OUR HOUSE — OUR ETERNAL HOME.