Jesus taught the parable of the prodigal son to teach us primarily the love that the Father has for us, even when we have wandered away. But he also has a secondary reason. Earlier in the narrative Luke mentions how the religious leaders were complaining about Jesus associating with sinners. The religious leaders were standing outside complaining just like the older son. They were righteous unlike those sinners Jesus welcomed or so they thought.
People can have everything from God but become religious snobs and so lose their way. The older son in the parable has everything but rejects his repentant brother and resents the father’s reception. Jesus gets quite cross with the religious know it alls. They had all the trappings of righteousness without being so.
We have a tradition at Flatland to clap and cheer when someone comes out of the water from water baptism. As long as we are being genuine in our joy of a prodigal returning we are a true joy to the Father. I feel as if I have been a Christian all my 62 years although I distinctly remember consciously turning my life over to Good when I was five. I could be a cranky crusty Christian too good to hoop and holler when someone becomes a Christian, too good to celebrate during water baptism. Yep, moldy crusty Christians.
But we all know old crusty bread isn’t good for much. We should all be like the father who runs to the sinner and welcomes them to the family. No matter how long we have followed Jesus we should be welcoming to new brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be ever on watch for prodigals coming home. We should be throwing banquets in their honor with our best. We should be full of joy and honor God when the lost are found.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents…. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. -Luke 15:10, 32 NIV