The Prodigal Father

Nov 9, 2013 2020

Prodigal means extravagant, even to the point of wastefulness. It’s an old-fashioned world; I didn’t know what it really meant until recently.

Most people think that the Parable of the Prodigal Son is about the Prodigal Son. It’s Not. Yes, the younger son was prodigal with his Father’s gifts. But it’s not about him.

Some people think that the parable is about the older son who appears in the second half of the story. It’s not. Yes, the older son was prodigal with his hard work. But it’s not about him.

prodigalsonThis parable is all about the Prodigal Father. That’s the only way that the first-century Jewish hearers of Jesus’ story would have understood it. The main character is the Father.

Jesus’ hearers would have agreed that the younger son was wrong. They would have agreed that the older son was right. And all eyes would have been on the Father to see how he responded to this challenge. They knew what the Father should do. He should not forgive his younger son until he had demonstrated the fruits of true repentance over a long period of labour. They knew that if he was to even allow the son to enter his home again, he should only do so secretly. The son had brought dishonour and shame to the family name. The culture, society, dignity, honour, and proper morals demanded all these things. The older son was right.

But it is the Father who is prodigal, giving half of everything he owns to his younger son in the first place. He is prodigal to the point of wastefulness it seems!

It is the Father who is prodigal in his love and forgiving mercy towards the son. He breaks every appropriate convention, hiking up his skirts to run across the fields to throw his arms around his stinking returning son. He gives him a new robe, new shoes, and takes off his own ring of authority and puts it on his son’s fingers. And then the Father throws the biggest, noisiest party ever, so that the whole neighbourhood might know that there is joy in this home because his son has returned.

This was extravagant love that went beyond the bounds of what was appropriate; it was prodigal mercy to the point of stupidity – according to Jesus’ hearers.

And then look how at tenderly the Father pleads with his legalistic, works-oriented older son!

Oh yes, this parable has the expansive, unbounded, extravagant love of the Father written all over it. Jesus intended to shock……. us.

What was the difference between the two brothers? Like us, neither of them truly understood the magnitude of the Father’s love. But one of them chose to surrender to it and just accept it. And while the party continued long into the evening, the other brother was left outside.

Isn’t it about time we understood this parable…. I mean, REALLY understood it?

Whatever  you do, don’t let the Father’s love, poured out at Calvary through Jesus Christ, be wasted. I plead with you, whether it is for the first time, or whether again, accept it today.

Eliezer Gonzalez

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