2009 - Vol. 32
Lavish Love of
on Jesus’ parable
How can you love someone dear to when they turn their back on you and
still forgive them from the heart? The prophets remind us that God does
not abandon us, even if we turn our backs on him (Micah 7:18). He calls
us back to himself – over and over and over again.
Jesus’ story of the father and his two sons (sometimes called the parable
of the prodigal son) is the longest and most moving parable in the Gospels.
What is the main point or focus of the story? Is it the contrast between
an obedient and a disobedient son, or is it between the warm reception
given to the wayward son by his father and the cold reception given to
him by the elder son?
Jesus contrasts the father's lavish, merciful love with the eldest son's
harsh reaction to it. While the errant son had wasted his father's money,
the father maintained unbroken love for him. The son, while he was away,
learned a lot about himself. And he realized that his father had given
him love which he had not returned. He had yet to learn about the depth
of his father's love for him. His deep humiliation at finding himself obliged
to feed on the husks meant for the pigs and his reflection on all he had
lost led to his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before
his father. While he hoped for reconciliation with his father, he could
not have imagined a full restoration of relationship.
The father did not need to speak words of forgiveness to his son; his
actions spoke more loudly and clearly! The beautiful robe, the ring, and
the festive banquet symbolize the gift of new life – pure, worthy, and
joyful – which God gives to those who return to him.
The prodigal could not return to the garden of innocence, but he was
welcomed and reinstated as a son. The errant son's dramatic change from
grief and guilt to forgiveness and restoration express in picture-language
the resurrection from the dead, a rebirth from spiritual death to new life.
The parable also contrasts mercy and its opposite – unforgiveness. The
father who had been wronged, was forgiving. But the eldest son, who had
not been wronged, was unforgiving. His unforgiveness turns into contempt
and pride. And his resentment leads to his isolation and estrangement from
the community of forgiven sinners.
In this parable Jesus gives a vivid picture of God and what God is like.
God is truly kinder than we are. He does not lose hope or give up when
we stray. He rejoices in finding the lost and in welcoming them home. Do
you know the joy of repentance and the restoration of relationship as a
son or daughther of your heavenly Father?
Son by Rembrandt
And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them
said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to
me.' And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the
younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country,
and there he squandered his property in loose living. 14 And when
he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began
to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens
of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he
would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him
anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's
hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I
have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to
be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20 And he
arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father
saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21 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.' 22 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; 23 and bring the fatted calf
and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead,
and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make
"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the
house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants
and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, `Your brother has come,
and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him
safe and sound.' 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came
out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years
I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave
me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this
son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed
for him the fatted calf!' 31 And he said to him, `Son, you are always with
me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and
be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and