And he said, A certain man had two sons:…
I. THE PRODIGAL COMES TO HIMSELF. He had, as it were, been all abroad; he had not been really at home in any sense; he had not been looking at himself, nor studying himself, nor thinking of his real condition and his real want. Those interests which were really his highest, and which he should have felt to be his highest, he had never for a moment set his thoughts upon. All that he should have cared about he was quite careless of; unobservant, ignorant of that which was really his good. We speak of a man being out of his mind; we speak of a man coming again into his right mind; and these familiar expressions of ours may very well serve to help us to see something of the depth of meaning here — "He came to himself." The mind which, as it were, should have been at home, roams abroad. So it was with this man: his mind, first in wild enjoyment, and then in despairing expedient; himself first clad in all sorts of gaiety and gaudy robes, and then clad again in rags; at one time in the haunts of sensual pleasure, at another time in the gloomy caves of woe: now intoxicated with the very delights on which his soul was set, now again obstinate and morose. The mind of his at last came home — "He came to himself"; and then it was, when he came to himself, that the great reality broke upon him, and he saw what was the truth at the time, and what had been the truth before. Then his real condition was apparent to him, and all his sadness stood up before him, firm, and stark, and stern, so as to terrify him. And then he could not but contrast the state of things in which he was, and the condition of things which he well knew existed at home — "How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare!"
II. THE PRODIGAL RESOLVES. Of all the ways in which he had hitherto gone, he now finds that none is the right way, particularly that way of all others which he first chose for himself, the way which led him from his father's home, the first way in which he ever put his feet. But now he sees that there is only one certain way of peace and hope; that there is no way like this — the way that brings him back to his father. Therefore he determines to go and to confess the whole — to make a clean breast of the whole — to cast himself upon his father's mercy, to be taken back upon his father's terms, and upon no terms of his own — "Make me as one of thy hired servants": give me even the very lowest place at thy feet; only receive me home. It is impossible, I think, to agree with the opinion of some, that in this expression, "Make me as one of thy hired servants," there is a lurking pride. Some suppose that in this expression he purposes to work out his restoration. It is quite clear, however, that this explanation is quite contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and therefore cannot satisfy the words of the parable. The force of the passage is not in the words, "Make me as one of thy hired servants"; that is only thrown in to heighten the effect. The force of the petition lies in the words, "I am no more worthy to be called thy son." Only take me home; only let me find my place near thee, in thy service, and I am content to have any terms whatever, even though I be "as one of thy hired servants." And it is even thus that the Spirit of God leads an awakened sinner to his Father's home on high; it is even thus that He pursues His work, when, having convinced the man of sin, He goes on to convince him of righteousness. The sinner is brought to the first real state of true awakening of heart and conscience; the sinner is made to see what he is; he comes to himself; and then, by the gracious teaching of the Spirit of God, there pass over him similar feelings to those which filled this younger son's mind, and then he says, "I will arise, and go to my Father, and will say unto Him, I have sinned against heaven, and before Thee"; and so he feels that there is no need now for him to abide where he is. There may be, indeed, fears; there may be doubts; again and again these will arise; but there is an ever-urging impulse of the Spirit of all grace upon his conscience and upon his heart to take up the words so often, but, alas I so vainly repeated by hundreds of us — "I will arise, and go to my Father."
III. There is yet a third stage — THE STAGE OF ACTION. It is of the first consequence that action should follow resolution. In any case, if a man makes a resolution that is worth anything, the sooner he puts it into action the better; and, of all the characteristics which call out admiration, this is above all others-decision; and the man who knows not only how to decide, but how to act upon his decision, is the man whom others most approve; that is the man to deserve our confidence, and the man to get it. And therefore the Lord draws a perfect picture, not simply of an awakened man, but of a man that feels pressure; not only of a man who resolves that something must be done to relieve this pressure, but one who gets up and does it; a man who acts; a man who knows how to do that which he has resolved to do — "He arose and came to his father." Yes, there was hope for him. He felt that of all places where he was likely to find peace, his father's heart and his father's bosom was the place where he would find most.
(C. D. Marston, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, A certain man had two sons: