“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“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 turning point of Jesus’ parable depicts two resolutions of the heart. The first resolution must take place deep inside people like us, and the second comes from God’s heart. First, we need to repent. That’s what the young man does, lying in the pigsty with an empty stomach. He comes to his senses. He wakes up to the sad reality of his broken life. He decides that something deep in his heart must change. So, he repents, turning away from the loose and fast life that led to his despair and turning toward home. It’s tragic that it often takes hitting rock bottom before some people will repent. It may take an overdose or getting caught cheating or spending the night in jail for driving drunk or some other shameful experience like the one suffered by the young man in Jesus’ story. How much better it is for us to repent before we crash and burn.
Then comes God’s part. God offers repentant sinners grace. Don’t miss the vivid details in Jesus’ description of the father embracing his long lost son, and as you consider these details remember that Jesus was sent into this world by his own Heavenly Father for exactly this purpose: to offer grace to sinners who want to come home. The father, scanning the horizon with hope and expectation, sees his son coming from a long way off. His first reaction is not anger, resentment, or even relief. No, he is filled with compassion. The father runs to his son, casting off social proprieties in this outpouring of merciful love. And then, without waiting for explanation or apology, the father embraces and kisses his child. Jesus painted this portrait of grace to reflect the loving heart of our Heavenly Father.
We also shouldn’t miss how quickly and shockingly the story turns. In the opening lines, Jesus draws our focus to the callous, self-centered depravity of the young man. We are sickened by his words and actions, to the point that we enjoy hearing his lowly state of desperation as he wallows with the pigs. He’s getting what he deserves! But then, suddenly, there goes the father, running and embracing his wayward son, erasing all his folly in an astonishing gesture of grace. This too reflects God’s heart. Surprisingly merciful. Shockingly loving. Amazingly gracious.
Thank You, Father, for showing me grace and welcoming me home to Your loving arms. Help me to repent of all my sin and to find joy and hope in Your love alone. I pray in Jesus’ good name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian