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
The kiss of the father in the parable of the prodigal son is full of meaning. The prodigal has returned home, but only after forsaking his father and laying waste to his inheritance. Living comfortably in his father’s house, the son wells up with pride and renounces his father’s authority. He requests his estate and leaves. Filling his life with evil, he takes harlots as his companions, feeds his lusts, and squanders his father’s precious gifts. Oh’ but the child of God is never outside their Father’s providence, and famine hits the land. The prodigal’s hopes are soon dashed upon the rocks of vanity and sin, and he finds himself in bondage.
He is joined to a citizen of that country where he is required to feed pigs. In this state, the lords of this country offer him nothing but to eat and sleep in the pig stalls. For a Jewish man to live with pigs is but another image of his descent into spiritual impurity. Sin brings temporary satisfaction but piles on long-lasting burdens, impossible to remove. The prodigal is in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and delusion, but the grace of God is far-reaching, and the prodigal comes to himself and says, “It would be better to be a slave in my father’s house than to live here.” What a shame it is that many never come to themselves and never feel the burden of sin on their back, and what a pity many who do feel it never venture to go home. They die in their despair, seeking some way to have the burden removed. They sink ever slowly into the “slough of despond.” What a shame many have even taken their own lives in this despair.
In his unworthy state, covered in the stains and wounds of the foreign land, the prodigal walks slowly home, crestfallen, seeking only servitude in the house of his father. However, he is not even worthy of that, for dishonoring your father and mother is a crime worthy of death under the law.
When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion. Our Father’s eyes are ever on us, even when we cannot see Him. When our heads hang low, dejected from our sin, He looks and has compassion: even when our pain is self-inflicted. The prodigal’s father then ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Before the son could say a word, the father had placed his lips upon his son. He did not wait until the filth was washed away. Nor was he concerned with any of the scoffings that the community might bring.
Oh, the kiss of the Father says so much. Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon on this parable, highlights what this kiss shows us. Here are a few of his points. The kiss shows much love for the son. There has been no loss of love in the heart of the father. No uncertainty in the love for his child has occurred due to his son’s crimes. The kiss demonstrates complete forgiveness, as it speaks of absolution. The debt the son incurred has been forgotten, and the burden of sin and guilt is gone. In the kisses of God, we see full restoration. The son is as much a son as he had ever been; the thoughts of servitude in his father’s house are to be rejected. No more food fit for swine, nor clothes fit for prisoners. There shall be a feast fit for royalty, a new robe is to be placed upon him, and a ring to signify to the world that he is part of his father’s family. The son has complete restoration, and all this happens before the son can speak his confession, which he has undoubtedly been rehearsing.
There is a beauty in true humility, for it does not flow from our natural self. It is the direct result of the working of the Spirit of God. The son proceeds to acknowledge his sin before his father. True repentance is shown in this way, that even those accepted by the father long to confess. It is almost as if the son is making sure the father realizes what he has done. He wants to make sure his father fully understands his sin before accepting the welcome. Oh, but the father knows, and this kiss was no mistake.
Those who come to the Father by faith, in repentance, will receive all the kisses of God. He gives us the kiss of a new heart and a new spirit. Our hearts of stone are turned to hearts of flesh by the grace of God. We are kissed with strong assurance. Though the prodigal may have intense fears of walking away again, we see that the father is not apprehensive that the son will disgrace his mercy and forgiveness. For the Father knows that of those who are His, He will not lose one of them.
There is also the kiss of intimate communion. The kiss that God gives is not like the kiss of Judas. Our Father looks at us and sees everything we are. He sees all of our depravity, yet He places His lips upon us and kisses us with close communion.
Children of God and those who long to be, run to your father while there is still time. Satan tells you that you are unworthy of the kiss of God, and the truth is you have never been worthy, nor will you ever be, but that is the very reason you must go. Only the kiss of your father can offer you what you need. The world will offer you its kisses, but they are the kisses of Judas, betraying kisses that will lead to your demise. Reject the kisses of this world and run to your Father.
There is a kiss for every one of your despairs. The kiss of God can address every wound and disease that eats at your soul. It would be worthwhile to quote Charles Spurgeon at length here.
“Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, “even though I confess my sin, and seek God’s mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble for through my sin I have brought myself down to poverty.” “There is a kiss for you,” says the Lord: “Thy bread shall be given thee, and water shall be sure.” “But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin,” says another. “There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” “But I am dreadfully down at the heel,” says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, “I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, his son.”
Child of God, let the world scoff and the consequences of your sin run their course. You have the kiss of God. For every trial, even the self-inflicted ones, can now do you no harm. All things work together for the good of those who love Him, even the haunting effects of sin. Everything in this world will pass away, and we will one day enter the kingdom of our Lord where he will dry every tear, and sadness will be no more. The world may continue to wound, and people may even look at you with disdainful eyes, remember it is not their approval you need; you have the kiss of God.
It would be beneficial to address those who read this and ponder their sin, feeling proud that they are not like the great sinners mentioned here. If you think you have not done such a great evil that you should drop your head in shame, may God be merciful and show you your misery. We have all sinned, and the wages of sin is death. For like the Pharisee, you may fulfill your ritual of prayer in public places, but remember, the Pharisee walked away without forgiveness. It was the tax collector who beat his breast as if to say, “it is I who should be accursed,” whose sins were washed away. The image of beating his chest symbolizes that he did not see his sin as minor mistakes, but something that flowed from his very soul. For that is what sin is, our very nature mocking the Holiness of God. He cried to God, “have mercy on me, a sinner,” and how lovingly the Father kissed him with forgiveness and acceptance.
There may be still others reading this who started strong but have begun to be choked out by the cares of this world. Pleasures, promotions, and the search for prestige have taken you captive and have started to steal your heart away from God. May God grant you repentance, for many start strong down the narrow path only to be taken away by such lusts never to return. They become like the man despairing in the cage in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who took the hand of his lusts and could not let go because he loved them so. They overtook him and blinded him of his need for salvation, and he proved to have never been a child of God.
Come to His feet in repentance, for it is our only hope. God will pour out his wrath on sinners, for it is what we deserve, but he has provided a way of escape in the cross of Christ Jesus. He did what we could not and lived a sinless life and was crucified in our place. Scripture states, “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” The repenting sinner is the only one who can receive a crown of righteousness, and it is not our righteousness but Christ’s.
How can we neglect so great a salvation? The Father is looking down the road with compassion, and it will be no accident if you run to him today. He placed this parable before you to tell you of his love. Turn to him, and you will find he is already running toward you, ready to fall on your neck and kiss you.