Jesus Feeding the 5,000

A daily devotion for May 5th

The Waiting Father

But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:22-24

Here is the joy of the father when his rebellious son finally comes home. What a happy note where this story ends — for everyone but the fatted calf! The father's joy is unrestrained. He sees the lone figure on the horizon and runs to meet him. He throws his arms about him and kisses him. The boy starts his little speech, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. The father knows what he is going to say and he stops him. He calls for the robe, the mark of sonship. He calls for a ring, the sign of authority. And he calls for a feast, the display of honor. He puts this boy right back into the full relationship of a son within the family circle. He begins to honor him and treat him as a grown son.

How can this father be so joyful? For many years when I read this parable I could understand fully the feeling of this boy. I too had been a rebellious son, and I could identify with him. I knew what the far country was like, and what the joy of coming home was. But now, as I read the parable, I find myself identifying with the father, and understanding something of what went on in his heart. Why is this father so joyful? It is because the boy had been dead, but now is alive. He was lost, but now is found. He had almost given up and lost hope. Behind the joy of the father is the dark background of agony which he endured while this boy was gone.

Helmut Thielicke's title for this parable is not The Prodigal Son, as we call it, but The Waiting Father. What Jesus is after is not to show us the boy's heart, but the father's. The father's agony began when he first realized he had to let this boy go. He did not want to. He knew what needless trials lay ahead. He could have spared this boy the heartache, loneliness, shame and degradation of the far country. Had the boy been patient and allowed his father to work out his purposes, he could have had the full enjoyment of liberty he sought, without the heartache. Yet the father knew he could not do it without the boy's full cooperation. The boy had to agree to the father's plans. But if he would not wait, the father could not make him do it. So there came a time when, with his heart breaking, he gave the boy the money and let him go.

If we can see the father's agony as Jesus intended us to see it, then we will have the answer to the question many ask about this parable — How can Jesus tell the story of a rebellious son returning to his father, without a reference to his own cross and his redemptive love? The answer is that the agony of this father's heart, running through the background of this story, is the picture of the cross. The cross is the expression of God's agony over the rebellion of man.

Father, break the back of rebellion within me. Help me to wait when you ask me to, and learn to trust, knowing that freedom, now, means slavery; but freedom when you give it means liberty in all its fullness.

Life Application

Have I experienced the full restoration possible only because the Father has borne the hurt and quenched my rebellion in the blood of his own heart?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

God and the Rebellious

Listen to Ray