KISS, KISS, KISS

Lk. 15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

I really thought I was through talking about this parable when I ran across a devotional by Dick Mills describing the Father’s kiss. It’s really hard to move on, after all, this is our story. Actually the word kiss in this verse is the greek word KATAPHILEO. The literal meaning is to kiss repeatedly and fervently. Jesus is focusing on the Father’s passion and love for His wayward sons and daughters. There is hardly a more moving picture in all the scripture as this one, the Father embracing and kissing His dirty, wayward son. Here is some of how Dick Mills describes this verse.

“The love the Father showered on the prodigal son when He fell on his neck and kissed him was intense. KATAPHILEO describes a great warmth the Father showered on His long lost son’s return…. The example of the Father welcoming His boy back home is described by Bible translators as “tenderly kissed him, fondly kissed him, affectionately kissed him, kissed him again and again.” The word was also used describing the woman who kissed the feet of Jesus and anointed them with ointment. A forgiven sinner, she lavished the KATAPHILEO on Jesus, kissing His feet affectionately and repeatedly.”

I think sometimes we get more technical and professional when it comes to spiritual things. I remember preaching for Steve Solomon several years ago and clearly heard the Lord say while I was speaking (He interrupts me quite often) that He is looking for lovers, not technicians. Many times we look for technical accuracy and miss the love part. Actually, I think that was one of the main things Jesus was communicating in this parable. His audience was common sinners and the Pharisees. There were liars, adulterers, and thieves having their lives impacted by the Lord’s message. The religious Pharisees had their noses up in the air, after all they had been “Living right” all of their lives. Here was Jesus showing us a better way, Christ died to save sinners. The Pharisees may have had all the technical stuff right on the outside but their hearts had never tasted the Father’s love. Prodigals and elder sons, we all have the same need. We are all in desperate need for the Father’s kiss.

THE OTHER SON

Lk.15:32 – But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.

The story of the Prodigal Son can hit us on so many levels. At first glance we see the story of rebellion, repentance, and restoration. All of us can see ourselves as restored sons and daughters. But just like all of Jesus’s parables, they can hit us on multiple levels. I think I have been both sons in this story as well as the father in various seasons of my life. The prodigal is obvious, that’s how I was introduced to this family, tackled by the Father’s love on the lakefront of Lake Ponchartrain in 1973. The Father loved me, accepted me into His family, and began the process of rebuilding my broken life.

Over the years I have also seen myself in the Father’s role, looking down the road in prayer for my biological as well as rebellious spiritual sons to come home. There is no greater joy for a Father to see that familiar gait of one you love making their way back home. That’s when the celebration starts reverberating throughout your whole being.

If we are honest, we all tend to slip into the role of the elder brother from time to time. This elder brother stayed faithfully at work in his father’s home, but everything wasn’t all right deep inside. It probably started when his younger brother got his inheritance early. If things were up to him, his younger brother would have been sent packing without his dad’s money. Then there were the rumors of parties and women that made their way to the older son’s ears. When word got back to him about the poverty and homeless lifestyle his younger brother fell into, he probably felt rectified and could only think, “my brother finally got what he deserved”.

When his brother came back his worst fears were realized. Not only did his father take the prodigal back in, he gave him expensive gifts and threw a party. The dancing and singing were too much for him to bare.

Jesus told this story as a rebuke to the Pharisees. They were the older brothers, indignant that sinners were following Jesus. I had similar feelings in 1994 when rumors of revival were in the air. Who do these people think they are, dancing and laughing in church? Thankfully the self righteous pride that was strangling life from me was blown away. This elder brother found himself jumping into the celebration, dancing and laughing welcoming the prodigals back home. Do it again Lord !!!

CURSE OF PROSPERITY

Lk.15:14-16 – But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

I often think of the last time I had a private conversation with Dr. David Cho, founder of the great Yoido Full Gospel Christian Church in Seoul, Korea. It was in April of 1994 and Dr. Cho had seen major change in his nation and his church since he pioneered his tent church in 1958. There had been a huge spiritual awakening accompanied by a shocking economic explosion in Korea. What he told me at that breakfast meeting caught me by surprise. He said that prosperity had become a great curse on the Korean Church. What could he possibly mean? Dr. Cho built his church on 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers”. Prosperity had always been a major part of his message. What he had seen in the Korean church was this, their poverty had caused many to call upon the Lord. Their prosperity had masked their need for the Lord and the results was a new spiritual poverty that grew as they prospered financially. This is not new, John Trappe made these same observations in the 1600’s about the curse of prosperity in his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“And when he had spent everything, and left himself nothing at all except for air to breathe and earth on which to tread, he made his own hands his executors and his own eyes his overseers, swallowing much of his patrimony through his throat and spending the rest on harlots, who left him as bare as crows leave a dead carcass. Ruin follows riot at the heels.”

William Cowper made similar observations in the 1700’s.

“This is seen daily in our unfortunate experience, for human hearts are most empty of thankfulness and their mouths are most filled with blasphemies of God’s name when their stomachs are most filled with God’s benefits. Thus this forlorn son went away from his father just when his father was most beneficial to him and had given him his portion.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you are experiencing lack, look to the Lord the source of all our provision. If you are experiencing financial abundance, look to the Lord and acknowledge your total dependence on Him.

MERCY

Lk. 15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

One of the great parables of Jesus is the Prodigal Son, a great display of the Father’s love of fallen man. I remember looking at some pencil sketches a number of years ago from the famous artist Rembrandt. He had painted his own face as the face of the prodigal in his depiction of this parable. This pretty much tells the story, we are all the prodigal son in need of the Father’s mercy and love. In the story we see the mercy of the Father displayed in His actions. First we see the eyes of mercy, The Father is looking down the road on purpose, gazing the horizon hoping to see His son’s familiar gate. When He saw him, he was moved with compassion. The original greek for ‘felt compassion’ describes your intestines being moved with emotion. You could describe this as bowels of mercy, the Father being moved with compassion for you. Suddenly the Father could not keep still, His feet of compassion began to run, who could ever forget this picture that Jesus painted, God running toward you. Matthew Henry speaks about the arms and the lips of mercy. Here are his thoughts.

“Here were arms of mercy, and those arms stretched out to embrace him: He fell on his neck. Though guilty and deserving to be beaten, though dirty and newly come from feeding swine, so that any one who had not the strongest and tenderest compassions of a father would have loathed to touch him, yet he thus takes him in his arms, and lays him in his bosom. Thus dear are true penitents to God, thus welcome to the Lord Jesus. Here were lips of mercy, and those lips dropping as a honey-comb: He kissed him. This kiss not only assured him of his welcome, but sealed his pardon; his former follies shall be all forgiven, and not mentioned against him, nor is one word said by way of upbraiding.”

What a picture Jesus painted of our Heavenly Father. He loves us, He loved us when we were away, He welcomed us with joy when we returned. Maybe its time to bring out the fatted calf and let the party begin.

TACKLED BY LOVE

Lk.15:20 – So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

This has to be one of the most moving passages in the Bible, the Father embracing His prodigal son. It’s hard to grasp the power of the story with just a casual reading, it has to be pondered. It starts with the rebellious son demanding his portion of his inheritance. Can you imagine the awkwardness of the moment? Inheritances are for when somebody dies. The son was so blinded by his sin that he would rather see his Father die, if that isn’t possible just give me mine now anyway. Of course we all know where that would go; one party and buying spree after another until every cent is gone. From there he becomes a hired laborer at the point of fighting the pigs for pig food. Anything familiar about this story? Maybe you didn’t act out the drama (or maybe you did) but we all have the nature of prodigals deep within us.

Finally the young man returned to his senses, turned toward home, and began to rehearse his lines of repentance. That’s when the story gets good. The Father was watching down the road, hoping to see His son. How many hours the Father must have spent, looking down that road until the day came when He saw His son. The Father ran to meet His son, tears in His eyes and compassion pounding in His chest. Without a lecture or even a moment for the son to explain the Father ‘fell on’ him in the middle of the road.

We need to stop here for a moment, the KJV Bible says the Father fell on the son’s neck. The word in greek is epipipto. It means to seize or fall upon with an embrace. The Father literally tackled His son. This word is used one other time in the New Testament. It was when Peter was trying to explain to the Jewish elders in Jerusalem what had happened when he preached to the gentiles. Peter said the Holy Spirit fell upon (epipipto) the gentiles just like He had fallen on them in the upper room. The gentiles had been tackled by the love of God, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them too.

So maybe you feel a little stinky today. Maybe you got mixed up fighting with the pigs for their food. Take a turn toward home and you too will be tackled by love.

KISSED BY THE FATHER

LK.15:20 – 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.

I think many people get the wrong idea about religious people, especially the Puritans from long, long ago. They were often quite expressive about their love for the Lord and experienced spiritual intimacy rather than just an austere form of legalism. It was their passion for the Lord and their evangelistic zeal that brought seasons of persecution leading many of them to make their way to the New World. Our country is indebted to the legacy of these spiritual pioneers. In the 1600’s there was a member of the parliament in England by the name of Edward Leigh who had an evangelistic zeal and a passion for the Lord. Here are some of his comments on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“Among all the parables of Christ, this is most excellent, full of affection and set forth in lively colors. The old father sees a long way off, for dim eyes can see a long distance when the son is the object. His heart moves within him, and he has compassion on him. “He runs.” It would have been sufficient for him to have stood, because he was old, and a father, and even more so an offended father. But love descends rather than ascends: the son goes to the father; the father runs to the son. Then, he does not stop and embrace him or take him by the hand, but rather he falls on him and incorporates himself into him. He speaks not a single word- his joy was too great to be uttered—but he puts his whole mouth forward and kisses him, giving him the badge of peace, love and reconciliation. Through this example is declared that great goodness of God, who most mercifully pardons the sins of the truly penitent.”

This parable touches on something that is basic to our need as a human. We need forgiveness, acceptance, and real love. Jesus pointed us to the Heavenly Father for all of that. The Heavenly Father has also been painted by many as demanding and harsh. Jesus set the record straight when He shared about the rebellious son smelling of pigs embraced in the Father’s love. There is a place in His arms for you too.