The wayward son in the parable in Luke 15 didn’t fare so well in the far country. He left thinking he would live the high life and it lasted a while, but pretty soon he was low with the hogs! Jesus uses six words in Luke 15:13 to describe what happened: He “squandered his wealth in wild living.” There’s a lot that can be read into those words, but basically the word in the Greek is a picture of someone just throwing away money. With a pocketful of money, he headed straight for the casinos, the bars, and the strip joints, and blew all of his funds. Before he could turn around it was all gone. He ended up in a pig-pen. Jesus said he “came to his senses” and realized a servant in his father’s house had it better than he did. He finally swallowed something even worst then the pig food he was eating –his pride–and started the long journey back home. How does the father receive him?

Scholars have discovered a similar story to this existed among Jewish rabbis for many years before Jesus told it. In the earlier form, the younger son ran away and spent all his father’s money and when he came crawling home, the father rejected him. So, as Jesus was telling this story, the Pharisees and tax collectors were thinking, “Yeah, I’ve heard this one before.” His audience of Pharisees and tax collectors expected Him to say, “One day the father saw his son returning. He waited with his arms crossed. The broken-down son begged his father to take him back. But the father looked away from him and said, ‘Forget it! You had your chance. You’ve chosen to love like a pig, now go back to your pigs. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it!’”

In fact the Old Testament prescribed that a father could have a rebellious son stoned to death. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey…his father and mother shall bring him to the elders and say, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.’ Then all the men shall stone him to death.” That was the way the Pharisees expected the father in the story to treat his son.

But Jesus gives a surprise twist to the plot. Now, picture the father in Jesus’ parable. His heart was broken when his son left. Every day while he was gone, the father thought of the son and wondered where he was and what he was doing. Each afternoon about sundown he would walk to the edge of his property, stand at his stone fence and look down the road that had taken his son away. He was looking, longing, hoping that one day his son would return. Then one afternoon, he sees a bent over figure dragging along the road. It can’t be his son, because his son always had a spring in his step and held his head high–and besides, this character was dressed in rags. His son always was dressed in fine clothing. But as he continued to look, there was something about the figure that looked familiar. In a flash, the father realized it was his son. Then he did an amazing thing. He jumped the stone fence and sprinted out to meet his son. The Greek verb there indicates he kept on kissing him. We would say he “smothered him with kisses.”

Jesus said God runs to meet us when we decided to return to Him. No matter how far you have go away from God in your relationship, he is just waiting for you to return – full of love.

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