In the parable we commonly call “The Prodigal Son,” which I prefer to title, “The Forgiving Father,” Jesus was making one of the greatest points in all of Scripture about who God REALLY is, and what His heart is toward “sinners” is.
The occasion for this story, and the two preceding it, was a harsh and judgmental attitude by the righteous people of the day, the Pharisees and Scribes (teachers and/or lawyers) who considered it their duty to both write and enforce a super strict interpretation of God’s Law. These religious people were quite upset with Jesus already, as He made claims that seemed to suggest He was God. Now, however, their objections were about the company Jesus was keeping – not at all to their liking.
Jesus welcomed into His presence the lost, the outcasts, the less desirable and rejected (by the Pharisees) of His day. Not acceptable to the self-proclaimed righteous ones.
To those who thought such companions were unrighteous and unholy, Jesus was kind, caring, compassionate. He said, “I am so glad to have you around! I enjoy your company – and I enjoy showing you my Father’s love and grace.”
In Luke 15 the Forgiving Father had been watching and waiting for his son. The younger of his two boys had been away for some, out of communication. He had rejected and insulted his dad in a most horrific manner, and then took his portion of the inheritance and went away, presumably to live wildly and without regard to his upbringing and the values of his father.
Let’s observe what kind of treatment the wayward, sinful, filthy, stinking, weary son received…not what most of us would do in such a situation.
20 …while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Some thoughts about the father in Jesus’ parable, who clearly represents the Heavenly Father.
The father had apparently been scanning the distant road daily hoping to see if, when, his boy might return. He finally did see him – in the distance! – and ran out to meet his son, even though it was undignified for an older man to run in Jesus’ culture. John MacArthur observed that in Jewish culture of Jesus day, no man would hike the hem of his robe and run! He would instead, Dr. MacArthur suggests, “g l i d e.” I like this picture of an older man running down the path to see his long-lost son!
The father stopped the confession mid-sentence and initiated the restoration of fellowship. He did not want to hear excuses or even apologies at that time. He wanted to celebrate the return of his son.
Embracing and kissing him continually the father showed incredible love and acceptance. While the boy had acted terribly, the father acted mercifully and with great kindness.
After wasting away, almost starving and being humbled to the point of feeding pigs – which, of course, Jews avoid – the boy was kissed on his filthy, pig-slop-stained, unclean neck. The father overlooked the dirtiness and stench of a wayward, homeless son…to show His grace and incredible forgiveness.
Instead of lecturing, scolding, or reprimanding the prodigal, the father bestowed honor, authority, and freedom on the returned son. He called for a robe – to restore some dignity, a ring – to show the boy would not be treated as a slave, but returned to the family as a son, and sandals to allow the boy some comfort.
Finally, dad called for a banquet to be prepared. Offering to kill a calf showed how very special an occasion it was.
Jesus, through three parables, shares with us His Father’s JOY when the lost and wandering return to Him. The Father was as excessive in His love, compassion, care and forgiveness as the son was in being sinful. Father cannot be out-loved!
As one commentator suggested, …this “is not a parable of merits. Here is a picture of grace.’ [Inrig]
I’m thinking this passage is a good one to keep in mind during the coming days. I might need to offer a bit of God’s grace and forgiveness to someone. And…I may need to remember myself how crazy special it is to know that kind of love! And maybe your children need that kind of reminder?
Who has best helped you understand God our Father’s heart for the lost, the wandering, the needy? Leave a note below.