When God Runs

Jon Opgenorth

Read: Luke 15:11-24

While he was still a long way off. (v. 20)

This story is commonly called “the parable of the prodigal son,” implying that it is mainly about the son who went far from home. But “prodigal” does not mean lost. Rather, it means extravagance on a lavish scale. The younger son squanders his father’s money on lavish living. His shame compounds as his lifestyle is reduced to feeding pigs. “Prodigal” befits this rebellious child.

But maybe, as Timothy Keller has observed, the father is more “prodigal.” Keller notes in his book The Prodigal God how the father’s grace is lavish and extravagant as he lets his son run away with the goods and squander his resources, ending up lost, broken, and shamed. All the time he is gone, however, the father waits and looks to the horizon. While the son is still far away, his father sees him and feels compassion (v. 20). Then the father does something gracefully extravagant. He runs to his son! For a man in a tunic to run, he must lift his hem and expose his legs. This was an utter disgrace in Jesus’ day. The eyes of the village turn from the shame-ridden son to the shame-assuming father. The extravagance only grows: a robe, a ring, and a feast!

God is “prodigal” in his love towards his far-off children. We see this especially in the person and work of Jesus. Isaiah 53:5 says, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” On the cross, Jesus takes our shame and lavishes extravagant grace on us. Thanks be to God! —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, reflect on God’s prodigal, extravagant love.