And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ” Luke 15:11-32
On my second mission trip to Latvia our group acted out the parable of the prodigal son. As we acted to pastor of the local church in Kraslava, Latvia translated our actions into word, Russian words as that is to common language of Latvia. This parable recorded by Luke has universal appeal. I think just about everyone at some time in their lives can identify with either the father or the son or both.
Rather than go through this parable and recount what happened to the young man I want to look at the question of who the characters in this story represent. The three characters are the youngest son or the prodigal son, the oldest son and the father. Jesus is telling this story at the banquet and is once again addressing the Pharisees. I think the first reaction from the Pharisees is that Jesus is the prodigal son. After all, here is this itinerant teacher who from their perspective has lost his way. To them Jesus has strayed from the law and He is consorting with all types of sinners and tax collectors. Jesus has allowed prostitutes to touch His feet and anoint Him with oil. To the Pharisee mind Jesus has gone rouge.
But I do not think Jesus is talking about himself. So, who is the prodigal son? Could it be Israel? Maybe, after all God’s chosen people, His children, have as a group gone astray many times. Ezekiel writes “Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the LORD. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” (Ezekiel 6:8-10 ESV)
The Jewish too often turned from God and like the prodigal son threw their inheritance away and whored after idols and false gods. Jesus was trying to get Israel to turn from their false reading of the Law back to God. But maybe this view is a bit too narrow and does not fit the entire story.
If we go further back in history we see that God set the Jewish people apart from the rest of mankind. We find humans put into two groups, the Chosen people, Jews, and the Gentiles, the rest of us. The Jews even with their straying were always with God but like the older son they deemed this honor to be more like slavery rather than a parent child relationship. They had worked for God and because of these works they deserved to be the favorite.
The Gentiles however had long ago left God behind. We had wasted our inheritance on idols and living by our own standards. But like the prodigal son we found this life unsatisfying. Then along comes Jesus and some of the Jews and some of the Gentiles want to get back to our Father’s house. We realize that being a lowly servant in our Father’s house is better than anything we have without Him. The Jews see this and are angry that the Father is allowing us prodigals back into His arms. They are angry that all is forgiven. Just as in the parables of the lost sheep and coin, all heaven rejoices when the lost comes to God.
The father in this story is of course God. God is always waiting on those who have rejected Him to come to their senses and return to Him. God is constantly on the lookout for our return he is waiting to put a robe of righteousness on us and the ring of sonship on our finger welcoming us back into His family and calling us His children. And like the prodigal son there is nothing we can do that He will not forgive. We do not have to clean up in order to come to Him. Jesus will wash away our sins and we will become clean, cleaner than we have ever been. All any of us need do is do what the prodigal son did, return home.
Have a blessed day,
PS: To my faithful readers I owe you an apology. I have been remiss in my postings to this blog. I was shocked to see that a month has gone by without a new post from me. Yes, I have reblogged some posts from my friends at Veracity and Thomistic Bent but I have been playing hooky from my writing. I have been catching up on my reading and will be posting a number of book reviews in the coming weeks. Since I retired I have not gotten into a schedule. I see something around the house that needs to be done a do it immediately. But I have to confess that we have been enjoying some exceptional spring weather here in the Houston area and I have found myself many times sitting on our deck enjoying the cool weather and watching and listing to the birds and squirrels. There are two different hummingbirds that regularly feed at our feeders and we have a pair of cardinals and blue jays that are nesting in or near out backyard. Then there is the occasional hawk of eagle that flies by. But I have had my break and it is time to get back to the Lord’s work. So in the future you should see this blog updated on a more frequent basis. Thanks again for being a reader and to those who have recently started following this blog, thanks and I look forward to exploring God’s Word with you as I have done with all my readers.
To God be the glory,