…and of course Abraham is never mentioned. We take as our text today the parable of the prodigal son. There’s no point in me repeating them. That’s exactly what it is. He honors the outrageous request of the younger son and gives him his inheritance. We are the prodigal son. The series centers on Malcolm Bright, whose father, Martin Whitly, is the infamous serial killer known as "The Surgeon". These parables have a way of inviting identification with (or disapproval of) a person or persons in the story, which then may come back and bite us. He made a change of direction, which is the root meaning of the word repentance. To summarize, the youngest of the two sons demands his share of his father’s estate which the father gives him. But a false identification may also take place. The servant explains to the older son that his brother has returned and that his father has killed the fattened calf “because he has received him back safe and sound” (15:27). Prodigal Son centers on Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), whose father, Martin Whitly (Martin Sheen), is the infamous serial killer known as "The Surgeon". Perhaps the appeal of the rich man in Hades to Abraham reflect the lines “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit” (49:7–9). The first, and probably most important, point to make is that there are two theologically significant “fathers” in Luke’s Gospel, occurring in two distinct contexts. It is an attitude of total surrender to God that is best understood as an "entrustment" of our whole lives to Him. The young son returning is a good picture of what repentance is. The question of keeping the commandments does not arise in connection with the younger son. This is all very interesting… although it really does not change the meaning for the reader today. In fact, there was a complete role reversal. Arguably, they should be comparing their lives with the older brother, which is what most become, or tend to become. The contrasting treatment of older and younger in the story form two-thirds of the story’s emphasis. Jesus acknowledges that the hard-working Pharisees are part of the family of Abraham. This is the gist of Henri Nouwen’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal’: a wonderful autobiography, in which the author explores his own life as, in turn, prodigal, elder brother and eventually father-figure. Jesus is exploding popular ideas about both God and what it meant to serve him. “Proverb” (mashal) in verse 4 could be a “parable”. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’. The force of the story is then, in my opinion, lost, if we cease to consider our own reactions to what is taking place, and the conjectured reactions of Jesus’s audience, and allow the story to criticise us, as well as the original audience. The three stories in Luke 15 are told because the Pharisees and scribes had grumbled (diegonguzon) about the fact that Jesus was receiving tax collectors and sinners and eating with them. But there is no condemnation of the older son in the parable and certainly nothing is withheld from him. In Deuteronomy 30 God is not described as “father” to Israel. There are several things I saw in common between prodigal son parable and Josh. For the obsessively inclined, yet another post on the parable from opensourcetheology.net, the progenitor of postost.net, can be found here (23.12.2008). Abraham is given an active speaking role on the rich man and Lazarus story. These would be my reservations: 1. And as the reward for his great magnanimity, the father recovers his beloved son. In his reading, the older brother is dealt with tenderly, even sympathetically, because it is himself. “He became angry, and refused to go in”. It should offend us today, and if it hasn’t, the story has been inadequately understood. 118: Call Me Ishmael, Part 2  by James B. Jordan   June, 1999, http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/no-118-call-me-ishmael-part-2/, In reply to Some of you might want to by norman. The latter is a thinly veiled representation of Andrew. I should point out that the exposition of the parable in the Finnish loghouse in relation to Rembrandt’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal’ can only be made if the exegesis of the preceding posts which I have offered in this comment is accepted as correct. Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say it: God is going to punish you with violent destruction? I think it much more likely that Jesus spoke prophetically to Israel with a fairly clear communicative intention in mind. I can see that the Psalm may be part of the general Wisdom background to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? By Amy Sparkman. LOS ANGELES: Academy and Tony Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones is set to star in a leading role on the upcoming second season of Fox's 'Prodigal Son'. The older brother is another OT motif at play. The parables: Jesus was just being obtuse, Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenants: an exercise in narrative-historical hermeneutics, The parable of the good Samaritan and the plight of Israel, Make for yourselves friends of unrighteous mammon: the parable of the self-serving business manager, So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you: the parable of the unforgiving slave, The parable of the wedding feast and the man without a wedding garment, Discipleship and ethics in the New Testament church, How beautiful on the mountains were the feet of Jesus. He wanted his share of the inheritance, and he wanted it immediately. But as I pointed out, thematically the story fits with passages that speak of Abraham as father much better than with passages that speak of God as father. The older son is a lost son as well, and he too has turned away from his father. Driving him further and further from experiencing his Father’s love. (Luke 15:11-32) First, there is the son who was restless and driven to experience whatever sinful pleasures money could buy. Does the argument work today? What we see in the story of the Prodigal Son, therefore is a father who reflects both aspects of Divine Mercy: 1) His faithfulness to Himself, to His commitments as a Father to care for his children, and thus his "hesed," and 2) His passionate pity for His lost son's plight; in other words His "rahamim." The other third is the father. Each one of us can relate in some way to the parable Jesus told about a prodigal son, his father, and his older brother. Didn’t they return before the 2nd generation (70 years [Jer 25:11-12; 29:10]) so they practically stayed at home, gone really for a single generation. 16:22-24). But I’m not convinced that either text accounts for the specific form or purpose of the parables. Most people who have been participating in churches for more than a few years, and many for much less than that, would want to identify themselves with the younger son as describing their lives, either spiritually or more literally, before they came to Christ. Has the body of Christ wandered off? For the information of those who find the references here totally baffling, and the even smaller number who may be interested in finding out, the figures in the loghouse post form part of an internal narrative on the website (opensourcehteology.net), and represent contributors to the site at that time. Rom 11:11  So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? 16:14), but the polemical point is the same: the leaders of Israel cannot accept the idea that the poor, the wretched, the oppressed, the “tax collectors and sinners” are at this critical moment being restored to the family of Abraham. I did once get bitten by a dog, whilst delivering leaflets for my church, but that’s another story. That fits wonderfully. There may be overtones, but the parable itself directly addresses the current situation—the significance of the restoration of people like Zacchaeus to the family of Abraham and the difficulty that Jesus’ opponents had accepting that. (The Labourers in the Vineyard also appears in Early Medieval works.) It would have been wrong not to celebrate. Sorry Andrew. Travis, yes, up to a point: they are part of the general background of ideas. It’s also here that the father is more appropriately associated with God than with Abraham. These Jewish religious leaders of the first century did not think it was appropriate for a godly person to interact in such ways with t… Rom 9:6-8  But it is not as though the word of God has failed. The “tax collectors and sinners” have become alienated from the commonwealth of Israel; they have become like Gentiles. And how the relationship between the two brothers went from bad to worse. Similarly, Hosea saw the same two characters (children of a protestitute), and prophecied about them as ‘No Mercy’ in [Hos 1:6] and ‘Not My People’ [Hos 1:9]. The amazing thing is that he never appreciated all that had been his in the father’s house, and it wasn’t through a failure of information, but a hardness of heart. Deep down, he knows that by his actions he has thrown away more than good food: he has thrown away a treasured relationship, and he knows as well what that sin justly deserves. Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. I do see comletely what you are wishing to demonstrate about the parable, viewing it through the lens of the ‘coming eschatological crisis’ which you describe. I have argued that this is a parable about the reversal of fortunes that will come about with the judgment and restoration of Israel. That assumption is particularly unsound in your reading of this parable. We mostly take it for granted, of course, that the father is God and that the central point of the story is that God forgives the repentant sinner. If the father is Abraham, the son takes his share in his Jewish heritage or in the promises made to the patriarchs and squanders it. The fatherhood of God in Luke is essentially a discipleship theme—it defines the relationship of the disciples to God, derived from their relationship to Jesus, as they followed the narrow path of suffering that would lead to life in the age to come. It also highlights Ishmael in a very prominent Jewish manner that is expected to be noticed significantly. 3. 2:49). 2. The mercy and grace shown in this would be seen in a slightly different way by Jews, gentiles, Romans, and even 21st century Americans or Africans. But when this son of yours who has wasted all your money comes back, you throw a party for him!!!" Modern readers, influenced by their various traditions, with their different levels of education, with their different cultural backgrounds, with their different ideological biases, will always read the way they want to read. All rights reserved. Norman, thanks for the comments and the links. It turns a three dimensional work of art into a rather flat two dimensional allegory. Then in this triad, the first 2 “lost ones” were sought for. I think we need to be sensitive to the literary force of Jesus’s teaching in this parable, and others, which I think breaks the boundary of simple historical allegory. I’m just pleased that, perhaps in ways you had not intended, Rembrandt is being included in the discourse. I think it’s a stretch to make the father in the story into an Abraham figure, and of course Abraham is never mentioned. That might be true if you’re not a first century Jew or if you lack any sense of connection to the historical conditions under which the Christian movement was formed. Could you please help me understand the practical consequences…? The Father says to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (15:31). That is as true today as it was in his own time and context. If they do not produce “fruits in keeping with repentance”, they will not escape the impending wrath of God against Israel (Lk. You are by peter wilkinson. In reply to I read The Tale of Two Sons by Hannah James. We all sin and move away from God. I can’t check the details of the argument at the moment, but I will sketch here my reasons for suspecting that the father is not God but Abraham. I’d be interested in your thoughts. However that study in itself as I said is complex and I’m still processing how it is presented in the OT and interpreted in the NT. The "trust" that Jesus asks for in the Image is not a passive thing. “And (the father) ran and embraced (the younger son) and kissed him.” – Jesus, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:20) Jesus tells us that when the father saw the son at the edge of the village, he pulled up his robes and ran to him. In reply to Travis, yes, up to a point: by Andrew. Identifying the father as ‘God’ might be a problem, albeit a slight one. The rich man in Hades still appeals to his father Abraham. The parable of the prodigal son begins by introducing three characters: a father and his two sons. In my estimation Andrew is spot on in reading this from the perspective of the intended audience. So the Parable of the Prodigal Son should be called the Parable of the Prodigal Sons. Jesus tells the story to the scribes and Pharisees precisely to explain the difference between them and the “sinners” with whom he associates. Inadmissible? I took another look at this, and of course, your argument, Andrew, is more subtle than I have given credit for. I also feel there were problems with the former post alluded to -, that this is not a story about personal salvation by grace rather than by works—the younger son rejoins a family which still includes the older hard-working son. The narrative-historical method—an outline, Some rough and ready “rules” for doing a narrative-historical reading of the New Testament. There seems no reason to deny that Jesus meant the lost sheep, coin, and son to stand for people like Zacchaeus and the older son to stand for those members of Israel—principally the scribes and Pharisees—who grumbled about the fact that such a person might repent and be restored. So we are bound to ask whether it makes better sense to read it on the assumption that the father is not God but, in effect, Abraham. Let’s not be arrogant and say that unsophistciated 1st century minds would not have worked that way. He had a loving father, a good home, provision, a future, and an inheritance, but he traded it all in for temporal pleasures. John berates the crowds which come out to be baptized for claiming to have Abraham as their father. The father has devoted his life to his family, but the prodigal son’s departure forms an unmistakable response to his father: it’s not good enough. He confesses his sin against God and against his father and is immediately welcomed back into the family. That doesn’t mean it’s valueless. He, and his attitude, are as important as the younger brother. Did Jesus believe that Gentiles would be included in the renewed people of God? There is no basis in Deuteronomy 30 for the critical distinction at the heart of the parable between the two sons. You are oversimplifying your response, and assuming uncritically that your point of view is absolute and exclusive. They’re both prodigal, but in different ways! Particularly looking again at the context of the story — in v1-2 it is Jesus’ behaviour which outrages the Pharisees, as the father’s behaviour outrages the elder son. In reply to I’m quite convinced Deuter 30 by Travis Finley. Jesus declared Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham”, saying that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”. The father grieved the loss of the Prodigal Son during his absence. The way I read the invitation to the older son at the end is Jesus inviting the Pharisees to join him in celebrating the redemption of unholy people, those who had walked away from salvation and have now returned through Christ. …the elder brother, who is not a representative of righteous Israel, but rather self-righteous Israel, from whom the kingdom was withheld. There doesn’t need to be a condemnation of the older son, and he is certainly not commended for his hard work. In Deuteronomy 30 God drives Israel into exile, Israel repents, and God gathers the outcasts from the ends of the earth. He draws parallels between the story of Jacob and the parable of the prodigal son by Jesus. I take your point about allegorization, but the parable is told explicitly to address the objections of the Pharisees about Jesus eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (15:1-2). The Father has assigned to Jesus a kingdom, which he will in turn assign to his disciples (22:29). The fact that he leaves the story with that invitation makes you wonder how many of them responded… although having him arrested and persuading the Romans to execute him certainly makes an interesting alternative ending to the story. The younger son symbolizes sinners and the older brother bring the religious leaders and the Pharisees. The parable of the prodigal son makes the same point: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk. The emphasis is entirely on the fact that the son has been restored to the family. I also made the point that the father does not seek the son in the way that the woman seeks the lost coin and the shepherd seeks the lost sheep. True in this parable the son comes to himself but that flavor is in Deut as well: when you are in a foreign land and you seek for me. Let me know if I’m overlooking something. Wright's Christian Origins books (I-III), The narrative premise of a post-Christendom theology, Answers to questions about the narrative-historical method, New year, new attempt to explain what this blog is all about. What struck him “like a thunderbolt,” though, was a friend’s admonition: “Whether you are the younger son or the elder son, you are called to be the father” (page 19 hc/22 sc). It’s a clever device. We know there was emnity between these two sons [2 Kings 16:6]. Its three main characters could be the stars of a TV series: The rich patriarch, his elder son, and his youngest—the wild child. It was just a few weeks after my own father died. But on a bumpy flight down to the south of France a couple of days ago I began to think there may also be grounds for questioning the traditional attribution of paternity. Divine Mercy Sunday: What's This Feast All About, Anyway? A happy disappointing Christmas to everyone! After the resurrection Jesus tells the disciples he he will send “the promise of my Father upon you”, with reference to the Holy Spirit (24:49). It seems to be built around God Fearing Gentiles whom often have been part of Judaism at one time. But in the parable neither man ransoms his life and escapes death. Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy. Such interpretations not only yank the parable out of its historical context, they lessen the message of Jesus and bear false witness against Jews and Judaism. The connection with the Zacchaeus story is obvious: when Jesus entered the house of Zacchaeus, people “grumbled” (diegonguzon) because Jesus had gone to be a guest at the house of a man who was a tax collector and sinner. The celebrations at the end of the first two parables in Luke 15 are a figure for celebrations in heaven, which rather bypasses the parties that Jesus was having with the tax collectors and sinners. 1. 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