The story of the prodigal son intrigues us all. Perhaps we see ourselves in its timelessness. Maybe it speaks to our great need to be with the Father. Perhaps we only realize how great things are at home when we, like the prodigal, find ourselves in want. When the prodigal asks for his inheritance, it was the same as saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.” He wastes all his inheritance with prodigality and finds himself in great want. Not until this moment of need does he come to himself.
When the prodigal comes to himself, he realizes that he is needlessly starving to death. He asks himself, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish?” “Give me” was his language in the beginning; now he begs, “please take me.” New thoughts stir within his soul. Blind before, now the lost boy can see. He begins to see what was before him all along, all that was good in his father’s house. Graciously, his father provides for him, not just a little bit, but in abundance. The wonder of it all is that this lost boy never saw the blessings of his father before. Now he can see the greatness of his father’s goodness.
What was there about the father’s goodness that would have caused the boy to want to return to him? He had to know his father was a man of compassion. But, now that he is at the cellar of his soul-house he experiences it personally. Nobody else wants him. The father welcomes him home with joy, “… this my son was lost and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” He has compassion on him and receives him.
Furthermore, the father’s compassion never gave in to despair. Compassion kept the father from becoming bitter. It kept his hope alive. “His father saw him when he was a great way off.” He longs for the lost boy to come home. He waits, longingly, for the time when the lost boy comes to realize his father is the only one to whom he can come. The father did not just prepare the feast, all things were ready. The only thing missing is the lost boy.
When the lost boy comes home, the father’s compassion is gracious. He welcomes and restores when it is not deserved. His father “fell on his neck and kissed him.” No probation. No equivocating. No endless reminding of how badly the father had been hurt. He simply accepts the boy back when the boy says, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer to be called your son.” The boy was right; he had forfeited the privilege to be called his son, but the father accepted him as his son. He could never repay what was lost. He has no right to be accepted back home. His solution was to return as a hired servant. Hired servants were from the outside; they did not belong to the estate. Only compassion removes the debt owed.
Further, the father’s warm compassion led him to rejoice. “Bring the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry.” The joy of the father is unimaginable. His heart-ache and grief were surely great. Now the boy has returned home. All is forgotten. All is set right. The feast is prepared as a time of joy. The years that have been added to his life vanish. Joy replaces his heavy heart. Now there is a euphoria that swells from within knowing his lost boy is home. Joy, what joy, inexpressible joy!
Finally, the compassion of the father compelled him to offer the best for this boy that was “lost and is now alive.” “Bring the best robe…and bring the fatted calf.” No half-hearted celebration. No begrudging sacrifice. Likewise, our heavenly Father offers to us the best heaven has to give. The sacrifice of His only Son shouts of love. No other sacrifice was or could be sufficient to take away sins. No other sacrifice could adequately express the Father’s love for us. That sacrifice of love is what compels us to come home when we have been in the far country.
Going home, what a sweet thought. When we have tried everything else and failed, we can always come home. We always know that there is one place we can go where we will be loved – home. However, there is really only one home. That is where God is. That is where our hearts should be. With our Father there is “bread and enough.” “For the Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy” (Psa. 145: 8).
by Rickie Jenkins