From a long way off

Searching FatherWhile driving (I get to do a lot of driving) I recently listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg concerning the Prodigal Son as recorded in
Luke 15. This prompted some thoughts so I stopped to record them. The thoughts have to do with the reaction of the father toward the son.

I am struck by the phrase, “while a long way off.” Jesus is telling us that the father did not wait for the son to come, the father ran to greet the wayward son. One of the right things about the missional movement is a recognition that the church cannot sit back and wait for people to come to hear the message. Christians must take the message to those who most desperately need to hear it. When we do this, we are emulating the Father that Jesus described to us.
The second observation is that when the Father did contact the son, there was no condemnation or criticism expressed. He was happy to have the relationship restored. The only emotion expressed by the Father is rejoicing at the return. Why then do so many who are outside of the church feel condemned by the church? We should be the very group of people who are most welcoming and most happy to see a relationship restored. Were we to do so, we would be emulating Jesus who left glory to come rescue us.

The third observation is that people matter than material things. By claiming his inheritance before the father’s death, the wild son put his father at a material disadvantage. Assets had to be liquidated to fulfill the request. All that was given to the son was wasted in excessive living.

Would the father be justified in requiring the son to work himself back into the father’s good grace? Would it be reasonable to make the son work to pay back what he wasted? From a human perspective, he would be completely justified in doing so. Yet this is not what the father does. The riches that were wasted seem to be nothing compared to the restored relationship.

This is a challenge to us as to how we view our posessions. I have been in churches where a spilled cup of coffee put leaders in a tizzy to make up rules about food and drink in the “sanctuary.” Are we more concerned about the beauty of our church campus than we are about the people around us? Are we willing to use our resources to reach out to those who need our love and message?

There is so much more that can be gleaned from this story. Jesus presents God as an unembarassed Father who exhibits a shocking devotion to his son. He displayed this behavior while looking to be restored to his son. He is a father that is willing to endure public ridicule for the sake of restoration with the lost son.

Should we not seek to emulate this father in this?

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Mark McIntyre

A follower of Jesus Christ who shares observations about how Scripture should impact the church and the world. Mark is the original author and editor of Attempts at Honesty.
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About Mark McIntyre

A follower of Jesus Christ who shares observations about how Scripture should impact the church and the world. Mark is the original author and editor of Attempts at Honesty.


  1. Planting Potatoes says:

    what a message…..I like your perspective on emulating the father!

  2. timbothecat says:

    Yes, YES, YES!
    What a fantastic view of the story Mark, and also a great example for the church as well. The “spilled coffee in the sanctuary” analogy is one that often gets to me as well. I would go as far as to say that one of the ways you can tell whether or not a church is in or heading towards revival is that they don’t care about such things (that’s not the only thing of course, but it’s an attitude of prevailing grace).
    I pray that spilled coffee would be the very least of our concerns as we reach out to the lost.

  3. This is a narrative that has inspired me for long time and always brings fresh new lessons. Some to share:
    1. The tittle of the narrative should be story of The Caring Father and not The Prodigal son. Some exegetes of various denominations have begun to raise that issue now when they dig deeper in the objective center of action of the story. The story narrated is in fact centered in the attitude taken by the father to the almost clear cut illegal actions of his son.
    2. The son rejects to help the father as was expected in Israel according to the Law. He repeals his duties as son, requires his share during his father lifetime and parts ways to strange lands. This was considered almost a sin against the law and his father. He could have been brought to trial by his Father but He didn’t.
    3. The Son goes and spends all his share in a “dissolute life” among gentiles. This is significant because he didn’t spent his fortune according to the Law but contrary to the Law.
    3. The son ended performing prohibited actions in the strange land and had to eat prohibited food to survive. He had to attend PIGS and this has a meaning, unclean animals.
    4. However, the outlook by the Father presents an all loving Father whose love transcends the Writings and what is to be expected.
    5. Why he outlooked for his son? because his son was a dead sentenced convict to be. his actions were clearly a defiance of the Law of the land and if captured when returning would have been subject to trial and most probably to death. Tha Father was not “looking” for His son. He was on the outlook to protect him if he sighted him before the rest. And the Father knew that his son would return to Him.
    6. As soon as the Father sees his son He runs to Him, embraces Him, gives his ring and new robes. The Father puts His Own personal protection over His Son again. No one in the land would dare to question the son anywhere because it would be akin to question the Father, His own Father.
    7. The Father makes an open celebration for his stranded Son. When his other Son protests, the Father says to Him that EVERYTHING HE HAS is HIS but rejoice should fill his heart for His lost brother had returned safe and alive.

    In my view this is a personal retelling of Jesus own life Incarnate. He came to the outlands that were outside the Father’s realm. He spent all his inheritance among the outcasts. He confronted and even attended pigs, the lowest possible sin. In the end He returned to the Father and was received with love and compassion, reknighted and robed with regal dress to be again at the side of the Father. The “other” son, (the Spirit) even though rebuked, was instructed that he should rejoice for the return of his “brother” and not complain by his actions.

    Isn’t this a not so allegorical recount of Salvation?

    Thanks for sharing!

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