The title we give to this parable gives away our point of view
Prodigal Son = focus is on the younger son
Angry Brother = focus is on the elder son
Maybe “Two Jerks” is a better title; then we can focus on both sons!
New title: “Loving Father” or Prodigal Father
The story has 2 distinct acts
Act 1: younger son
Asks for - & gets – his inheritance (a disgrace)
Basically saying, “Father, I wish you were dead.”
Then he apparently sells his share of the land!
Leaves for a foreign country – Gentile territory (a disgrace)
Quickly wastes his money
How? Extravagant living; the rumor: “prostitutes & parties”
Eventually works feeding pigs (a disgrace)
Finally comes to his senses & plans to return home
His speech has 4 parts: address, confession, contrition, petition
Does that sound a lot like our prayers?
Before he can reach home, he finds himself in the arms of a loving - & unfair – father
The robe, ring & sandals signal a welcoming back into family
Jesus tells this story at a time when his audience is under foreign rule – Gentile rule
There are echoes of the Egyptian exodus & return from Babylonian exile
When people repent & respond to the gospel, it’s time to party!
Remember last week?
Act 2: older son
Diligent in his work, awful in his attitude
Hears the party, music & dancing
Is told the reason, & refuses to enter the house
I’m glad I’m not the one who told him!
Note: Your brother has arrived
He begrudges the party & shows no respect for his father (a disgrace)
He puts all the blame on dad
This son of yours
His justification: I never disobeyed your instruction.
Sounds like a Pharisee, doesn’t it?
And then finds himself in the arms of a loving - & unfair – father
Jesus is saying to the Pharisees & scribes (& to us?)
God may not love as you expect, but there is still plenty to go around
Also, where new life is occurring, it is not only appropriate to celebrate, it is necessary
This story tells us that God is more interested in relationships than in rights
The father in the story, of course, is God
R Alan Culpepper, New Interpreter’s Bible: “We usually learn to demand our rights before we learn to value our relationships. The younger son was acting within his rights, but he was destroying his closest relationships in the process. How many times a week will a parent [or a teacher] hear one child say to another, “It’s mine. Give it to me?” Children quickly learn to demand their rights, but it often takes much longer for them to learn how to maintain relationships. Governments & law courts defend our civil rights, but how do we learn to defend our civil & familial relationships?”
Jesus tells us that rules are important; but grace, relationship, is even more important
The good news: God is always waiting for us with open arms
Even when it isn’t “fair”
God does this because love & forgiveness are God’s nature
God does this to model for us what kingdom forgiveness looks like
Jesus’ model prayer: forgive me my sin as I forgive those who sin against me.
How does the story end?
Does the older brother join the party?
How does the younger brother behave from now on?
Will the 2 sons - & their father – be reconciled?
Jesus doesn’t say, & I think this is on purpose
It is a cliffhanger so that we will think it through, ask ourselves where we fit in the story, & learn more about ourselves
What role in the story comes most naturally to you?
How can we more become people through whom new life happens to others?
How can we celebrate the party of God’s love in such a way that the younger brothers who have come back from the dead, but also the older brothers who thought there was nothing wrong with them feel welcome?