The Open Arms of the Father
Theme Verse: Vs. 21. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ Luke 15:11-32
In this parable, Jesus describes a rich father who had two sons. The younger son demanded the share of his wealth from his father to spend it according to his will. There may be a possibility that the father must have counseled him as per Jewish custom, but he was possessed by worldly desire. After squandering all his wealth in wild living, there was a big famine in the land and he had nothing to eat. At last, he had to work for a foreigner, feeding pigs — something detestable to a Jew. According to 1 John 2:16, there are three avenues through which people commit sin: (a) the lust of the flesh; (b) the lust of the eyes, and (c) the pride of life.
The power of sin is dreadful but is not everlasting. Satan wants to rob our relationship with God, as well as with our family members. He creates a circumstance that takes young people to a point of isolation where they become depressed and, eventually, some of them commit suicide. But, for the prodigal son, the famine proved to be a blessing in disguise. It made him think that his father’s hired servants were living far more comfortably than him. He determined to go to his father in repentance, acknowledging his sin against God and human (father) and seeking pardon. He realized that he was no longer worthy to be called his father’s son and planned to ask for a job as a hired servant. He repented in his heart, and his true repentance brought blessing to him. Repentance is an act of turning around from sin and evil desire and taking the road of obedience and holiness. This type of repentance leads to a fundamental change in a person’s relationship with God and helps to overcome the power of sin in Christ. The prayer of King David (Ps. 51) on repentance gives a chance to a sinner to come to the Lord who has the power to (a) create a clean heart in us; (b) allow us to be in His holy presence, and (c) restore in us the joy of salvation.
When the prodigal son reached the father, the picture was entirely different than he expected. The father, on seeing him at a distance, ran toward him. With compassion, he opened his arms, hugged and kissed him, even before hearing the son’s prepared speech. The father did not demonstrate love in response to his son’s confession. Rather, out of his own mercy, he ran to be reconciled with his estranged son. Now he was no longer a prodigal to him (vs. 32), because true repentance brought reconciliation between the two. Henri Nouwen, a well-known twentieth-century writer, commented on Rembrandt’s painting in The Return of the Prodigal Son in 1994: “The hands of the father are painted differently. The father’s left hand touching the son’s shoulder is strong, rough and muscular. There is pressure, especially in the thumb. The hand seems not only to touch but with its strength, also to hold. The right hand of the father does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft and very tender. It lies gently upon the son’s shoulder which offers consolation and comfort. It is a mother’s hand… In the Bible, God is presented as a father, but who also acts with the tender compassion of a mother (Deut. 32:18; Ps. 131; Is. 42:14; 66:33).” In Colossians 1:21-22, Paul writes, “…you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, now he [through the sacrifice of His Son] has brought you back as his friends”. God “has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18).
Reconciliation leads to restoration which is at the heart of the Christian gospel. In restoration, the relationship is renewed with God. The treatment that the young man receives from the father is amazing: The father embraces him, covers him with the best garment, gets a ring for his finger, sandals for his feet and celebrates his homecoming. Similarly, when a sinner repents, God covers that person with the garment of salvation and righteousness (Is. 61:10); provides a ring which is the sign of authority (Gen. 41:42) and seal (Esth. 8:8) or covenant; sandal for our feet is the peace that we receive from God’s Word, and it ends with a grand celebration in heaven by the angels (Luke 15:10). All that we lost in the Garden of Eden due to the sin of disobedience is now regained in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At the beginning of the parable, the son is lost, but toward the end, the father, with great excitement, tells the elder son, “…but now he is found!” Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s children, bought by the precious blood of Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Richmond Saxena