‘The Prodigal Son’ is by far my most favorite story from the Bible. I have probably heard this story being said during many Sunday school story times. I have also heard many preachers unpack the truth and the deeper meaning behind this parable. There are always two sides to any story and although this parable is aptly called the parable of the Prodigal son, it is much more than that. To me, it is the parable that reflects the ‘Heart of God’.
The story starts in Luke 15:11 when the son approaches a certain father, asking for his share of the wealth. It must have been the single most gut-wrenching request a son could have made to his father. It must have broken the heart of a man who must have loved and cared for his begotten son. I always wondered if the father knew the true intentions of his son’s request. But the loving father that he was, complied to the wishes of his son. When the last piece of silver was given to his son, the father must have known that, it probably was the last act of love. He may have wished that he was not doing it at all, or he may have thought it was just a cruel prank. Nonetheless, it is never captured in the story. For all I know, it may have crushed him under an enormous weight of fear and sadness. Fast forward to the son’s return. The parable captures the moments leading up to the father running to embrace his son. As you read Luke 15:20, it says that “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
The Father’s Heart
Let’s just look at the first part of that verse “when he was a great way off”. This section of the verse alludes to the separation that sin has brought between the son and the father. This is what the Bible says to us, sin causes separation between God and us (Isaiah 59:2). As I sit and reflect on this, I ponder over the question – Is the separation directly proportional to the sin? So greater the sin, greater the separation? Nevertheless, the core truth here is this – Sin causes separation and not matter how wide or narrow the chasm is, we all need God’s rescuing hand.
As Christ unpacks this parable further, the second part of the verse hits us. “his father saw him”. Here we see the attitude of the Father and it gives an insight into his heart. Did the father wait for his son, longingly each day? Every sunrise, the father, the owner of land and all the wealth, must have waited with such yearning for news of his son. He must have scanned the horizon all day, to see if he could spot the familiar silhouette of his son. Did his son plunder away all his wealth? Or was he going to return home with riches and pomp, trading his wealth to beget more wealth? What was his son going to look like when he returned? Or would his son ever return at all? The weight of this anxiety would have broken the heart of the father.
…And we have a God, who runs towards us
Many questions prevail but Christ makes it simple for everyone to understand. God yearns for the return of every person back to His kingdom, no matter how distant we are to Him. Sin creates the distance but Christ lays himself as a sacrifice to bridge the gap so we can have salvation. His compassion is far more than a human mind can comprehend. For me the parable of the prodigal son is a rhetoric to the point Christ makes earlier through the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). Here he talks about the Good Shepherd, who goes out in search of that one missing sheep. The similarities are intentional. Christ says this to his followers that the Good Shepherd has a heart that has so much compassion that he would go to the heights and the depths of this earth to recover His lost sheep. If you read it carefully, the shepherd DID NOT wait for the sheep to return to him. On the contrary, he went out in search of the sheep. So, let’s go back to the parable of the Prodigal son and read the last part of Luke 15:20 again “and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him”. It cannot be any clearer than this, the father RAN to meet his son. He did not wait. He just was not able to wait for his son to make his way back to him.
I shall give you a bit of an insight. I have friends in the Middle East, and I have often heard them say that a wealthy landlord usually has an aura of dignity about him. He lacks nothing and is seldom seen rushing, as he has people who do the rushing around him. Elaborating even further, it is rare to witness a wealthy landlord run for anything, let alone run to meet a guest, no matter how important they are. So it is safe to assume and as many Biblical scholars and historians say, the words used by Christ are intentional for in that time, it was a widely accepted fact that a wealthy man running to meet someone is virtually unheard of and in some cases even seen as an insult. So why did Christ use those words? It is to drive home the point that no matter how much we sin, Christ the King of Kings who sits on the right hand of God, WILL run to embrace us, and welcome us into his fold.
Picture this, it is Christ running towards us, no matter how dirty we are from the sins of this world. It flips the idea of a king on its head, because we have a father, our God, who does not tarry. Instead, we have a God, who runs, to meet us, to greet us and to welcome us home.
What a blessed thought.