Mark Stibbe "A friend of mine in the United States had adopted his son. He and his wife had gone to a law court where a judge sat before them. He had read them the requirements of adoption in the strongest possible terms. My friends recalled how nervous they had felt as the judge spoke in a grave and sombre tone. Then he asked them, ‘Do you want me to sign this adoption paper, so you can adopt your son?’ The couple looked at each other and then said yes. At that moment the judge walked towards them and placed teh paper on the table where my friends were sitting. Before he signed the certificate he looked at the, and with tears in his eyes, said these words: ‘This is the best decision you could possible make. And I know that, because I ama dad who has adopted a child. Even though there have been difficult times, I don’t regret that decision for a moment." You see what happened there? The judge came down and revealed himself as a dad. That’s what many Christians need today. They need to know God as "Daddy" not just as "Judge". They need to come out of the law court and into the living room.
Reinhold Niebuhr was one of the most respected theologians of the twentieth century. He wrote the famous prayer associated with Alcoholics Anonymous: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. When Niebuhr was 21 years old, his father died. Two months later, the young man spoke in the pulpit his father used to occupy. This is what he said: As a child I once spent a day with my grandmother. Toward evening a severe storm began. "Now how will you get home, child?" she asked. But then my father came to fetch me. He had a big blue coat and as we left he said, "Come under here." I slipped under the coat, grabbed his hand, and off we went. I couldn’t see anything as we splashed through puddles and mire. I heard the rain and the thunder and seized my father’s hand and held it tightly. I would have been a fool if I had complained that it was dark around me. After all, it was my father’s coat, protecting me from the weather, that made it dark. Father saw the path; I knew that … and when the coat parted, we were home! Father had brought me home…. So it is with our Heavenly Father. If only we trust him, he holds our hand, takes us under his wings and leads us through storm and tempest.
Luke 15:20 "God on the neck of a sinner! what a wonderful picture! Can you conceive it? I do not think you can; but if you cannot imagine it, I hope that you will realise it. When God’s arm is about our neck, and his lips are on our cheek, kissing us much, then we understand more than preachers or books can ever tell us of his…love" Spurgeon
We should remember that the punishment Jesus bore was inflicted not by the Father but by those who crucified him. The abuse came not from divine but human hands. This is the point that Mel Gibson was trying to make during the filming of The Passion of the Christ. At a critical moment, when the nails are being driven into Jesus’ hands, it is Mel Gibson’s hand that is photographed hammering the first nail. This was the director’s way of demonstrating that it was he who made Christ suffer so. It was our sins that put him there.
The truth that Jesus was conveying in the parable of parables is simply this: God is a Father who runs to rescue us. He is truly the God who saves. A minister in a church in America was about to start his sermon during an evening service when he briefly introduced a visiting minister in the congregation. He said that the visitor was one of his dearest friends and accordingly asked him to say a few words. With that, an elderly man walked to the pulpit and told a story: A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific coast when a fierce storm hit them and the three were swept into the sea as the boat capsized. Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most painful decision of his life. Who was he to throw the lifeline to? The father knew his own son was a Christian and that the son’s friend was not. The father yelled, ‘I love you’ to his boy as he threw the line to the boy’s friend, pulling him to safety, while his son disappeared for ever beneath the waves. The father knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus but couldn’t bear the thought of the friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. Concluding, the visitor said, ‘How great is the Father’s love for us that he gave his only Son that we should be rescued. So take hold of the lifeline that the Father is throwing you in this service tonight.’ With that the old man finished and the minister took his place in the pulpit, and preached his message. At the end of the meeting, some teenagers came up to the visitor. They had been looking very sceptical throughout the old man’s story and had not responded to the appeal. ‘That wasn’t a very realistic story,’ they said mockingly ‘No dad would do that.’ ‘You’ve got a point,’ said the visitor. ‘But I’m standing here tonight to tell you that this story gives me, personally, a great glimpse into the Father’s love for us. You see, I was that father, and your minister here is my son’s friend.’
You may never have had a dad who loved you so. You may never have had a dad who felt for you, who ran to you when you were in trouble. If present social trends are anything to go by, it’s rather unlikely that you have a dedicated dad who is physically and emotionally present. It’s unlikely that you have a dad you could run to when you’re in trouble, or even better, who would run to you. So many people in this fatherless society have never known such love. This is bad news indeed. But there is good news, and the good news is that there is a Father in heaven who loves us with such dedication. By painting this picture of the father in the parable in Luke chapter 15, Jesus was saying somthing immensely significant to us. He was saying God is a father who runs to sinful people, even though they rebelled against him and deserve nothing.
Many parents today will tell you that they wish they had more of the virtue of patience. I love the story of the man in the supermarket who was pushing a trolley which contained, among other things, a screaming baby. As the man proceeded along the aisles, he kept repeating softly. ‘Keep calm, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t yell, George.’ A lady watching in admiration said to the man, ‘You are certainly to be commended for your patience in trying to quiet little George.’ ‘Lady’, he declared, ‘I’m George!’
The parable in Luke 15 – like all parables – has two levels. On the superficial level it tells the story of a son who said "Drop Dead!" to his father, ran away from home, and came back to find his dad waiting for him with arms opened wide. On the deeper level, it paints a picture of what human beings have done in running away from God, and how God has run to us in love.
At the beginning of one of his short stories, Hemingway makes reference to the tale of a Spanish father who wanted to be reconciled to his son, who had run away from home to the city of Madrid. The father missed his son and put an advert in the local newspaper, El Liberal. The advertisement read, "Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love Papa!" When the Father went to the Hotel Montana the next day at noon there were eight hundred young men named Paco waiting for their fathers.