Sitting with the Shepherd
"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." (Luke 15:20 NKJV)
As I advance in years, my curiosity increases about what it will be like to see Christ face to face and be welcomed home. I am so grateful that Jesus Christ, the only one to ever live in heaven with God the Father before coming to earth, gave just a picturesque description of what that meeting will be like.
When He walked as a man on this earth He, in His humanity, like you and I, longed for the affirmation that every person wants from their father. At a key moment in His life, as He was preparing to undertake the ministry that would cost Him His human life, His Heavenly Father showed up in a unique and emphatic way to affirm His Son.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV)
That affirmation is something that a person never outgrows their longing for. And God the Father, knowing that that need can never be fully satisfied by human resources, longs to meet it Himself for you and me as well. When the prodigal son in Jesus' story arose and decided to make the journey back to his father, he had his expectations and fears, much the same as you and I. He conjured up a deal that he could propose to his father in order to regain his acceptance. But as the story unfolded he wasn't able to, and he didn't need to use it anyway. The father was so glad to see him and welcome him home that he never got the speech completely out. The father didn't need to be bargained with or convinced. The son was filthy and smelled of pigs, but that didn't matter because the father had been anticipating his son's return for a long time.
Jesus told this story so that you and would know how the Father feels about us coming home to Him. Now we can stop mentally justifying our behavior and having imaginary conversations about what we will say when we get there. God loves us and is willing to cover our filth with the robe of Christ's righteousness. It's not about what we have done or promise to do for Him in the future. He loves us for who we are, not what we do. If you have strayed from Him and long for His affirmation, He is waiting even now for your return and will greet you with open arms.
"God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God's likeness."
Manning, B. (2009). Abba's child: the cry of the heart for intimate belonging expanded edition. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Questions for Personal Reflection or Discussion
1. What was it that made Jesus more qualified than any other man that ever lived to describe that character of God?
2. Why is it more meaningful to gain affirmation from God than anyone else?
3. How does God the Father deal with the filthiness of our past?
My Father in heaven, my God, thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to show me the way home to You. I confess that my search for affirmation has taken me into some dark places. I also am guilty of trying to justify myself in my imagination, composing speeches and believing lies. Thank You for welcoming me home today. Amen