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Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

By Ashley Jacobson

Selected passage for reflection: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32


Luke 15: 1-3, 11b -32 (New Living Translation)

15 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

3 So Jesus told them this story: 11 “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ 20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. 22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ 28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”


I’m never surprised by who Jesus spends his time with. Maybe I’m not surprised by this because of where I feel like Jesus met me. Maybe there were religious people that felt like I was not worth the time of Jesus. But I think back to when I decided that I would let him in or in the case of the son who ran off, ‘when I finally came to my senses,’ I know I was unsure if the Father would want me the way that I was. I felt like I needed to clean up first before I went home. Maybe I needed to be like those religious people first, whatever that really meant, before I would be worth the Fathers time.

I think about being in the room while Jesus is telling this story. Jesus is talking to the religious elite… because they are complaining about the company that he keeps. “They complained that he was associating with such sinful people– even eating with them!” Imagine being that ‘company’ while Jesus is telling this story. What were they feeling as Jesus was describing the younger son? Could they picture themselves? They just heard him share two other stories about being found. About heaven rejoicing for them. Maybe they knew where Jesus was going with this next story.

But the next story didn’t stop with the Father throwing a party for the son coming back. Jesus went on to talk about another brother. Maybe they leaned in a little more to hear where Jesus was going to go with this story. Maybe we can lean in a little more for this part as well.

The other brother is angry and complaining about what the Father is doing for a son that doesn’t seem to deserve anything. I wonder if the religious people looked at the people Jesus was hanging out with and thought to themselves, “just like this younger brother, you don’t deserve anything either.” Or if Jesus’ friends looked across the room wondering “how good is good enough?” The Father replies to the older son with such compassion and love, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.”

You know me. I want good things for you. I want good things for ALL people. There are no limits to my love. Your house may be a mess. Maybe you haven’t vacuumed in a while. It’s okay. I want to be with you. I want to be with you always no matter what. You don’t need to clean up first.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I was sitting in the doctor's office with her. I remember the doctor coming in and telling us what she had, but I don’t remember what else he said. I really don’t even remember him getting up and leaving the room. I do remember this though. My mom grabbed my hand and said to me “Ashley, we are going to be okay. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Spirit is always with you.” And that has been the truth I have held onto since that day. It has been what I have experienced. God is always with us. Whether or not we recognize it. I read this story that Jesus told a bunch of religious people, and I hear “I’m always here. I’m here for everyone. I have good things for all people. Come to me the way you are. I want to eat and celebrate with you too.”


Put yourself in the shoes of the Pharisees/Religious people that Jesus is telling this story to. Does the Spirit move you at all?

When you think about how the father responds to the older son, “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours”... How does that make you feel? Are there places in your life that you feel like He wouldn’t want to be a part of? Is there pain or joy that you are not sure God would be in with you? Spend some time there.


Father, thank you for always being there, whether or not I recognize it. Thank you for never leaving me alone in anything. Help me to live into what you have for me. Help me to love like you love.

About the Author

Ashley Jacobson lives in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois where she is the Area Director for Young Life. One of Ashley’s favorite things that she gets to do is coach high school boys and girls soccer at a local high school. She is passionate about people knowing that they matter and that they are worth showing up for. You can find Ashley on IG @cutter24aj

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