A Sermon Manuscript by Robert L. Cobb
Editor, NewsForChristians Dot Com
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,
and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him..."
Every father makes mistakes! There is no such thing as a "perfect father" in this life. Many dads judge themselves by their failures at parenting. Discipline and punishment mistakes...Mistakes having to do with a lack of trust... Over protectiveness... There are hundreds of ways for a father to fail in parenting. And we fathers have probably, at one time or another, found ourselves authors of most of them. But God Almighty pictures Himself as a Father in Scripture; He is our "Heavenly Father," and He has never made a mistake. He is truly a "perfect Father."
In the parable of the prodigal son, we see an example of the perfect father, a picture of God Himself. As preachers and as Bible readers, we usually focus on the son in this story, and rightly so. But there is much to be said about the father in this story. Let us use the father of the prodigal son as our picture of the perfect father. There is much we can learn from studying his actions in this story.
I. A GODLY FATHER IS FAR-SIGHTED IN HIS OUTLOOK. "...But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him..." After the son had so ignorantly demanded his inheritance at the beginning of the story, he was now destitute and returning home as a beggar. We find that the father is more anxious for the son to return than the son is to return! The phrase, a great way off, is one word in the Greek, and self-explanatory. It infers that the distance was farther than the father would have been expected to see. And the word saw in the text also has particular importance. It is the Greek word eido, and means to perceive with discernment, to observe, inspect or examine closely and with great regard.
The position of fatherhood has been undercut in modern society, both by modern culture and by fathers themselves, who do not seem to realize the potential or the importance of their place. The father in the modern TV show is the 'Al Bundy" type: selfish, ignorant, and totally irrelevant to the function of the family unit. In the time of this parable, however, the position of the father was one of honor. The very fact that this son demanded the portion that falleth to me, was an affront and an insult to the father. He was under no obligation to do so! But the text says that he divided unto them his living. That is he cut up and distributed his sustenance, his entire life's worth. This Greek word bios is also used in Luke 8:43 where the woman with the issue of blood "spent all of her living..." So you see what the father of the prodigal son did was a life changing event. At the behest of an ungrateful and sinful son, the father gave up all his wealth and influence and distributed it to his sons. This division would have taken place at the father's death, but the father had sacrificially given up all that he possessed for his children. What a picture of God's love for humanity!
But the point of this message is to get you to see the father's vision. His youngest son had a spiritual problem; the father's challenge was to bring him back to a place of love and honor in the family. And he was willing to lose everything to make it happen. He put his plan into action and waited. And now, in our text, he sees the fruit of his gambit. Here comes the son back home! A broken and humble young man! Destitute and hungry! And the father was far-sighted enough to see this whole scenario work itself out. It was not a surprise that his son was coming home; it was his plan all along!
Two points of application: To sons and daughters --if you have a godly dad, listen to his advice and wisdom. His life experiences can help you avoid many pitfalls. But more importantly, his spiritual experiences of walking with the Lord can help him discern things that the younger person could never fathom! And to dads --Are you walking closely with your God? Spiritually, are you in a place that God can use you to reveal the truths of God to your children? Possibly the greatest attribute of a godly dad is his vision and outlook for his kids' future.
II. A GODLY FATHER IS COMPASSIONATE IN HIS DECISION-MAKING. The text says that he had compassion, meaning that he was moved deep inside with great feelings of love and pity. The Greek word used here is used 12 times in the gospels. In every other instance it is spoken by Christ Himself, as in Mat. 9:36 and 14:14 when Jesus was moved with compassion on others. It was the compassion of Christ that brought healing to the people, that brought miracles to supply their need, and brought wisdom through His teaching. Christ ministered through and by compassion. It was his motive for service.
A godly father ministers to his family by that same kind of compassion. Compassion is not always displayed by loving hugs and affectionate kisses. Sometimes there are hard choices to be made, and the right choice may not always seem compassionate. But the godly father must make sure that a compassionate heart is always at work in him, even in times of discipline and correction.
III. A GODLY FATHER IS EAGER IN HIS ENTHUSIASM. Our text says that he ran. It is such a tiny word, but carries great meaning. He made haste as one who runs in a race, exerting himself to the point of peril. So, this was not just a jog out to the mailbox or to the end of the driveway. The story paints a picture of the silhouette of a man on the horizon, a good distance away. The father rises up and runs the distance without faltering or slowing until he reaches his son. The father had waited patiently for the son to return. Now, as he nears, it would be the thought of many to say, "Let him wait...he made me wait...let him wonder how I will react to seeing him again."
Not this father! He is eager to engage his son, to advance their relationship, to help him in any way that he can. Psalm 70:5 says, "But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying." Another famous parable in the book of Luke tells us of the shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine safe sheep to rescue the one that was in distress. Can we fathers say that we are eager in our service to our family and our God? Do your children see you eagerly partaking of the things of God? Seven times in the Book of Revelation Jesus says, "I come quickly..." The eagerness of our spirituality makes an impression on our children.
IV. A GODLY FATHER IS RECONCILING IN HIS RELATIONSHIPS. "...and fell on his neck..." What a wonderful picture this is. The runaway slave, upon his capture, was required to lie down on the ground and expose his neck to his owner, which then must decide whether to allow him to live or die. If the verdict was death, the slaveowner was then required to place his foot on the neck of the slave; if the owner agreed to take the slave back, he was to lift him up by his hand. The son had decided to come back home and offer himself as a servant to his father, so, as a servant, he presented his neck for the decision. The father did not place his foot on the neck, nor did he lift him up on his feet. He fell on his neck and kissed him. The Greek word epipipto means to fall into an embrace, to seize or to take possession of a thing. It is the same word used of the Holy Spirit falling on the church or the Christian.
At the time of this writing, the author has just viewed the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel. Randall McCoy, the patriarch of the McCoy clan claimed to be a Christian man --a man of prayer. But at every perceived slight, he was quick to pronounce judgment and damnation to those whom he thought had done him evil. Hatred consumed this man to the point that it killed him. The most deadly feud in American history could have been avoided if one father had sought reconciliation instead of retribution.
2nd Corinthians 5:19 says "...that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." As Christians, we have been reconciled to God and we are to see that such reconciliation is available to others.
V. A GODLY FATHER IS TENDER IN HIS MERCY. "...and kissed him..." The word means to kiss much, to kiss again and again in a tender fashion. Most Christian men are concerned about projecting a "manly" persona. It is a terrible thing for most men if they are perceived as "sissy" or "unmanly." Showing affection is difficult for a lot of men, even Christian dads. But that is not the attitude of this father. He loved his son and showered him with affection. Of course, this was certainly a special time, and the father probably didn't make a habit of displaying so much affection, but this was warranted in this situation. It is not unmanly to shed a tear or be affectionate if the situation calls for it. James 5:11 says, "...we have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." Psalm 51:1 tells us, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions."
VI. A GODLY FATHER IS HAPPY IN HIS FELLOWSHIP. Verse 22-23 tells how the father called for the servants to array the prodigal son with a new wardrobe. Then he called for a "coming home" party for the son. The killing of the fatted calf is of particular mention because it shows that the father had planned for this day. Cattle are "fattened" by putting them up in a stall and feeding them certain food that makes for better meat. To "fatten" a calf is to plan to kill and consume it. The father not only accepted the son back into the family, but made a holiday of it. To "be merry" means to rejoice, to make glad, to be delighted with a thing.
No one likes to hang around an unhappy person! We have all known people who are never satisfied with their lot in life; they continually complain and make themselves and everyone around them miserable. This should never be true of a Christian, but sadly, many times it is. Psalm 144:15 says, "...happy is that people, whose God is the Lord." Also, in Psalm 127:4-5, "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them..."
VII. A GODLY FATHER IS PREPARED
FOR MORE ADVERSITY.
Someone said that "life is a series of solving problems." This is especially
true of the Christian father. The father in this parable had just won a
great victory in seeing his son return home. What a blessing and a time
of rejoicing! But, before the party for the prodigal had ended, a new situation
had arisen. The oldest son, working in the fields, had heard the commotion
and enquired of the circumstances. Upon finding out the news, he becomes
angry and jealous. He was the "good son." He had never caused his
Dad a problem at all. But he never got a party thrown in his
honor! The Bible says in verse 28 that the father "intreated him..."
The meaning is to exhort him...console him...comfort, encourage, and strengthened
CONCLUSION: A perfect father only exists in the pages of the Word of God and in the Person of our Heavenly Father alone. No earthy father can claim to be perfect. Most fathers I know would not dare to say that they are even "good" fathers. But, as we seek to be more like Christ, we can exemplfy the qualities we see in this, the perfect picture of a father.
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