The Prodigal Father

Good morning and Happy Monday!   Back to the Parable of the Prodigal Son.   Starting with Act 1 of the three act play that is Jesus’s parable, focused on the Prodigal Son himself.

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.

There is a wealthy landowner, who has two sons.  The younger son is ungrateful.  The younger of the sons loves neither his father nor his life in his fathers house.   He approaches his father and asks very inappropriately for his share of the inheritance NOW.  Basically, he is saying to his father “I wish you were dead.  I don’t want to wait for you to be dead.  Give me my share NOW.”  

The inheritance was the land and the livestock.   This request is very inappropriate, even more so in that time and culture than now.  But the father does not resist the wishes of his younger son, and says to him “This is your portion of the land and livestock.  It is now under your control.  I give it to you.”   So then the younger son did something even more inappropriate.  He sold the land and livestock.  He wanted cash.  You are not to do that, the land must remain in the family, but he sold it so he could have currency.

He’s sold the land and livestock, he’s flush with cash.  He breaks with the father and leaves, not only his family but his people and religion.  He goes into another country, goes to live among the Gentiles, the pagans, those who don’t know God.  He lives there as a profligate sinner, squandering this money he had not earned, that was rightfully his fathers.   He had taken his portion of the land and livestock, turned it into money, and now he squanders it on wine, women and song.  Sex, drugs and rock and roll!!  You know the story.

And yes, you do know the story.  You know what happens, it’s always this way.  The money runs out.  Hard times come, this son is in a bad way.  He goes and gets himself hired by a gentile pagan landowner who gives this broke Jewish boy the glamorous task of feeding the pigs.   You can almost hear the shock as Jesus’s audience catches their breath.  He’s a servant of a pagan gentile, he’s feeding the pigs, he’s even starving for the very food he’s feeding the pigs.

Now Act 2.  The compassionate father.  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.   AMEN!!!   So the prodigal son has hit rock bottom in the pig pen.  He’s come to his senses.  His motives appear to be nothing more than self preservation.

He begins to make his way home.  He knew he wasn’t worthy, he was just hoping to be hired by his father as a servant, because even his fathers servants eat better than he does right now.   But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…how is this possible?    It’s possible because the father is looking for him, that’s how!!!   And when he sees him, he feels compassion, co-suffering love, that’s what compassion means, co-passion.   Com – together, passion – suffering, he feels the suffering of his son, and his co-suffering love rises up inside him, and he runs to his son, and he throws his arms around him and begins to kiss him.

The son begins his prepared speech – ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’   But the father is hearing none of this!!   The father starts barking out orders to his servants “Wait a minute, wait a minute!  Go get my best robe, my most expensive robe, this boys in rags!!  Go get the family ring, the boys lost everything.  He has no shoes, come on servants, get some shoes on him here!  We’re going to have a party, you know that fatted calf we’ve been waiting for something to celebrate?  There’s never going to be a better reason to have a party than this!!”  Hear me now…that’s what the Father does.

Jesus wants you to know, that what the Kingdom of God is like!!!   Why is Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors?   Because that exactly what the Kingdom of God is about…

We call this the story of the Prodigal Son.  Prodigal is an adjective.  It means “spending money recklessly and extravagantly.”  The son ran off to the far county, and he was living prodigally, spending his money recklessly and extravagantly.

But now that he’s come home, who’s being Prodigal?   Who’s spending money extravagantly and recklessly?   THE FATHER!!!    You could just as well call this the Parable of the Prodigal FATHER, who when his son comes home says I’m going to spend money extravagantly and recklessly because we have to celebrate.  Jesus wants you to know that’s what the kingdom of God is like.

Isn’t what Jesus told us over and over?   “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 ESV.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”  Matthew 18:12-13 ESV

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 ESV.   If that’s not spending extravagantly and recklessly, I don’t know what is.  He’s Prodigal, I tell you!

John Lewis

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