Sometimes it takes a public disgrace to distract people from personal humiliation. It takes something more scandalous than the sin itself to draw attention away from gossip-worthy, life-altering sins.
The story of The Prodigal Son is this kind of story. It’s a story of gossip-worthy, life-altering, end-up-in-a-pig-sty kind of sins. The title comes from the recklessness of the younger son’s sins, but it could easily be given an alternate title of The Prodigal Father. The story is filled with foolish decisions of a loving Father. From the inheritance to the forgiveness to the party to even more forgiveness, the love of the Father is hard to imagine.
@@The unconditional, single-handed love of a God that forgives with no-strings-attached is always hard to imagine.@@
When the Father Puts Dignity Aside
When the Father’s son finally comes to his senses, the Father without hesitation allowed himself to be disgraced for the benefit of his son. The son had his speech prepped and ready to go, but his dad didn’t let him get the words out. He was going to ask for nothing more than to be a servant, but he didn’t get a chance. While the son walked back rehearsing his speech, the Father saw him first.
The text tells us, “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.”
How long was the Father waiting on the patio and staring off into the distance?
Was this a daily routine? Was this going on for weeks? Months?
And what happened next was unheard of - the dad ran out to his son.
In Jesus’ culture, Father’s didn’t run. Kids ran. Maybe the women would run. But the men were too dignified for that kind of behavior. If the Father ran out, he’d have to hike up his robe, show the skin of his legs and do what no dignified man would do.
But that’s exactly what he did.
He didn’t care what it cost him. The disgrace was worth it. Before the neighbors even had a chance to start talking about what son did wrong or the nerve he had to show back up in this town, the Father distracted them with his undignified bare legs.
I don’t know what sins make you want to hang your head in shame, but what I do know is this: @@Jesus loves to distract people from your sin with his love.@@ Jesus loves to give up his dignity for the sake of yours.
And then there’s the party.
Imagine what people were thinking when they got invited to the welcome home party. We know how the older brother reacted, he excused himself from the party. But what about the community? But the Father didn’t care. The celebration of a returned prodigal was more important than the feelings of a hundred who were possibly offended.
Customarily, the son would be despised and cut off from the community, but the Father brought him in and celebrated. There wasn’t a gift or a speech required.
And then the father left the party.
In Jesus’ culture, not only did the party not make sense, but the Father was even more disgraced when he chose to leave the party for the other son. To throw a party and not have one of your kids there would have been embarrassing. The father shouldn’t have to plead or beg, but that’s exactly what he did.
He ignored the damage that leaving the party might cause his own reputation, and he risked it for the possibility that his son might come back in. The disgrace was worth it in order for him to remind his son, “Everything I have is yours.”
The Father’s disgrace frees us the shame and self-righteousness that keep us from the party. The Father puts dignity in the backseat in order to cover over our shame. And the Father allows himself to be disgraced to confront our self-righteousness by reminding us what is already ours.
He counts the cost and ignores the foolishness of the deal. @@The cross is the spectacle that robs sin and shame of it’s power over us.@@ In that bloody spectacle, the eyes come off of us and our failure, and we can finally feel the embrace of our Father.
Welcome home. Welcome to the party.