it is important for us to realise just how insulting and offensive the son’s attitude towards his father is, because otherwise we will never fully ‘get’ just how incredibly over-the-top ludicrously insane the father’s response is.

the father hands over to his son the inheritance (and if it is half of everything he owns then it must be at cost to him and to his lifestyle and comfort/luxury) and the sons heads off and wastes it on ‘wild living.’

eventually the son has spent all his money and his ‘friends’ have all disappeared now that he is no longer providing the party and he ends up working as a man who feeds pigs. it gets so bad he starts looking at the food the pigs are eating and being tempted to dig in. realising that his father’s servants eat better than that, he decides to head home and throw himself at his mercy and ask if he cannot return as a servant in his dad’s house.

now if we ‘get’ how completely rude and disrespectful the son had been to his father, then the father’s response is even more insane. in the jewish culture of the day a man of wealth and position would never run. he was dignified and would walk at his own leisure to demonstrate that position.

but in the story Jesus is telling, the moment the father spots the son (which shows that he was looking out for the son and probably spent a lot of time doing so) he runs out of the house and sets off down the road, screaming to his servants to bring the good robe and the ring and sandals and start killing the fattened calf for the party we are going to have tonight.

not just undignified for a father of his stature to act that way – but remember he is acting in response to the hugest possible insult and betrayal from his son – and the response is absolute unconditional undefiled love.

the kind of love the world does not largely ‘get’ today, except in extreme cases. the kind of love the church is meant to be known for and by, altho too often is sadly known for the opposite (especially when it comes to treatment of people we view as horrible sinners – rather them than us).

the God i love and serve is the father in that story. even while we were turning our backs on Him and rejecting Him and screaming (with our mouths or our lifestyles) ‘i wish You were dead!” He was watching us with love and compassion and secretly storing up party supplies and simply waiting for the second we came to our senses and started the journey home…

And then there He is, once again, running undignifiedly full of compassion and love and forgiveness and mercy and hope and invitation and declaration (my son was once dead but is alive) straight towards you…