More Verbs That Make All the Difference in the World: He Came Out and Begged

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him.

Luke 15:28

As we made our way through the first part of the parable of the prodigal son, we focused our attention on several verbs that make all the difference in the world. These verbs captured the extraordinary actions of the father as his younger son returned home: “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (15:20). These verbs reveal to us the amazing grace and compassion of our Heavenly Father.

The final section of this parable includes two more stunning verbs. When the older son refused to join the party thrown by his father for his younger brother, the father did not let the elder son stew in his bitter juice. Rather, as Jesus says, “His father came out and begged him” (15:28). Given what we have seen earlier, it isn’t surprising to see that, once again, the father reaches out to his older son. The word translated here as “begged” has a variety of senses in Greek, including “pled, urged, or appealed.” It suggests an earnest effort to persuade. The father would not be satisfied until both of his sons were united in celebration.

As we think about how this parable speaks into our situation today, we’re reminded that God isn’t reaching out only to those whose lostness is obvious. Sometimes we celebrate when “big-time sinners” repent and turn to the Lord, but hold in scorn those who play the role of the older brother. I’m thinking, for example, of the way I have heard some younger Christians talk about older, more traditional church members. They are rightly eager to reach their peers with the Gospel. But when older folks resist innovation in church, the younger believers sometimes respond with scorn. Often, they’ll go out and plant their own churches, in effect having a prodigal son party that shows no compassion for their older brothers and sisters.

I’m not advocating traditional resistance to new forms of outreach and worship, even though, as I grow older, I find it easier and easier to play the role of the older brother in the family of God. But I do think the example of the father in this parable calls all of us to reach out to our brothers and sisters, even when we aren’t all that thrilled with their party. We who are older should say yes to our Father’s invitation to join the party. And those who are younger should imitate the Father in reaching out to his recalcitrant children. God will not be satisfied until all of his children are united in one family. May our hearts and actions reflect the passion of God for the unity of his church.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the actions of the father in reaching out to his older son? Have you ever sensed that your Heavenly Father was reaching out to you in this way? If so, when? How did you respond? How might you imitate the example of the father in this parable?

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, first of all I thank you for, once again, initiating relationship and reconciliation with your children. Since I tend to identify with the older son in this parable, I am especially grateful for all the ways you reach out to me, inviting me into your kingdom party.

May I be like you, dear Father. May I have compassion, not only for those who are so obviously lost, but also for those whose lostness takes the form of rigid traditionalism and resistance to change in church. Give me a tender heart for these brothers and sisters, as well as the impetus to reach out to them in love.

All praise be to you, Gracious Father, because you seek us out in order to find us, no matter what has separated us from you. Amen.