Jump Start # 2464
Luke 15:20 “And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.”
Our verse today comes from the amazing story of the prodigal son. I love that parable. I have a whole collection of books just on this parable. We have a Jump Start book devoted to this parable. Sixteen years ago, I edited an issue of Biblical Insights that was completely devoted to the prodigal son. There was a fantastic list of writers who submitted articles for that special issue. It was definitely one to keep. You can see, I love this story. Currently, I am in the midst of a series of lessons at home on the Prodigal son.
This parable is ageless. And, I guess the reason I connect so well to this parable is that I have stood in the shadows of all three characters in this story. I have been with the prodigal. I have had the opportunity to forgive those who have hurt me and by doing that I have stood with the father. And, sadly, and with much regret, I have stood with the older brother and have been judgmental at those who were just wanting to do what was right. I’m all over this story and I guess that is why I love it.
Every time I read it I find new nuggets of insights and truth. Our verse is one example of that. The prodigal decided to come home. There was no where else that he could go. The pig farmer that he was working for provided food for the pigs, but not for the prodigal. It seems that the farmer cared more for his pigs than this down and out prodigal. He got up and headed home. Our verse says, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him.”
How did he know it was his son? Parents know their kids. We know the back of their heads. We know the tone of their voices. We know how they walk and carry themselves. But more than that, I believe this father was always looking for the prodigal. I expect he had prayed for this day since the prodigal left. The text tells us that the father ran, which was odd in that culture. We run for exercise. Most folks didn’t run in the first century unless their house was on fire. The father ran, embraced and kissed. He was so happy that his son was coming home.
Did you notice that the father did all of these things BEFORE the prodigal ever spoke the first word to his father. The father didn’t wait for the apology. The father didn’t hold back until he saw how this would turn out. The father didn’t know if the son was going to ask for more money. He saw him. And, he ran. And, just as the prodigal knew the father, I believe the father knew the prodigal.
The text doesn’t tell us this and we can always put more into it than intended, but it’s not a stretch to imagine the prodigal walking slowly, head hung down, the steps of defeat. He probably left the house with his head held high and eyes full of dreams. Now, it was all a nightmare. He had failed. He had no where to go but home.
And, amazingly, the father saw, ran, embraced and kissed. That was certainly unexpected. The Jewish crowd who first heard this must have thought that this father was weak and spineless. No lecture. No scolding. No “I told you so.” No get out of here. No thousands of questions. None of that. Just, ran, hugged and kissed.
Although the prodigal made a fool of himself, whose money was it that was wasted? Technically, it was given to the prodigal, but it was the father’s money. It was the prodigal’s inheritance. It likely took a lifetime to accumulate that. And, now it was all gone. There was nothing to show for it. There was no real estate bought. There was no home purchased. There was no money sitting in a bank account. There was no cattle. There was nothing. It was all gone. Years and years of labor and saving was gone. There probably wouldn’t be enough life left in the father to recover that money again. The father was hurt. The prodigal had insulted him, shamed him and left him with very little. Yet, it was this father who ran, embraced and kissed.
Jesus is showing us that this is what God is like. He’s just like that. Now, the father didn’t run to the pig pen. There was no hugging and kissing in the pig pen. The prodigal had to come home. He had to make the steps. But the father was waiting. The father was looking. The father was hoping.
Many of us grew up with our moms telling us, “Wait until your father gets home.” We knew what that meant. We’d hear the door open, we’d hear his heavy steps coming in and we knew before long we’d be getting it. And, most times we deserved it. And, in this story, so did the prodigal. He deserved it. But, he didn’t get it. Instead of wrath, he found grace. Instead of hatred, he was given love. Instead of being kicked out, he was received. The father ran, embraced and kissed. Powerful words and thoughts for us to consider.
Now, some thoughts for us:
First, the prodigal was hoping to be made a servant. That, he thought would be the best situation for him. As hard as it would be to serve your own family and take care of them and to end the day by sleeping in a barn while they were in the house still was better than being with pigs. The father was much better than that. It’s hard for us to anticipate God. It’s hard for us to figure God out. He’s not like us. He’s better than the best among us. We must remember that the prodigal son is a story, a parable. It is easy to stretch things more than what God intended. And, theologically, there are many points that would pull us from this, but it sure seems like the father forgave the prodigal based upon his return and not the words that he said. God knows our heart. He knows when we are genuine and when we are blowing smoke and making excuses.
Second, God’s love for us is something that we may never fully understand. Sure there are verses that state that. Sure there are examples that show that. But putting this on our front porch, is just hard to grasp. We know what we have done. We know that God knows what we have done. We know that we deserve the book thrown at us. We know that saying, “I’m sorry,” just doesn’t seem to be enough. And, it’s not. We know, like the prodigal did, that some damage cannot be restored, repaired or replaced. Still, God loves us.
Third, that long trip home, as hard and as bad as it may have seemed for the prodigal, turned wonderfully well for him. The father treated him so much better than he could ever expect. A ring? The best robe? A meal of beef? Music and dancing? Some would think that the father was over the top. He was. Some would think he did too much. He probably did. Some would think that the wrong message may have been sent. He didn’t think so. Some may think that he was rewarding wrong. He didn’t think so. He knew what was needed. He knew compassion to be felt must be expressed. He knew how low the prodigal was feeling.
God trusts you. God loves you. God wants to be with you. God is so glad that you are home with Him.
I just love this story….don’t you. If you would like either a copy of our Prodigal Son Jump Start book or reprints of the Biblical Insight on the prodigal son, drop me an email (Rogshouse@aol.com).