“The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is probably one of the most familiar parables in the Bible to most people. In this parable, Jesus states that there was a man who had two sons, and the younger of the two asked his father to give him the share of the property that was his. The father then divided his living between the two sons and not many days later the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country where he squandered his property in loose living. After the younger son had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country and he began to be in want and joined himself to one of the citizens of the country who sent him into his fields to feed the swine. The younger son would have been happy to feed on the pods that the swine ate and no one gave him anything. Soon the younger son came to his senses and thought, How many of my father’s servants have bread enough to spare but I perish here with hunger? The younger son then said, I will rise and go to my father and say I have sinned before heaven and before you. And so he did. The father responded to this admission of sin and wrongdoing by his younger son by saying to his servants to bring the best robe, put it on his son and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet and bring the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and rejoice and make merry for my son who was dead is not alive and he who was lost is now found.
Jesus goes on to say that his elder son was in the field and as he came near the house he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this meant and the servant explained to him that his brother had come and his father has killed the fatted calf because his father has received him safe and sound. The elder son was angry and refused to go in even though his father came out and asked him to joint in the festivities. The elder son said, I have served you as my father for many years, and I have never disobeyed your command, yet you have never given me a feast that I might make merry with my friends. The elder son then states, When this son of yours came who had wasted his share of property living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted cow. The father concludes by saying you are always with me and all that is mine is yours but it was fitting to rejoice for your brother who was dead is no alive and he who was lost has now been found.
In this parable, there is an earthly father and the younger son asked of his share of the inheritance which came to him in this case as a gift from his father. Apparently in this parable the younger son wanted his full use and possession of his father’s property because he wanted to lead his own life. It is not clear whether the younger son is married or not but he seems to be unmarried since no wife is mentioned. Apparently he dissipates himself in what is called loose living and spends his inheritance completely. It is made clear later in the parable later in the parable that the loose living mentioned here was spending his time and inheritance with harlots. The younger son is reduced to complete poverty and ends up having to feed swine and cannot even obtain anything to eat and reaches the point where no one will give him anything. He then returns to his father owns up to his sin and wrongdoing admits his unworthiness as a son and the father’s response is to immediately forgive his son and give him the best of clothes and shoes and even to give him a feast because his son who was lost and dead is not alive and found.
The returning son is made welcome as a guest and even given a robe, ring, and shoes. It is the elder son who was angry that this feast is given for his younger brother and says that he has done everything for his father, has served him and never disobeyed his commands, and yet his father has never given him a feast like this and the father’s response was you are always with me and you can have everything that is mine but this feast for my younger son was given because he was lost to me and dead to me and now returned.
This parable describes once again the grace and unlimited love of God for all men and women. For each of us, child, handicapped, old, young whoever they may be, he sets his unbounded mercy and love for each and every one of us; particularly, the lost sinner who has returned his unlimited love is given even more when he does return.
As in the Parable of the Lost Drachma, the love of God is even greater when one lost sinner returns. The second part of the Parable concerning the response of the older son and his protest represents the response of men and women who cannot accept the grace and love of God given to another who has offended and has done wrong and who has not led a righteous life. Jesus tells us in this parable that we cannot protest God’s love for the lost. We cannot protest his unbounded mercy and love that extends to the sinner who returns and repents. He commands us here to rejoice and give up our loveless ways and be merciful as God is merciful to the lost sinner. This parable is a paradigm of the gospel which is good news not only for the righteous but more particularly for the sinners for whom God’s love is even greater and it is them who he seeks out most particularly with the gospel to be saved. God’s love is all the greater for the lost who returns and we should not be appalled by or jealous of the extent of his love.