Title: COME HOME
Text: Luke 15:11-27
Those of you with older children will identify with this story. Sadly, it’s repeated all too often. It’s a story of pain. The pain of a parent watching their child in their teens or early 20’s making a wrong decision. You know it’s wrong…you know it will bring potential harm, but their growing independence demands lessons learned the hard way. Are you identifying with me yet? If not, this story is found in Luke 15. You know it as the story of the Prodigal Son. The son has some pain in the story too.
As Jesus tells the story, I wonder how many in the crowd thought they had blown it so bad that there was no hope of turning back? A ways into the story, this young man realized he could masquerade the pain no more.
Starring into the murky waters of the pigpen, he saw his reflection. His hair matted…his face muddy. He lies to himself: “Don’t think about it…things will be better tomorrow.” But his conscience shouts back “Not this time!” He thinks, “How far I have fallen!”…the first words of truth.
He looks into his own eyes. He thought of his father. “They always said I had your eyes.” He could see the look of hurt when he told him he was leaving. “How I must have hurt you.” A crack shot across his heart…a tear splashed into the murky pool. Another soon followed, then another, and another until the dam broke. As he buried his face in his hands, the tears did what they do so well…they flushed out his soul.
For the first time in a long time he thought of home. “Father, they used to say I looked like you. Now you wouldn’t even recognize me. Man, I blew it!”
He stood up and began to walk. The road home was longer than he remembered. The last time he traveled this road he turned heads because of his stylish clothes. Now heads would turn the other way because of the stench and reputation. But that didn’t bother him, because for the first time in a calendar of heartaches, he had a clean conscience. He was going home. Defiance had been replaced with repentance.
He had no idea how much his father had missed him. He had no idea how many times his father paused between chores to look out the front gate in search of his son. Or the number of times of restless sleep when his father went to his son’s empty room, sat on his bed and prayed for him.
As the boy came around the bend in the road, he rehearsed his speech one more time. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”
He placed his hands on the gate. The squeak of the hinge was familiar. But his fell and he turned away, thinking, “What’s the use?” Then he heard the flap, flap, flap of running sandals. He didn’t turn to look. It’s probably a servant coming to chase me away.” But no more than a couple of steps back down the wrong road, that familiar, tender voice rang out,”Son!” “Father?”
He turned to open the gate, but his father had, and stretching from post to post were open arms inviting his son to come home.
“Father, I have sinned.” There’s the confession. The words are muffled as he buried his face in his father’s shoulder.
The two wept. They stood at the gate intertwined as one. Words were unnecessary. Repentance was obvious…and so was the forgiveness. The boy was home again.
When Jesus told the story, I wonder if He used His hands? When He got to the end of the story, did He open His arms to illustrate the point? Perhaps in the audience there were those His Spirit knew were thinking, “I could never go home. Not after what I’ve done.”
Whether He did that that day or not, I know He did later. Later He stretched His arms as open as He could. He forced His arms so wide apart they hurt. And to prove those arms would never close, He had them nailed open!
And they are still open for you today!
Prayer: “Father, as the song says, ‘The years of pain won’t seem to matter when our eyes behold our Teacher and King!’”