Deep Dive into Jesus' Prodigal Story Part 8: The Humility of the Father

grace parenting adults parenting prodigals prodigal story Sep 30, 2023

We've already discussed the father's humility in Jesus' parable of the man who had 2 sons. But at this point in the story, we'd be amiss if we didn't revisit this subject.

Once the prodigal "came to his senses" and realized that his father's hired servants had enough food to share with him; he headed back home having squandered his inheritance, emptied of pride, but loaded with humility, and desperate to find a place--just maybe--among his father's servants.

Where once the prodigal despised his father (and all he stood for), he saw him now with new eyes. He still didn't realize how much his father loved him, but he did put his hope in his father's character as a fair and honest man. Most likely he expected to return home to his father's anger that would demand he treat him with utmost respect as he pled to work for him as a servant.

The son most likely expected to be confronted by the villagers and hoped to survive the kezazah. He would have to face the shame of coming home broken; and he would be confronted with his sin by the family members and friends he'd offended. If he survived the kezazah ceremony he would then sit outside his family gate and hope to be granted audience with his father. Finally he might be summoned, and after being rejected by the community, he would then present his case before a very angry father. He intended to apologize and beg for a job so that he could earn and repay what he had foolishly squandered.

Instead, this is what happened. Luke 15:20-24 then tells the most extraordinary part of this story, 

"So he returned home to his father, and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son,' But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put in on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast. for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found, So the party began."

The father runs to meet his son. When we read this, we think, "Oh, how great is that?! The father missed his son so much that he couldn't help but run to greet him!" But there is a whole lot more to the father's running.

First of all, fathers never ran. To run anywhere would be humiliating. Sons and daughter might've run to their fathers, but fathers never lowered themselves to run to their children. This is what Bailey said (in The Cross and the Prodigal), 

"In the Middle East a man of his age and position always walks in a slow, dignified fashion. It is safe to assume that he has not run anywhere for any purpose for forty years. No villager over the age of twenty-five ever runs. But now the father races down the road. To do so, he must take the front edge of his robes in his hand like a teenager. When he does this his legs show in what is considered a humiliating posture. All of this is painfully shameful for him."

Imagine the humility of this father.

Kristin McLelland teaches (in her study titled The Running Father) that the father isn't running simply because he missed his boy, he's running to perhaps save his life. If the father sees his son, so does the community. And if the community gets to the prodigal first, he might lose his life.

Scripture says that the father was filled with love and compassion. Compassion in biblical terms means that one enters into the pain of another with him. 

So, even though his son wasted 1/3 of the family's wealth; and humiliated him before the community, he RAN (thus shaming himself) to meet his son in order to share in his shame, and save him from judgment. 

The father greets his son with a huge embrace and kisses. The prodigal starts in to his prepared speech, but mid-sentence, the father interrupts him by commanding his servants to hurry to the house and bring out the best robe, a ring for his finger and sandals on his feet. He tells them to kill the fattened calf (that rightfully belongs to the older brother now), and prepare for a feast. 

This tremendous public display of affection and redemption was purposeful. 

The robe...the best robe...would have belonged to the Father. Right there, in the presence of the community, the Father atones for the sin of the son. He covers him, filth and all, with His best robe.

The ring...the signet ring...the one that carried authority and power. Right there, in the presence of the community, the Father reinstates his son with full rights, privileges and authority of the Father. 

Sandals...Did you know that only sons wore sandals? Hired servants didn't wear shoes.

The fattened calf and the celebration..."this son of mine was dead and is alive again! He was lost and now is found." With full intent to redeem, the father took all the power and resources He had to raise his son back to his proper position as a beloved son in spite of the heinous wrong he had done to Him.

Who found the son? The Father did! The son came home and his Father made him whole.

If you thought it took a dose of humility to pick himself up and head home from the pig pen, imagine how the prodigal felt as he sat in the seat of honor at the celebration. 

I am overwhelmed at the humiliation of the father demonstrated in order to save his son. One more thing...

Whose glory was demonstrated at the feast? That of the son? NO! Heaven's, no! The glory being demonstrated at the celebration was that of the Father as He lavished His love on His son.



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