David and I spent Easter speaking at a youth camp on the theme of “Coming Home.” We based our talks around the story of the two sons and the outrageously loving father in Luke 15:11-32. I was struck afresh by the power of this story that Jesus tells. It’s not just about one lost son. It’s about two sons, neither of whom trusted in the goodness and love of their father. One left and the other stayed but both were far from home.
One is obviously sinful. He insults his father, squanders money with wild living and his selfish living leaves him hungry in a pig sty. The other son is outwardly good. He stays home, works hard on the estate and diligently goes about the duties of the older son. But they are both separated from the heart of the father. One through his obvious badness and the other through his attempts at goodness. One takes what the father has given him and wastes it. The other takes nothing from the father and resents him for it.
One son shows us that nothing can separate us from the love of our Father. The other son shows us that we can’t earn our way into the Father’s heart. How can we? We already have a place there. The father goes out to both sons. He welcomes home one and pleads with the other to come in. The father desperately wants his sons to receive his love, his kindness and his good heart. If they do then they will manage the estate in the way of the father. They will reflect his character and goodness to the world.
That is the gospel with one detail missing. Jesus is our older brother who brings us home. He came from heaven to earth to rescue people from their badness and their attempts at goodness. He comes to make our hearts new so that we can trust the Father again. He invites us to take his hand and let him lead us home to the heart that he shares with the Father. Then we can make our home in the kingdom of God and represent that kingdom in all that we do.
So let’s abandon our plans for selfish living. Let’s ditch our attempts to earn our way into God’s favour. Let’s crucify our old hearts and come alive to our God-given new ones. Let’s receive the grace and mercy offered to us in the outstretched hand of Jesus our brother, friend, Lord and King. Let’s go home. Home is where the heart is after all.