Prodigal God Week 2 – “A Man had Two Sons”

Recap: the familiar parable of the prodigal son is told to a crowd filled with sinners and tax collectors (younger sons) and Pharisees and teachers of the Law (older sons).  Those “older sons” were not happy with the crowds Jesus was gathering, particularly because the people who were following Jesus were not changing their behavior and joining in the traditional religious systems.  It is in response to those “older brothers” (and with them as the target) that Jesus tells this parable.

The parable plays out like a drama with two Acts, each focusing on one son

Act 1 – The Younger Son

Scene 1

The younger son comes to his father and asks for his share of the estate

  • In this culture his older brother would get a double portion of inheritance, so the younger son was entitled to 1/3 of the estate when his father diedb
    • Dad’s not dead yet – what the son is saying is he wishes his dad was dead, he wants his father’s stuff but no him
  • The father’s wealth would have been in land – giving one son his portion would have been a long and public process
    • Long – plenty of time for son to come to his senses – he doesn’t
    • Public – the whole town would know, the father would be publicly humiliated
  • The younger brother asks his father to publicly tear his life apart and the father does it – this is a different kind of father then the people are used to

Scene 2

The son goes off to a different land, spends his money on “wild living,” runs our of money right about the time famine hits

  • Eventually he has to work in a pig sty (big no-no for a good Jewish boy) and realizes he’s made a mistake
  • He decides he’ll go to his father and ask to become a hired hand so that he can pay back the debt he owes – being welcomed back doesn’t cross his mind, he is certain he’s burned that bridge
  • He rehearses his speech in the pig sty and finally goes back when he thinks he’s ready

Scene 3

The father sees his son coming and runs to meet him

  • Men in this culture don’t run – its not dignified, it requires lifting up a robe to keep from tripping, it just isn’t done (again, different kind of father)

The son launches into his speech and his dad cuts him off.  He calls on the servants to bring the best robe and the family ring to give to the son

  • With those actions he’s officially welcoming the son back into the family
  • The father throws a huge party – wants the whole community to know that his son is back and he has forgiven and welcomed him

Everything seems great, the family is back together.  But there’s another piece to the story

Act 2 – The Older Brother

The older brother finally comes into the picture at this point and he is not pleased

  • Once he finds out what’s going on he refuses to go into the party, publicly showing that he does not agree with his father’s action.
  • The father comes out to his son to see what is the matter
    • The father once again loses face by going to see his son instead of making the son come to him

The older brother’s problem – the cost of the party

  • But its not just that – by welcoming the younger son back the father has made him an heir again.  That means that he will be given a portion of the (now smaller) inheritance when the father dies
    • The younger son already got his share.  What is being divided up now is what was originally the older son’s – in his mind at least, the father bringing the younger son back is costing him what is his
      • The older son (again, in his own mind) has never done anything wrong but the younger son is being rewarded for running off at the older son’s expense

The father gives him a chance to come to the feast – he tells him that he still wants him there, that just like the younger son he wants him present and asks him to swallow his pride and come join them

Curtain Drops

The audience is left wondering what the older son will do.  That’s because the audience is the older son, and the choice is before them.  They control whether they’ll respond to what Jesus is inviting them to

What are they being offered?  An entirely new perspective on what it means to connect to and know God.  In his ministry Jesus is redefining everything they think they know about sin, lost-ness, and hope.  How is he doing that? Tune in next week to find out


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