“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
Most of us have heard the parable of the prodigal son. If you haven’t, read it in its entirety in Luke 15:11-32. In short, a son tells his father that he wants his share of the inheritance early, takes it, and runs off to live a life of decadence. Soon he runs out of money and ends up with nothing, so he gets a job feeding pigs, where he wishes he becomes so desperate that he wishes he could eat some of the pigs’ food. He comes to his senses and decides to return home, but knowing that he couldn’t just return expecting all to be forgiven, he planned to go home offering to be nothing more than a hired worker in the household. You see, he had given up his rights to be a son. However, when he gets home his father celebrates and restores him to his place in the family, giving him fresh clothes and a ring for his finger.
The part of the story I’m focusing on is the return home. Obviously the point of the story is that even when we go astray, waste everything, and end up desperate, God loves us enough to forgive us. We could stop there, but there’s something even more compelling in this verse. It says that when the son was a long way away, his father saw him and ran to him. Now, let’s get a few things straight. By asking for his share of the inheritance (which he otherwise would have received upon his father’s death) the son more or less told his father that he wishes he were dead so that he could have his money. This is no small matter. It would have been horribly insulting and shameful. Like I said before, he may as well as formally renounced his sonship. His father had every right to refuse him, to send him away, to tell him he was no longer his son. But instead he got up and ran. In this culture, for the patriarch of a household, presumably an older man, to get up and run would be an absolute abomination. It was a shameful thing to do. But he got up and ran.
What hope for us sinners!
When we turn away from God, when we reject the gift of sonship that he gives us through Jesus, when we run off and waste the things he’s given us, when we all but renounce our place at his table, he waits for us to come home. When he sees us far off in the distance, he doesn’t wait, he doesn’t scold us, he doesn’t give a cold shoulder, he runs to us. He doesn’t care about the shame he must undertake to get to us, he simply runs to his son who was dead but has returned to life. This is why God sent Jesus to die for us. He endured the shame of the cross because he was reaching out his arms and running to us. All we have to do is turn toward home and start walking.
Thank you for your amazing love for us. I know that I don’t deserve it, but I am so grateful to be loved by you. I am so grateful to be considered your child. Forgive me, Lord, and help me always to repent from my sin and return to you.
In Jesus’ Name,