Over and over again throughout the prophets, the parables and the apostles’ preaching, we see that God’s heart is for us to know that we’re sons and daughters who have been given free access to the rich and full inheritance of Christ. My belief is that one of the primary battles Satan wages is his attempt to keep us from a full revelation of that. Called the Accuser, he works to keep us in poverty when it comes to knowing God’s love and walking in the authority God has given us. Satan wants us to keep our prayers in survival mode, focused on begging God for small withdrawals to cover our basic sustenance. He doesn’t want us to realize that we’ve been entrusted with the Kingdom itself.
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.
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.