Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
This is one of the most famous stories of all times, representational as it is of our rebellion against God and his great love and mercy, not to mention patience, despite our rebellion. Many of us will relate to the story of the Prodigal Son. I know that I do because his story is my own. Like the boy, I, too, led a hedonistic lifestyle until I squandered all my blessings and began a plummet, until I ended up, not in a pig sty, but a jail cell. This is when, like the gospel writer Luke wrote, we came to our senses (see Luke 15:17).
The implication is that we had lost our senses, and in retrospect I can clearly see that is the truth. I had lost my mind completely. How? Paul might have an explanation: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). With my gaze focussed on the things of this world — money, fame, glory, power — I could not SEE God! Why does it take ending up in a pig sty or a jail cell for us to see him, though?
Let me tell you a parable of my own. A man was standing on the terrace of his apartment building when he saw a gang of murderous robbers huddled in some bushes waiting for their next victim. To his alarm, he saw a woman walking towards them unaware of the danger that lay ahead. He tried to get her attention by calling out to her, but she didn’t hear. So he fished out a ten dollar note, crumpled it, and threw it at the woman. It fell right in front of her. She saw it, picked it up, smiled in delight, then continued walking on thinking of how lucky she was.
Not giving up, the man scooped up some tiny pebbles from the ground and threw it at the woman. Some landed on her, and irritatedly she brushed them off, but continued walking on, still unmindful of the man trying to get her attention. Desperate to save her now, the man found a broken brick, and hurled it at the woman. It fell on her head making her shriek in pain, but she finally looked up, and the man was able to warn her and save her from what lay ahead.
There is a virus named Covid-19, better known as Coronovirus, going around, killing people all around the world. God did not cause this virus, any more than he put the Prodigal son in a pig sty or put me in jail, but he is allowing it to happen to bring us to our senses. We have been openly mocking God by the things we have been doing lately. If we were in God’s place, I have a pretty good idea of what our reaction would be to such defiance. But God is merciful. He has given us a lot of time and opportunity to come to our senses.
Let it not be too late.