The Father, Running

prodigalJesus was the master story teller, each one woven with truth and pregnant with divine insights. Such is the tale of the two brothers pictured in Luke 15. The story first focuses on the younger brother who asks his father to give him his inheritance. In the culture of his day the community understood such a request meant he wanted his father to die! Under such cultural norms this request would greatly anger any father, would mean that the son no longer trusted his father to guide him, and would cause harm to the rest of the family. Nevertheless the father complied with the sons request. We know the outcome of the story. The son squandered his inheritance in a distant country and became a servant to a pig farmer, one of the most humiliating jobs a Jewish man could have. He became so broke and hungry that he 'would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything' (Luke 15:16).

In such a state of desperation the young man decided to return home. He knew that even his father's hired servants were well fed. He determined to broker a deal with his father and see if he would make him one of his hired servants. The Bible records a most poignant picture of the heart of God: "But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him" (Luke 15:20).

So much must be gleaned from this verse. First of all the father was vigilant to look for and anticipate his sons return, 'But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him...'. His father "ran and fell on his neck and kissed him" as well.

It was humiliating in his day for anyone over 40 years old to run in public. It just wasn't done. But love compelled the young man's father to do just that. He was concerned about the Jewish tradition called Kezazah which literally meant 'the cutting off'.  It was a custom whereby any Jewish community rejected and banished any Jew who lost his money to foreigners by meeting them on their return and breaking a clay pot at their feet symbolizing that the community rejected him forever. The father ran to secure his son before the community could wound him further.

This story of Jesus revealed His understanding of His Father's love. It wasn't that the younger son had just broken some law, or violated some custom. He had broken his father's heart. Even though he had, his father was willing to embarrass himself, over ride cultural norms, and demonstrate his great love. That's a clear picture of the love God has for us. When we turn in His direction He comes running. How great is the love of our God!