Probably one of the most famous parables from Jesus is called “The Prodigal Son” and it’s a great story because it is about forgiveness despite screwups. You can read the story right here.
This story is so well-known that a lot of people identify with the prodigal son because we have fallen away from our father, gone out and wasted everything out of selfishness and have been left unhappy and lost. Of course, the story shows us that when we return to our father, hoping to be accepted again, our father welcomes us back with open arms.
It always seems to me that story focuses so much on the son, and the reaction and sermons are so focused on the son, that I always feel that the main character of the entire story is not talked about a lot. Even though we identify with the son, it’s the father that should be talked about a little more.
The parable draws comparisons of the father and to God. But let’s look deep into the father a little more.
- When the younger son asks for his inheritance (and essentially acknowledged his father as dead), the father objected to it initially. But with the constant insistence, the father knew that having his son fall and fail would be the only way his son would learn. He loved his son so much that he let him go instead of caging him. He knew that he would always leave the door open no matter what.
- During the son’s misadventures in the big city, the father stood outside every morning. The father would look out, hoping that he would see his son in the distance. He loved his son so much that he would wait and hope for his return.
- When the son returned, the father didn’t just stand and wait. Instead, the father ran out and met him. He loved his son so much that he dropped everything and ran towards him. Nothing else was more important than his own son.
- During that time, the style to wear in that day was a simple robe. Running in it isn’t ideal as the length of the robe runs down tot he ankles. But for the father, he ran anyway. He probably had to pull up his robe while he ran, likely exposing his underwear — that is if they wore underwear back in the day. He loved his son so much that he was willing to run, exposing his legs and underwear and possible embarrassment, to greet his son.
- When the son tried to give his reasons and excuses, the father wasn’t having it. What the son said didn’t matter because the father was full of joy and wanted to celebrate. He loved his son so much that he just forgave all the wrongdoings and celebrated with the best clothes, best food and best party they could have.
- The older son complained about this, but the father continued to love and assure that his love never wavers. He loved both his sons so much that he knew what to say and what each son needed, to ensure their comfort in him.
Now isn’t that a great father? His love for his son is amazing. That’s the kind of father we need and have in God.
What I like so much about this parable is that despite all the mistakes, the father’s love for his son never left. Instead it grew. He stood and waited, he saw and ran towards him. He was running with his underwear exposed and he didn’t care. His love for his son was so strong that it trumped everything.
That’s what God is all about. Our God loves us so much He doesn’t care about embarrassment. He waits anxiously for us and celebrates when we do come home. Having my Father run out in his underwear to greet me is probably the best visual I have of how much He loves me.
Knowing that God is like that brings me more comfort than anything else. That’s the loving God I want, need and have.
I think for me, I appreciate the story more knowing how amazingly loved I am by my Father. And knowing that my Father would do all that for me, I always feel uplifted when I turn to Him. He truly is the best Father we could ever have.