INTRODUCING ANOTHER OF GOD’S “COMEBACK KIDS:” MEET THE PRODIGAL SON


          (The context for this study is Luke 15:10-32.  As we’ve done before, my attempt is to find out how the young man got himself in such a plight, what figured in his “comeback” and what effect it had when he decided to return.  I encourage you to read the story and do your own thinking before you think about what I think.  ~dk)          

           In my opinion, there were TWO sons in this story whose attitudes and actions were questionable.  One went rollicking off to a far country.  The other stayed home and sulked and pouted resentfully when the ‘prodigal’ began to get his act right and decided to move back home.  The real “hero” in the story is the man Helmut Thielicke called “The Waiting Father.”

          Instead of walking around singing: “I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you old rascal you” the younger brother straight up, straight out said: “I want to have my inheritance.  Now!”   Since I’m not sure about inheritance laws and customs in effect at that time, it’s hard to make an objective observation.  I DO know what my folks would have said to that proposition if we’d ever had a fortune to divide! From my point of view, he sounds a little bit like a cheeky, cocky, spoiled brat.  At any rate, the Dad granted his wish and went a step further and gave the older brother his share as well. Then the younger brother struck out for a “far country.” Jesus doesn’t say where that was.  Syria, Jordan, were pretty close by.  I’d have said they were “near countries.”  But probably the countries that bordered the Mediterranean may have been popular with the then “jet set.”  It seems to me that he wanted to put as much distance as possible between him and the ‘rules  and regs’ at home.  He wanted to “let the good times roll.” For as long as it lasted, he really lived it up & lost a small fortune, all his drinking buddies and his self respect. (Luke 15:10-13)

          Between you and me, though, the younger was probably the more likeable of the two brothers.   You’d like to hang out with him.   He was probably the life of every party he attended.

          In retrospect, it seems he blew it.  Big time.  The reasons for his “fall” had a lot to do with his being impulsive, undisciplined, self-centered and immature.  And, besides that, he needed to grow up

                                    THE TURNING POINT

         In verse fifteen, “T. P.” (The Prodigal) had a very sobering, ice cold dose of reality.  With his money and friends all gone, the worst “economic crisis in recent history” struck the area.  Unemployment skyrocketed.  “T.P.’s” already tangled, troubled situation plummeted.  When he thought things could not get any worse, they did!

           A young Jew from a well-to-do background was forced to find a place to stay, and something to do to “keep body and soul together.”  His only option was to work for a GENTILE, which was already beneath his dignity and upbringing.  And his duties consisted of “slopping hogs.”  That flew in the face of all the religious teaching he had in his life.  By many, all Gentiles were considered “dogs.”  And pigs were never the favorite item on the Hebrew menu!  I can almost hear him now:  “Sooooooeeeee!  Pig! Pig! Pig!  Soooooeeee!”  And as they squealed and grunted and rooted and  scrambled around the trough, he was so hungry he could have actually eaten the slop!  Do you get the picture?  See how far he fell when he insisted on having his own way?

         You ever had to “slop” hawgs?  They don’t have good table manners, and for a young Jew with any  “couth” or culture; his position had to be beyond humiliating.

         But this became the turning point.  As low as he could go now, he finally managed to think.  “He came to himself,” the Scripture says.  The inference seems to me to be that someone who strays away and stays away from the “waiting Father” has taken leave of his senses.  He isn’t functioning with his best mind.
 

          That was the turning point.  When he hit rock bottom, he came to his senses.  It was a crude, rude, rough, tough wake up call.   In some respects, the worst thing that happened to him became the best thing that happened to him. He’d lost everything.  The only thing he had left was faded memories of what it was like back home, while wearing empty pockets and tattered rags and trying to deal with a broken, defeated, hopeless spirit. 

          Sometimes poets have a way of capturing feelings that elude even the most eloquent writer of prose.  As I thought of this poor guy it was impossible for me to avoid some obvious spiritual implications.  I recalled some lines by a poet whose name I cannot recall. They express how I feel someone might have felt in such a circumstance  They certainly verbalize some of my own feelings when I realized  I’d strayed too far away from God and stayed away far too long:

“Where is the blessedness I knew, when first I knew the Lord?                                          Where is that soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His Word?                                              What peaceful hours I once enjoyed.                                                                                How sweet their memory still.                                                                                           But they have left and aching void the world can never fill.                                                                          

 Return o Holy Dove, return.  Sweet Messenger of rest.                                                      I hate the sins that made thee mourn                                                                                                        and drove Thee from my breast.

God’s servant, your brother, friend and fellow student  ~donkimrey

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One response to “INTRODUCING ANOTHER OF GOD’S “COMEBACK KIDS:” MEET THE PRODIGAL SON

  1. I love it.

    I think this is everyone’s favorite parable for obvious reasons – we can all relate. But the bigger lesson is what it teaches us about GOD’s nature – which, in our worst moments, we are too prideful to acknowledge.

    I don’t remember where I read this, but in 1st century Judea there evidently was a custom if a son ever pulled a stunt like that. Since he was essentially telling his ‘rents “you’re dead to me”, he was considered permanently outcast and they would burn some sort of corn kernals in the village after he left, throwing them behind him as a symbol that his “bridges” were truly and irrevocably burned…he couldn’t “go home again”.

    Anyway, the implication of that is that for the father to react the way he did in Jesus’ illustration would have been beneath the dignity of any father with an ounce of self-respect. See what a wallop that packs? He didn’t just accept him back grudgingly – he RAN to him; in full view of the neighbors. Unheard of. Love that lavish that puts all pride aside is the object lesson Christ wants us to see……we really can’t mess it up badly enough that the Father won’t take us back joyfully. We just have to put our pride in our pocket and humble ourselves to receive it.

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