But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
When the prodigal son returned home, his father threw him a party. Everyone was having a great time, except for his brother, who seemed a little bitter towards him, knowing what he’d done and wondering what all the fuss was about. But the celebration was not for what the prodigal son had done. It was not a reward for his sin. It was due to the father’s joy in having his son back. He could have been lost forever. The father could have never seen him again for the rest of his life, not knowing what happened to him. But he was back home where he belonged. The son had repented, and the sin didn’t matter because the father forgave it all.
This is something that is worthy of a celebration—a lost man found, a dead man alive again. It’s not a mundane, everyday occurrence, but something to rejoice in. That is one of the main points Jesus is trying to convey in the stories he tells in succession about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. He emphasizes the great rejoicing that occurs when a sinner repents. And this celebration of the father of the prodigal son represents what a special occasion it is.
Too often, it can be easy to lose the wonder of things and we become a little bit like the other brother in the story. We wonder what the big deal is. We forget that a soul that would have once spent an eternity in hell now will get to experience the glory of heaven. We forget that someone who’d been far from God is now near to Him. We forget that new life has come. And that is worth rejoicing in. That is worth a celebration. That is worth the fatted calf and making merry and praising God.
It’s not about what we’ve done. It’s not about the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed, or how far away we’ve wandered from God. It’s about coming home. It’s about the Father’s forgiveness. It’s about restoration and redemption and new life. So may we rejoice in our own salvation and the forgiveness we find when we humble ourselves and fall again at our Savior’s feet. May we celebrate when others join the family of God or return to Him after going astray. May we truly be joyful over changed lives and new life that comes whenever the lost are found.