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  • Dave Johnston

When God Ran

Messiah, Lord, Rabbi, Friend, and Companion. Jesus played a lot of roles in people's lives. But one thing we sometimes overlook is that Jesus was a master storyteller. Jesus could teach a masterclass on the elements of a great story. He made people laugh, he made them cry, and in this story that I want to share today, he also got them riled up!

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’” Luke 15:11-12 (NIV) 

This one line would have caused a stir amongst the crowd. You see, what Jesus stated was preposterous. Back then, you did not ask for your inheritance before the father was dead. It was disrespectful and even dangerous for the son. Let me explain.

They lived in a Patriarchal society, where the Father ruled the home. The Father could do as he wished and punish as he desired, even leading to imprisonment if he saw fit. They didn’t mess around. You did the Father's bidding. So, a request like this puts the son's future in distress. Yet, as the story shows, the Father relented and gave him what he asked.

When Jesus shared this with the crowd, it would have gotten the people's blood boiling. Jesus had them hooked. They may very well have thought something like, “how dare this boy even approach his provider in such a flippant disregard for everyone but himself!” Jesus was getting them in just the right frame of mind to make the point he wanted to make. But Jesus didn’t stop there, he upped the ante.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country, and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” Luke 15:13-16 (NIV)

 Now, come on, it’s one thing to leave your homeland, to live the party lifestyle, but it's another thing to party away all you had! Jesus didn’t stop there, he laid it even thicker. After he lost everything, the son was so desperate during the famine, that he went to work feeding pigs!! Good Jewish boys don’t ever get close to the piggies!! The people would have been beside themselves at this point. Again, Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on to say that he became so hungry that he desired to eat slop the pigs were eating. People would have lost their minds at this point in the story. How low can one go?

As you read this story, you see Jesus was building a case against this young man. The crowd bit hook, line, and sinker. They may have thought, “When you reject the Father and go your own way, it may be fun for a while, but it will catch up with you.” The crowd would have been right.

But I believe that Jesus wasn’t just building a case against the young man. He wanted people to understand the destruction of walking away from the Father, but what he was truly up to has astounded audiences for centuries. Saying no to sin is important, but Jesus was about to make his main point.

Finally, the son realized life without fellowship with the father was not good at all. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my Father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So, he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he RAN to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:17-20 (NIV) (emphasis mine). 

That last part gives me chills, it literally moves me with joy, unspeakable! It can take me from having a rough day filled with lies to FREEDOM! Did you catch it? I hope so. I even emphasized it. The Father Ran! Thank God the Father ran!

As you may know, the Son in the story represents you and me, and the Father represents God. Jesus was telling this story to display the wonder of God’s compassion for us and his response when we come home.

The Father ran. You may say, “Big deal, so he ran.” Oh, it was a big deal. You see, those Patriarchs I spoke of earlier ruled their roost and were nothing but dignified in their interactions with everyone. That was the culture of the day. But in the story, the Father ran, and running was anything but culturally dignified. You need to remember that the father wasn’t wearing a pair of blue jeans or running shorts. He was wearing a long tunic that would have gone down to his ankles. For the Father to run, he would have had to pull his tunic up, tucking it between his legs so he would not trip while he ran. Picture it? Pretty undignified, huh? But he did it.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants. ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:21-24 (NIV) 

Jesus was showing us the fact that when you and I come home to him, he has compassion for us. He doesn’t hesitate; he doesn’t run to us and slap us around, telling us all that we had done wrong and that we better get our act together. No, he doesn’t do any of that. He runs to us, throws his arms around us, and blesses us greatly. The only thing the son in the story did was come back home. That is for us. God is beckoning us to come back home to the heart of the Father. He loves us unconditionally, and he is waiting to bless us greatly. It is grace personified. When we come home to the Father, he gives us gifts we don’t deserve and throws a Bar-b-Que in our honor. Why? Because he loves us and chooses to have intimate relationships with us. Wow!!!!

Where are you? Are you at home but wanting to leave? Are you in a “distant” land living it up? Are you struck with the consequences of your sin? Wherever you are, come home. Are you struggling and not sure what to do next? Come Home. Have you been hurt? Come home. God the Father will RUN to you, throw his arms around you, and the two of you will celebrate. When you and I come home, God runs for us! 

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