Our God is one who searches after His people and loves them, and this is what Jesus is trying to explain to the Pharisees. No Pharisee had ever dreamed of a God like that. Jesus tells them the most dramatic of the parables, the story of the prodigal son. You may know the story, the son demands his inheritance early from his father, and his dad gives it to him. Then, he leaves and blows through all his cash on gambling, prostitutes, and drinking.
Once he hits rock bottom, he realizes that he can go back and work for his dad as a hired hand. So he practices what he’s going to say on his way back home, but to his surprise, his father is overjoyed to see him. He immediately runs to his son, exclaiming, “My son has returned home!” And there is a party thrown in his honor.
Friend, Jesus is trying to make this point: The young man, when he’s home, is the son. He cannot be a servant and be in his father’s house. If he’s there, he has belonging, dignity, love, authority, and joy! It’s an amazing symbol. The Pharisees can’t imagine a God who would be this way towards those who have sinned. But Jesus is telling them that this is how God looks at sinners — with love.