One of the most famous parables of Jesus is reported in Luke 15:11-32; it is commonly known under the name »The Parable of the Prodigal Son«. When it is said of Jesus that he made the »Father« manifest to us, and that whoever saw him also saw the Father, then this statement applies especially to the parable mentioned.
At that time it was primarily addressed to the Jewish Pharisees and scribes, who were upset because Jesus was concerned with tax collectors and sinners, and had contact with them. But here I would like to consider what this parable also has to say for us Christians.
I think that there is agreement in the opinion that Jesus means with the Father in the parable the »heavenly Father«, thus God. This Father has two sons. Jews, members of the old covenant people, who knew God and His law, were addressed here. So at this point it is not primarily a matter of people who had never heard of the God of the Bible, but of people who at least by their name – Israelites – confessed to be members of his house.
Today one could imagine all Christians who had at least heard of God, of his commandments, of Christ, regardless of whether they are believers or not, and also regardless of whether they belong to a denomination, church or community of faith.
According to the parable, this family divides; it »breaks up«. The younger son says: "Give me the part of the fortune that goes to me, father". Then he packs his things and travels to a far country, where he wastes and squanders his possessions.
The younger son knows the father, his commandments and principles; but he wants to be free. He shows us the natural man in his normal state, who is still religious, but does not believe in a life in God, in salvation in Christ, in rebirth, etc. He does not want to be free. He wants to be free, to unfold and develop his personality independently, not to let himself be constricted by God. Although he accepts the gifts of God that he has received or will receive – "give me" – but only for his own self-responsible use.
However, he must also know the truth of the saying of Jeremiah 2:19, he as well as many people in the same situation today: "Recognize and see how bad and bitter it is that you have forsaken the Lord your God, and that there is no fear of me in you". But this does not happen immediately. First he tries to »enjoy« his life. He moves away from the Father's house, into a »distant country«, where even the pigs unclean to Jews were bred, into a country without inhibitions or restrictions that would have been imposed by the fear of God, just far away from the Father. He squandered his property; he did not think of the word: "And as certain as it is for men to die once, but afterward to be judged ..." (Hebrews9:27).
Man is free to behave and live this way; but the Father waits; he waits for the possible conversion of the Son. It is true, however, that many people remain in this stage of the parable, deciding their lives in it, far from God!