And he arose, and came to his father. But 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. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Just as the prodigal son’s journey into the far country didn’t turn out how he expected it to, his journey back home was not what he imagined it would be. Surely he did not expect to be embraced and welcomed back with a celebration. Surely he did not expect to receive a son’s portion instead of a servant’s portion. But he hadn’t factored in the love of his father. His guilt made him feel unworthy of such a reception, but it is with love that the father chooses to lavish mercy upon his returning son.
Maybe we can’t relate as much to the stories Jesus previously told of the lost sheep and the lost coin. But can’t we see a little more clearly what it means to a father for his son to come home? Can’t we understand a little better from this example how God the Father feels toward us? We can understand those dynamics and see how important it is for us to be united to God in that Father/child relationship because we’ve seen or even experienced ourselves the unconditional love parents have for their children. And we can even see in this story the desperate longing that resided in the heart of the father waiting and wanting his son home again.
It is with an even greater and more powerful love that God waits for us to come to our senses and rise up from the shameful places we have gotten to and go back home where we belong. The intense and overpowering love that God has for us compels Him to do many unexpected things. It was that love that sent Jesus to our world to die on a cross and save us from our sins. It is because of God’s love that He shows mercy and grace to unworthy sinners and gives us abundant blessings we don’t deserve. It is a heart of great love that causes God to move toward us, embrace us, and rejoice that we are home.
So when our sin has left us feeling guilty and ashamed, maybe even fearful of what that might mean to God, let us remember that He is a God of love. Let us remember that He went to extremes to unite us with Himself, willing to send Jesus for our sakes. He will forgive us when we repent. He will restore us when we’ve been beaten down. He will love us no matter what we’ve done. And He will help us to get back on the right track when we are willing to return to Him.