The Bible says, “When he [the prodigal] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
I believe the prodigal came home because of his history with his father. This young man knew his father’s character—and apparently he had received great love from him. He must have known that if he returned, he wouldn’t be upbraided or condemned for his sins.
Notice how the prodigal’s father received him in his pitiful condition. The young man was intent on offering a heartfelt confession to his dad. Yet when he faced his father, he didn’t get a chance to fully confess. His father interrupted him by running up to him and embracing him.
The young man was only able to blurt out the beginning of his speech, saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (v. 21). But his father didn’t wait for him to finish. To him, the young man’s sin had already been settled. The father’s only response was to issue an order to his servants: “Put a robe on my son and rings on his fingers. Prepare a feast, because we’re going to celebrate. Everyone rejoice—my son is home.” He knew his son’s heart. He knew he had fully repented.
Sin wasn’t the issue to this father. The only issue in his mind was love. He wanted his boy to know he was accepted even before he could utter a confession. And that is the point God wants to make to us all: His love is greater than all of our sins. “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4).