Focus Text: Luke 15.20-21

“And he [the prodigal son] arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” (Luke 15.20-21).

Whether one likes what the prodigal had done or not, it is impossible not to like his penitent attitude in coming home! He returned broke and broken, but he returned. Pride could have stopped him, but there is no evidence that this was ever a problem with the younger son; the same cannot be said for the older brother, but that is a matter for another day. Our focus is on How God Treats Sinners and in this parable, the Father represents God and the younger brother represents sinners (at least one class of sinners). We resume our thoughts on this vital theme.

“While he was still a great way off, his father saw him…” Others have correctly observed that the father obviously was looking, and probably longing, for the return of his son. I picture him daily peering toward the distant horizon, hoping against hope that his lost boy would return. Granted, this adds detail that is not in the story, but is it is certainly consistent with the character of God as it is revealed in other scripture.

Further to the attitude of the father, he “…had compassion.” More literally, the father was “moved with compassion.” Note the sequence of events. The boy had not yet uttered a word; for all the father knew, he was coming back with sinister motives, but compassion superseded all other emotions; the father’s joy was overwhelming! Perhaps other emotions had characterized the father before, maybe, or frustration, or sadness. However, on this day, the day that his son returned, compassion and great joy pushed all other feelings aside!

With such joy in his heart, the father “…fell on his neck and kissed him.” I must admit that I had never seen the import of this phrase until I began looking more closely at the story. According to A. T. Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures, the more accurate understanding is that the father “…kissed him again and again.” It was a tremendously emotional moment for the father, and it was a tremendously humbling experience for the son. What a wonderful sight! Compassion in the heart of the father coupled with humble penitence in the heart of the prodigal!

We close today’s thoughts by observing the son’s succinct summary of all that mattered. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Now the father’s joy was complete; not only was his son okay physically, but he was okay spiritually! In reality the boy that left did not return; rather, a man came back in his place. The boy departed chasing selfish dreams, but a man returned accepting full responsibility for his actions! Only the most calloused heart would not find joy in these events; this certainly was not the case with the prodigal’s father; God treats some sinners like the father treated the prodigal.

Questions:

1. Upon his return, what were the first words which the prodigal spoke to his father?

2. What is significant about the statement that the father had compassion on the son?

3. What is evidenced by the fact that the father fell on his son’s neck and kissed him again and again? At the time, what was more important than the return of his son?

4. Make a list of things the boy had to overcome in order to return home. Was there anything difficult about it? What part did humility have to do with the son’s return?