Verbs That Make All the Difference in the World: The Affectionate Father

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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"So he returned home to his father. 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."

Luke 15:20

In the last several days, I’ve been reflecting on the verbs in Luke 15:20. So far, I’ve examined how the father in the parable of the prodigal son saw his son from a distance, was filled with love for him, and ran to him. Today, I’ll finish my little verb study by focusing on the last two verbs in the verse.

After running to his son, the father “embraced him and kissed him.” The Greek offers a more vivid picture: the father “fell upon his neck and kissed him.” Depending on your culture and family tradition, this sort of display of affection from a father for a son may or may not be familiar. In the world of Jesus, it would not have been uncommon for a father to be physically expressive of his love for his son. But, of course, the shocking element in Jesus’ story has to do with the context. The father ran to embrace, not just any son, but the one who had dishonored and rejected him. Moreover, it’s not hard to imagine that the son, having worked with pigs and having walked for a long distance on foot, was not exactly in prime hugging condition. Nevertheless, the father enthusiastically embraced and kissed his son.

My own father loved me dearly, but had a very difficult time expressing his love either in words or physical gestures. My dad demonstrated his love for me in many other ways. Thus, though I always knew he loved me, I never expected to experience his love in ways that touched my emotions. Yet, a part of me longed to feel my dad’s love in a more tangible way. I remember once, when I was in junior high school, my dad drove me and a bunch of my friends to a church event. His faithfulness in this sort of thing let me know that he loved me. As it turned out, I ended up sitting right next to my dad in a full car. That was in the day of bench seats, with room for one person right in the middle of the front seat. As we drove, I delighted in the feeling of my dad’s side against mine. It wasn’t a hug, but it felt almost like that.

As you might imagine, I have naturally projected my experiences of my earthly father onto my heavenly father. Thus, I have known for decades that God loves me, but not in an experiential way. Yet, there is part of me that yearns to know God’s love more intimately and fully. As I reflect upon Jesus’ picture of the father in Luke 15:20, I find that my heart begins to open up to a deeper, more personal knowledge of God’s love.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the image of the father embracing and kissing his son? Is this kind of display of affection common in your family? How have you experienced God’s love for you?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for this unforgettable picture of the father’s love for his son. It conveys with power the love of our Heavenly Father for us.

Help me, I pray, to be open to a deeper experience of the Father’s love. Keep me from limiting what he wants to do in my life through my projections and fears.

All praise be to you, Heavenly Father, because you see me when I am far away, feel compassion for me, run to embrace and kiss me. Thank you for welcoming home this prodigal! Amen.