Last week I mentioned how deeply I’m touched by the intensity of the search by God for the lost sheep and coin (in other words, us sinners). But in the story that our Youth Director Danny Scarbrough related this week – The Parable of the Lost Son – we see God waiting and watching. He’s not out searching for the son who has “squandered his wealth in wild living” (Luke 15:13). He hasn’t hired a detective agency or called the police. There’s no Amber Alert. In fact, twice the father speaks of this younger son as “dead” (Luke 15:24, 32).
As Danny told us, the request by the younger son for his share of the estate – while his father is still very much alive and in charge of his property – is tantamount to saying he wants his father to die. There appears to be quite a rift in the relationship! It seems, from the older brother’s reaction to the younger brother’s return, that there was no love lost there either. I’m sad to say that it’s like that in some families, you know? Rebellion, resentment, entitlement, favoritism, misunderstandings, jealousy – it’s out there, wrecking what should be our closest relationships.
In spite of the family troubles and the wounding the father must have felt, the biblical text tells us that he has apparently been watching the road since his son left home. He’s ready to run the second he sees his son returning, an act that would be considered unthinkable in the culture of the day. “While he was still a long way off…filled with compassion for him…he ran to his son…” And just like that the separation is forgotten, all is forgiven, and the party is on.
Don’t miss the act of contrition that started the ball rolling, though, okay? “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:18), the younger son confesses. Long before he spots his father looking for him on the road home, his heart has awakened to how lousy a kid he’s been. Spoiled, ungrateful, arrogant, rebellious. But finally, truly sorry.
The dead is now alive; the lost is found. True repentance has made the way for intimacy to return and the blessings to flow. Did the father know where to find his son? Sure he did, if you understand that in this story Jesus is telling us that the father is God, who knows all. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,” the Apostle Peter says, “and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12). God doesn’t always come looking for us, does he? And He won’t be put in a box. Sometimes he goes searching, and sometimes not. But always, whenever and however the relationship is restored, there’s a party! Hallelujah!!!