“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Hurry! Bring the best robe, and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let us eat and celebrate” (Luke 15:22-23, New English Translation).
Have you ever been part of a surprise party, either as the recipient or as one attending? I have, and it’s fun to see the look on the person’s face when they realize what is happening. Not long ago I was part of just such an occasion, and it was my task to get the birthday girl to the party without her discovering what was going on. Come to find out, we were both pretending that day. Unfortunately, someone had called her a few days before and said, “I’m sorry I can’t make it to your party.” (There’s always one who can’t remember it’s a surprise.) My friend tried to act surprised for the benefit of those who spent so much time planning it, but I could tell she really wasn’t.
The party in Luke 15 really was a surprise. We refer to this chapter as the story of the prodigal son. He begged his father to give him his portion of the inheritance early. He had grand plans and would leave this boring life behind. “After a few days, the younger son gathered together all he had and left on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his wealth with a wild lifestyle” (verse 13). At first it must have seemed the party would go on forever, but then the money ran out. His pockets were empty, and his new-found friends disappeared. Finally, alone, destitute, and starving, he came to his senses and headed back home. He realized even his father’s servants were in a better position than he was.
As the young man painfully made is way home, he rehearsed in his mind what he would say to his father. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired workers” (verses 18-19). He wasn’t pretending; he really did feel that way. He had messed up—bad! Just being back home, even as a servant, would be enough for him. We know the end of this familiar story. Not only did the father welcome him home with open arms, he threw the party of all parties to welcome him back. Now that is what we would call a surprise party.
Did the son deserve all the father did for him? No. But the father’s love did not look at how deserving he was. His son was home, and he loved him just as much as ever. This is unexpected, undeserved grace.
We, too, are recipients of our Father’s love, mercy, and grace. Some of us found ourselves living in a filthy, smelly pig pin of sin and disobedience. Yes, we are undeserving, but the Father covers us with unexpected grace. We find ourselves enfolded in His arms. We are home!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6, New King James Version).
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the great grace You have given me. I could never do enough to earn Your favor, but in Your love you have given it to me as a wonderful gift. Father, help me to never disappoint You or become ungrateful for the grace You have shown me.