Father’s Day is a time for new ties, long distance calls, Hallmark cards and family dinners. It is amazing how we go through different stages in our relationship with dad. Someone has observed that at age four we say, “My dad can do anything.” At age seven we say, “My dad knows a lot.” At age 12 we say, “Oh well, we can’t expect dad to know everything.” At age 14 many of us have progressed to exclaim, “My dad is hopelessly out of date and old fashioned.” By age 21 we say, “What should I expect? He just doesn’t understand.” At age 25 we say, “Dad knows a little bit but not too much.” Then around age 30 we begin to say, “I need to find out what dad thinks.” At age 40 we ask, “What would dad have thought?” By age 50 we say, “My dad knew everything.” Then, at age 60 we say, “I wish I could talk it over with dad just one more time!”
Tucked away in our Lord’s most familiar parable is a father. He leaves center stage to his sons, one a prodigal and the other in self-pity. He is a model father from whom we can learn so much on this Father’s Day. As we look at him and learn from him, we see him with an open hand, open arms and an open heart.
I. We see Him with an open hand (vv. 11-13)
This dad was wise enough to know the way to keep his children was to open his hand and let them go. Many fathers have lost their kids because they gripped them so tight they never let them go on their own. He could have refused his son’s request. He could have held back the inheritance. He could have used blackmail with the money or played the comparison game with the older brother. But here was a dad who was prepared to stand by what he had put in that boy from childhood (Proverbs 22:6). Some parents hold so tight they lose their children. This dad was wise enough to open his hand and let them go. There are some prodigals who choose to learn the hard way.
II. We see Him with open arms (vv. 20-24)
When the boy came home, the father saw him when he was a great way off and he ran to meet him with open arms. The boy came walking but the father came running! His love had been big enough to release him with open hands, and now it was big enough to receive him with open arms. We are not talking here about a boy who came home with the same rebellious spirit, simply sorry he got caught, but here was a boy truly repentant. And, here was a dad with open arms.
III. We see Him with an open heart (vv. 25-32)
I suppose the most notable characteristic of this model father was his presence and transparency. He was there for his sons no matter what their problems. The most valuable gift he gave them was his presence. When the celebration was on, where was dad? We find him outside with an open heart assuring the wounded older brother of his love and support.
We need more fathers like this one, a father with an open hand, wise enough to know that the way to lose your kid is to hold too tight and the way to keep them is to let them go when the time comes. We need more dads with open arms, always ready to make a way for new beginnings. Finally, we need dads with an open heart, who are transparent and encouraging.
The real message on this Father’s Day is that our Heavenly Father deals with us in the same way. He has open hands toward us. We are not puppets, but people, and the love we can voluntarily return to him is indescribably valuable to Him. He meets us with open arms, and never were they opened as wide as on the cross. He shows us His open heart. He opened it on Calvary for the whole world to see and He invites us into His arms today.