(20) 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.Luke 15:20
The second character we will look at is the father. He is a picture of the forgiveness of God. Once the son came to himself, action preceded. He got up and went to his father. When we see the response of the father it is incredible. There is so much significance in his actions in this one verse.
His Father saw him at some distance. This means that his father was looking for him. The parent with the wayward child may understand this circumstances. There must have been a lot of praying and a lot of watching. And now, after all of this time, he finally sees what he has been praying for happening right in front of him. Finally, he sees his son walking down the road.
Let the actions in this verse play like a video in your mind. The father saw his son, had compassion, ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him. It has been noted by many commentators that it was undignified for a Jewish man to run. It was not typical. The imagery here is of a father who does not care what people think. His son is home! He isn’t waiting for his son to come beg for forgiveness, although his son is prepared to beg. No, this father runs out to him. The repentance shown in just coming home was enough for the father to do the undignified thing by running, hugging, and kissing his prodigal, pig smelling, long lost son.
The father forgave his son. This is a picture of God’s heart to forgive repentant people. He wants people to repent. He is looking to forgive. When repentance leads to return, it always results in forgiveness. Look at what Peter said about God’s heart for people:
(9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9
The Father’s heart is for people to repent and return to Him. The apostle Paul said something similar to the men of Athens on mars hill.
(24) God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (25) Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (26) And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; (27) That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:Acts 17:24-27
God places people when they are and where they are so that they would seek Him and find Him.
- God’s heart for forgiveness should cause us to repent ourselves, to pray for those who are far from God, and to proclaim God’s forgiveness to those who need it.