Summary: Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, God regrets your rebellion but loves you so much he will let you walk out of fellowship with him. But He is also a God who runs to you when you return and restores you when you repent.
That’s the normal ending of the story. But Jesus gives a surprise twist to the plot. Now, picture the father in Jesus’ parable. His heart was broken when his son left. Every day while he was gone, the father thought of the son and wondered where he was and what he was doing. Each afternoon about sundown he would walk to the edge of his property, stand at his stone fence and look down the road that had taken his son away. He was looking, longing, hoping that one day his son would return. Then one afternoon, he sees a bent over figure dragging along the road. It can’t be his son, because his son always had a spring in his step and held his head high–and besides, this character was dressed in rags. His son always was dressed in fine clothing. But as he continued to look, there was something about the figure that looked familiar. In a flash, the father realized it was his son. Then he did an amazing thing. He jumped the stone fence and sprinted out to meet his son. Verse 20 says, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him.” Then it says, “he was filled with compassion and he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” The Greek verb there indicates he kept on kissing him. We would say he “smothered him with kisses.”
In the Jewish culture, men wore long robes. In order for a man to run, he had to lift the hem up and hold it high to keep from tripping over it. In doing so, he would bare his legs, which was considered highly undignified. Men of respect never ran; it would have been embarrassing. But can’t you see this father grabbing handfuls of robe and running toward his son? He didn’t wait for the son to reach him, he ran to meet the son. He hugged and kissed his rebellious son before the son said one word! Remember the son had been working in the pigpen. He looked and smelled awful, not exactly the kind of person you want to hug and kiss! The father could have said, “Oh, you’re back–good. Clean yourself up before you come into this house!” But instead, the father accepted him “just as he was.”
“When you start home, I’ll meet you more than halfway!”
And God the Father, the Creator of the Universe will welcome you the same way–just as you are. Now, this is a revolutionary portrayal of God. Jesus said God runs to meet us when we decided to return to Him. Some of you have drifted out of fellowship with God. You have walked away from the presence of your heavenly Father. You see, whenever you choose to sin and disobey God, you are leaving His holy presence. Right now, do you sense God is far away from you? God didn’t walk away from you; when you sinned, you walked away from him. But God is a loving heavenly Father who is longing for you to return. He is looking for you to return to Him. Wayward and backslidden child of God, He has a message for you today. With tender words of compassion He is saying to you: “When you start home, I’ll meet you more than halfway.” I love the song that says, “If you’ll take one step toward the Savior, my friend, you’ll find His arms open wide. Receive Him and all of your darkness will end; within your heart He’ll abide.”