“Joe Farrone was a prodigal father. As he spent Labor Day with his family one year, Mr. Farrone’s thoughts inevitably turned to Tony, his prodigal son. Joe did not even know whether Tony was alive or dead, but he still hoped that maybe his son would call home. Late that night Tony did call home, and immediately it was evident that he was in bad condition, probably because he was on drugs. ‘I’m so sick,’ he said, ‘and so hungry, I’m really hurting. Tell me what to do.’
Tony had placed his call from the lobby of a Holiday Inn more than a hundred miles away. Immediately the family jumped in the car and went to find him. When the Farrones saw their lost son they could hardly recognize him. He seemed more dead than alive. His greasy hair was hanging across his face; his ragged clothes were covered with filthy vomit; his shoes were worn all the way through. Their prodigal son was so weak and confused he had to be carried out to the car. As they drove home, the stench was all but unbearable. Joe said to himself, ‘I’ve heard so many sermons about the prodigal son in a stinking pigpen, now here I am holding my nose and living out that very scene.’ Then he said this, ‘my son. I love him because he is my son. He has come back home and that’s all that matters now.’ “ Luke Volume 2, Philip Ryken, pg. 140, 141
Tony Farrone was fortunate to have a father who was filled with extravagant love. It must be one of the most difficult things in the world for a parent to continue to love a child who has turned his back on their love and compassion. How do you love a child who continually rejects every single thing you do to try and help them?
In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) the son decides that he has had enough of living on the farm and wants to go to the city and live the good life. The problem is that he has no money so he goes to his father and demands that his father give him his share of the inheritance now. By law, in the time of Jesus, that could be done but it was an unusual request and considered a sign of disrespect towards the family.
In the case of the young prodigal he was so alienated from his father that he couldn’t wait another day for the old man to die so he could get his hands on the money. When you think about the story it becomes clear that the boy had left home emotionally a long time before he worked his nerve up to demand the money and actually leave.
When he said to his father, “give me my inheritance,” (Luke 15:11) he was saying I wish you were dead dad. Ryken points out, “No doubt the young man had despised his father for a good long time, maybe all his life. His outrageous demand does not sound like the kind of speech that someone makes on the spur of the moment, but the kind that comes after years of disdain. Do you see how lost the son was? He was lost when he was still at home, even before he left the family farm. He was lost in selfishness, ingratitude, rebellion and greed. But mainly he was lost because he didn’t love his father.” Ryken, p. 129
I can’t help but wonder at the mercy, love and grace of God in light of our living the prodigal life. Even the best of us have totally rejected God and indulge our sinful natures. And yet, the Father never stops seeking us to forgive and invite us home once again. Joe Farrone gives us a small glimpse into that love that the Father has for us, but it is but a drop in an endless ocean to the love of God.
The story of the prodigal son is the third in a series of three parables Jesus told in regards to seeking the lost. The first is the famous story of Jesus seeking the one lost sheep while the ninety and nine others are safe in the corral. The second story is about a woman who loses one of her ten coins and sweeps and sweeps the house until she finds it; and the third story, of course, is the parable of the prodigal son.
The first story is encouragement for those who have trusted in Jesus because they are reassured that if they are lost Jesus will come looking for them. The story of the woman is probably a reference to the Holy Spirit and His unstoppable search for the lost. The prodigal story is about the Father’s unflappable search for the lost as well.
All three search-stories have something else in common as well. When the sheep was found, the coin rediscovered and the son returned home, great celebrations were thrown in honor of the lost being found.
What amazing encouragement for us is found in these three stories! No matter how far we have drifted from God or how open our rebellion is, we are still invited home. Some of us have wasted our talents, our wealth, our abilities, our love and our relationships on selfish desires and dreams. We have ended up broken and beaten down by a world that cares nothing for us or our dreams and ambitions. We have turned our back on God because we believed He would get in the way of our having a good time and living the life of freedom and non-responsibility. God stands at the door of each of our hearts and knocks, the Holy Spirit whispers in our ear “open up, and let Him in”, but how often we refuse.
The good news is that no matter how often we have broken our relationship with God and sinned, He pursues us to rebuild that relationship. He loves us unconditionally and just as Joe Farrone had to travel a hundred miles to find his son, Jesus travels a lifetime to find us and bring us home. The good news for today is YOU ARE LOVED!
Rich Mullins had a special gift of crafting lyrics as illustrated in this beautiful song – The Love of God