Does love have a limit? The younger son in the parable believes he has reached the limit of his father’s love for him. He has abandoned his home, gone off to a foreign country and squandered the family’s wealth in the worst possible way. Surely there’s no way that his father will now have him back as a son? But perhaps there will be a place for him in the house as a servant.
The younger son has underestimated his father’s generous love for him. Not only has the father not rejected his wayward son – he’s watching out for him, anxiously waiting to welcome him back, and ready to throw a party to celebrate his return.
The elder son, sadly, has no grasp of his father’s generosity. He sees his work on the family farm as “slavery,” and his brother’s return prompts resentment rather than rejoicing. If the younger son represents the sinners who are seeking the company of Jesus, the elder stands for the “righteous” Pharisees and scribes.
This parable shows us the extravagance of God’s love for us. When we turn away from God’s love by choosing to sin, God seeks us out, ready to forgive us, and to celebrate our return home. God’s love and mercy has no limit.