December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
Watch our most recent mid-week message here.
We're so glad you're taking a next step to get connected! Login or create your Calvary account below.
Don’t have an account? Sign up ›
“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. 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. . . . In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”—Luke 15:20–24; 15:10 (NIV)
In today’s passage, we’ll explore the heart of the Father toward those who are far from Him.
Some context: Jesus is explaining to the Pharisees why He “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2 NIV) by telling a story about a son who asked his father for his inheritance WHILE HIS FATHER WAS STILL ALIVE, which was like saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead!” What a slap in the face, right?
But guess what? The father did it. And what did this wayward son do with it? He squandered it all on reckless living. After he loses everything, he comes to his senses and decides to come home and beg for his father’s forgiveness.
The dad runs to his son and embraces him with all the love he could muster. Here’s what this shows us about the father:
1) The father was unconcerned with public opinion. In that culture, a situation like this would have called for a harsh response on the part of the father. As far as the people were concerned, the son may as well have been dead, because his place in the family was gone forever. But this dad cared nothing about the opinions of the people or what was expected of him by those in the world. All he cared about was the return of his son—and the same thing is true of our heavenly Father.
Jesus was telling this parable in the first place because the Pharisees were complaining about Him hanging out with sinners. The thought of God hanging with these people was scandalous. But God is completely unconcerned with public opinion. He loves us, and when we come to Him, He accepts and adopts us, regardless of who we are and what we’ve done. This is something we really need to learn in our own lives if we ever desire to be effective witnesses. No matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like, what they’ve done, we need to see the people around us through the Father’s eyes.
2) The father was consumed with compassion. Look at verse 20 again: “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.” The Greek word for compassion here means “to feel deep in the gut of your soul, to be moved with intense pity.”
Throughout the Gospels, we see that Jesus was full of compassion for those who were lost, broken, hopeless, and helpless. This was the point of the parable: Jesus came for the lost and there’s great celebration when the lost are found! And just like the father in the story, just like our heavenly Father, we need to be people who are moved with compassion for the lost. We need to be people whose hearts break for those who are lost; people who understand we have a Father whose heart is gripped with compassion for those who are still a long way off from Him.
I want to close by stating a few lines from a beautiful old hymn:
“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.”
May we remember this truth and embrace this heart of God toward the people around us.
Pause: What does this parable teach us about God’s heart toward people? How does this impact the way you view the people around you—the people you see on the news, on Tik Tok, YouTube, in Hollywood, the media, politicians? What about those who are different from you, who look different, who talk or act different, who live different? What about those whose lifestyles are completely opposed to the truths and values found in the Bible? What about those who actively hate Christians, Christianity, and Christ? Does this parable challenge your heart and viewpoint toward them?
Practice: Is there someone in your life you’ve developed a hard heart toward? Perhaps it’s an entire group of people or a cultural movement. Whatever it is, God’s heart toward them is the same as the father in this parable. Even though they’re a long way off, He’s vigilantly looking for them to come home to Him and is ready to embrace them and cover them with the robe of His Son! Today, I encourage you to pray and ask for forgiveness for a heart that more closely resembles the older brother than the father, and ask God to give you His heart toward them and to give you opportunities to show His compassion and love to them.
Pray: Father, give me Your heart for the lost. Remove any Pharisaical prejudices, cynicism, hate, or apathy I may have toward any one person or group of people. May I always remember that I was once far off and lost and You saved me by the blood of Your Son, that You made Him who knew no sin to be sin on my behalf so I may be clothed with His robe of righteousness and be given the seal of Your kingdom and family. And may this reality propel me to love others in Jesus’ name and to walk in the compassion, grace, and kindness of Jesus toward the people around me who are lost and broken and far away from You. Use me, precious Father, to draw them into Your love and salvation! Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.