Reader: “While he was still a long way off . . .”
Response: “the father ran to his son.”
Scripture: Luke 15:20b-21
“But 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.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
We may think of this story as a parable about the two sons, but this phrase tells us it may be more about the boys’ father and his love for them. There is something here that is unique in all of Scripture. Something occurs in this parable that does not happen anywhere else in the Bible. Look again at the verses above and see if you can figure out what it is. What is it? Except for this parable, nowhere else does God ever “run” after his children. Jesus walked everywhere. The good shepherd went to find the lost sheep. He never ran to a situation. Sometimes he deliberately stayed where he was and made a point of not going after someone (when Lazarus died). God never runs after people. In Jewish culture, it was considered unseemly for an old man to run. Patriarchs did not run! In this picture painted by Jesus, the father, in self-humiliation, for the sake of his lost son, runs to meet him. Jesus is painting a picture of our heavenly Father and his love for his children. God does not force his way into people’s lives, but he is always near at hand ready to receive his own. He gives people freedom to receive or reject him. Those who seek, always find him. He makes sure of that. Did you also notice that apparently the father was watching for his son’s return. He saw him “from a long way off.” The father was watching and waiting, hoping to see his son return. (2 Peter 3:9 “God is not willing that any should perish.”) Here is a beautiful picture of God’s love for the repentant person. The son had turned toward home and the father, filled with love, saw him and ran to him, put his arms around him and kissed him. God is patiently waiting for us to turn around when we launch down the road where the street sign says “Self”. There is not a bony fingered condemnation for our self-centered will, but a warm embrace and “glad to have you back home.” Can you offer this kind of love to someone today? Can you receive it?
Music: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Fernando Ortega
Bring us, O Lord God, at the last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but an equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity, in the habitations of thy majesty and thy glory, world without end. ―John Donne, 1571-1631