Today we read one the ‘parable of the prodigal son’, but it could equally be called ‘The parable of the forgiving father’. The key teaching of Christ’s parables is usually found in their final verse, and in this one we read the father’s words, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).

The wonder of the father’s forgiveness is brought out when the wayward son decides to return home and starts on his journey, “while he was still a long way off his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (verse 22). Such is the son’s contrition he protests his unworthiness, he had just wanted to return and be like “a hired servant”. The father’s celebration continues, he “said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe … bring the fattened calf … let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost …’” (verses 22,23).

We are only truly alive when we are with Christ! How great the Father’s love is for those who commit their lives to him – and show this through baptism. We meditate on what Peter wrote, “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder … the Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some men count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (1 Peter 3:1,9).

The context is saying that the Lord is not willing that any of you should perish. As in his parable he is on the lookout for lost and straying sheep and goes to great lengths to find them. Jesus helps his sheep to overcome the world. In Revelation Jesus says, “The one who conquers (i.e., overcomes) will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life” (3:5). There are more attractions and distractions than ever in our extremely godless world, enticing sheep to stray; there is also increasing “hatred” in the world of anything that threatens to prick their conscience.

How true the words of Jesus are likely to become, “you will be hated by all … but the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). Let us endure; let us be truly “alive”.