How reconciliation is shown in the ‘parable of the prodigal son’
It is in the section of the parable about the prodigal’s return where we see the process of reconciliation being played out.
- The lost son one day came to his senses and realized how far he had fallen (15:17). The meaning is that the Holy Spirit of God convicted him and brought him to his senses. He admitted that he was finished if he kept on in the way he was going. He was brought to a heart-conviction of sin and to a genuine repentance for that sin. Hitting ‘rock bottom’ is often a prerequisite for any progress. It does not guarantee progress by itself, but in the Lord’s hands it prepares the way for a new start.
- He confessed his sin against God and man (15:18). The proof that the young man truly understood his predicament is that he turned to God in confession of sin (as David in Psalm 51:4). The bottom line is that all sin is against God. Yes, he had sinned against his father and he needed his forgiveness, but true conviction of sin also has eternity in view and understands that God has both a right to be offended, and a right to call us to account.
- He decided to cast himself on his father’s mercy (15:19). He casts himself upon his father’s free grace, knowing that his father would be in the right to reject him. But this is not the whole story because there is an underlying hope in the young man’s appeal for mercy. The character of the father inspired a certain hope. The young man knew that there is no grace in any other, and so he goes to the one source of real mercy in his universe. He doesn’t presume, but he knows his father is always ready to show grace.
- He acted on his new faith (15:20–21). The prodigal son did not merely hatch a pious sounding plan. He acted on his conviction. Real faith acts. It doesn’t stop with words “so he got up and went to his father”, and he was not disappointed. The next section in the story (15:22–24) is about the father’s joy. When we proclaim the character of God of the bible and preach his Son, Jesus Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, we lift up a hope which every truly repentant sinner can embrace — that the Lord will not turn away anyone who comes to him in faith, trusting in Christ for salvation.
Conclusion: When someone comes to God for salvation, he comes without any merit, without any claim on God, and with a readiness to accept His just anger — but s/he comes because s/he has a rising awareness that He is a God of grace. Like the prodigal, s/he knows for sure that there is no grace in any other and s/he goes to one true source of real mercy in the universe. We need to know that wherever we have been, however deeply engulfed in sin we have become, the Lord will take us to Himself when we cast ourselves on him in true repentance and faith in Christ. In fact, the bible teaches that God actually rejoices in the presence of the angels over everyone who so repents.
Reconciliation was shown when it says “While he was still a long way off; his father intercepted him and threw his arms around him and kissed him”. The prodigal’s faith was answered with a father’s love, with forgiveness of sin and reconciliation as a son. The parable shows us that if we make a U-turn and go back to God, He welcomes us, rewards and blesses us and throws a party for us.