Read: Luke 14-15
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. (Luke 15:20, NLT)
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story for the ages. It is one of Jesus’ most revered stories, even in non-Christian societies. People of all faiths love this parable because of its profound and moving message of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. But Jesus’ story is not so much about the prodigal son, or the even the elder brother, this is a story meant to give us a look inside the heart of God. So a more appropriate title would be “the searching father”.
You know the story well: A selfish son demands his inheritance from his father—in essence, declaring that he wishes to live as if his father were already dead. The son spends all the inheritance money on wasteful living. Finally, at the end of his ropes, the desperate son comes back home utterly crushed, knowing he will face humiliation from his father, hostility from his family and hatred from his scandalized community. Maybe he will be mocked—and rightly so—perhaps even beaten for the embarrassment he has caused his loved ones. As the prodigal reaches the outskirts of the village, word spreads in the community that this foolish boy has come back.
Then, something very dramatic happens as Jesus tells this story. As the people gather to watch his return, “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.” (Luke 15:20, NLT)
Don’t quickly pass by those words: “He ran to his son.” That is a stunning statement. A nobleman in the ancient Middle East would never run. It would be a violation of his dignity. Aristotle wrote, “Great men never run…Great men are run to.” People run to them. Children run, those who are desperate or afraid may run. So Jesus has the wrong person running in this story.
Or does he? No, Jesus is revealing something very important about the heart of God. The heart of this prodigal son’s father—which represents God’s heart—is so full that he forgets everything: he forgets his dignity, he forgets everybody is watching, and he sees only the starving, exhausted, beaten down figure of a boy he had given up for dead, and the father takes off running toward his son like a homesick angel. And when he reaches him, he starts kissing him over and over again. The father then wants everyone to know that he will fully restore his son, so he has the servants dress the boy in his finest robe, he puts his ring on him as a sign of his authority, he gives him new shoes, and he has his servants prepare a feast.
The Jesus offers these amazing words in Luke 15:24, “So the party began”
That is the heart of God. That is why Jesus told this story. That is what Jesus wants you to know. Whoever you are, wherever you have been, whatever you’ve done, the Father doesn’t want you to be distanced from him or to return to him only to live under a cloud of guilt and a burden of regret. He wants you as his fully loved, fully accepted daughter or son.
Jesus wants you to know that whenever you return to God in heartfelt repentance, you are not returning to an unmoved deity, you are coming to a God who is scanning the horizon, looking for any sign that you are on your way home. And when he sees you, he doesn’t sit, he doesn’t wait, he doesn’t send his servants out to escort you home. No, he gets up and runs to you. When he reaches you, he throws his arms around you and kisses you and holds you like he will never let you go.
Then he says to all of heaven, “let’s party!” That is how much you mean to your searching Father.
“This is the portrayal of God, whose goodness, love, forgiveness, care, joy and compassion have no limits at all.” ~Henri Nouwen
What If God Took Over?
Do you need to “come home” to the Father? Don’t keep him waiting!