Verbs That Make All the Difference in the World: The Running 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

By paying attention to the verbs in Luke 15:20, we have seen how the father of the prodigal son saw him from a long distance and was deeply moved with love and compassion for his boy. The next verb in this verse comes as a complete shock: “He ran to his son.”

Commentators on this passage have noted that mature men in the culture of Jesus didn’t run like this. Most assuredly, they would not have run to a son who had acted as this degenerate son. Yet, according to Jesus, the father added to his own dishonor by running to greet the very son who had so dishonored him. What a stunning picture of exuberant compassion and love!

The running father in Luke 15:20 reminds me of one of the most moving scenes I ever witnessed in a sports event. It happened in the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. In the semifinal of the 400-meter race, Derek Redmond of Great Britain began strong, looking as if he would do well enough to make the finals. Indeed, he had a reasonable chance for a medal. But, on the backstretch of the race, all of a sudden Redmond pulled up lame, apparently having injured his right hamstring. Though writhing in pain and out of the race, his Olympic hopes dashed, Redmond nevertheless began limping toward the finish line. No matter what, he was going to complete his race. It was a heart-wrenching scene, as Redmond’s face revealed his extreme physical and emotional pain.

Meanwhile, at the top of the stadium, Derek Redmond’s father, Jim, saw what had happened to his son. So he began running down toward the track, dodging barriers and officials who tried to keep him away from the field, where he had no permission to be. Yet, Jim Redmond had one goal: to get to his boy. So he ran and pushed and jumped until he got to Derek. He threw his arms around his son and helped him cross the finish line. (You can see a video clip of this moving incident here.)

Of course, the parallels between Jesus’ story and Jim Redmond’s story aren’t exact because Derek hadn’t done anything to dishonor his father. Nevertheless, we see in Jim Redmond a powerful picture of a father who runs, even when it is against the rules, because he loves his child so passionately. This, Jesus says, is what our Heavenly Father is like as he runs to you.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced this kind of running, either as the runner or the receiver?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for this striking picture of the running father. How amazing to think that this is how our Heavenly Father relates to us.

Help me to live with the assurance that comes from this image.

Help me to be this sort of person in my relationships with others. Amen.