During Lent, we are using short videos to share a daily idea (linked to the gospel of Luke) on how to grow spiritually. Watch today’s video. Click here or on the image below:
Note: We are reading the entire gospel of Luke in the GPS. Some day’s readings are longer than usual. We hope you’ll have an extra cup of coffee, or use your lunch break, and read Luke’s entire story of Jesus.
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, 26 “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. 30 They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ 31 Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? 32 And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. 33 In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good. But if salt loses its flavor, how will it become salty again? 35 It has no value, neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. People throw it away. Whoever has ears to hear should pay attention.”
15 1 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.
8 “Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? 9 When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”
11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.
14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”
One of the “costs” of following Jesus was hearing pious people grumble, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus didn’t even try to deny it. In three vivid stories, he told how finding a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost boy set off big parties, “joy in heaven.” In the last story, he pointedly added a recognizable older son who thought it was wrong to welcome the lost son home.
Lord Jesus, you always had “friends in low places.” But you always sought to draw them to higher ground. Give me the heart and the wisdom to live out your redemptive example. Amen.
Click here to incorporate music and worship from the COR Worship Collective into your daily practice and devotion.
Lately, I’ve been bothered by products that are mislabeled or misleadingly named. For example, I’ve been drinking Smart Water for the past month & I don’t feel any smarter. I’m still struggling to spell
vaccum vacuum, differentiate between dessert & desert, & my grammar hasn’t improved one bit. (I, for one, would eagerly testify on your behalf – Editor.) Further, I started eating several Thin Mints a day &, inexplicably, have actually gained weight. Which brings us to today’s passage, which includes the misleadingly named parable of the Prodigal Son. (FYI: The title was added when the Bible was divided into chapters & numbered verses, so this isn’t that hot a take.)
Before I lay out the case to re-name the Parable, I’ll reference the 1976 book, Poet & Peasant, by Kenneth Bailey, * a collegiate lecturer & a life-long Presbyterian missionary who focused on improving literacy in the Middle East. Mr. Bailey spent 20+ years living in villages that were isolated & primitive. Visiting with the villagers, he gradually realized that a new layer of understanding of Biblical stories was available when considering the reactions of Jesus’ original audience. So, he formed a panel of 25 people who had lived in a rustic village for at least 20 years & whom Mr. Bailey had known for at least 5 years. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Granddaddy of all Parables & see what it means for us today:
Bailey’s panel is shocked when the Younger Son requests his share of the estate, because it would be a degrading insult to the Father & was essentially a wish for the Father’s early death.
The Father further stuns the panel when he agrees to the Younger Son’s request. The panel noted that the proper response to such an outrageous request would range from a harsh rebuke, to a complete renunciation of the son, to physical punishment. (2022: Jesus’ portrayal of the Father in our parable as God, reminds us that God is a loving God who gave us Free Will, & who will reluctantly comply with our desire to reject Him.)
The Younger Son immediately sells off his share of the estate. The panel noted this would be even more humiliating to the Father. A family’s stature was intimately linked with their property. One could also easily imagine the glee of the Father’s rivals snatching up his land & choice livestock. Finally, since the sale of land was typically a lengthy process requiring months of haggling & neighbors offering their opinions, the panel concluded that the Younger Son had probably sold out cheap.
The Younger Son squanders his inheritance in a foreign land, presumably amongst the Gentiles. Some of the panel felt that the village elders would have been justified to push for a chastening ceremony (called Kezazah), which banished a Jewish man from the community & severed all family connections if he consorted with Gentile women or had shady business dealings with Gentiles.
A famine hits the foreign land & the Younger Son hires himself out as a pig herder. The panel suggested that the job offer was really meant to be a polite “brush off,” because the farmer never dreamed that a Jewish person would take such a demeaning job. The Younger Son comes to his senses & decides to return home to be a hired servant. Bailey’s panel notes that being a hired hand had lower status than being a slave. A slave was guaranteed food & lodging, while a servant could be hired/fired at will. (2022: The 1st step to forgiveness always involves repentance & changing one’s course/direction.)
We then have the Father reconciling with the Younger Son. The panel noted the following: A nobleman in the Mid-East would never run – a man’s stature was directly linked with the pace of his walk. The slower he walked, the greater his status. However, the Father HAD to run out to greet the son – if the villagers got wind of the Son’s return, they would have mobbed him with cruel taunts & perhaps even beaten him. The Father kissing the Younger Son on the cheek precluded the Son from falling to his knees to kiss his Father’s hand or feet. The best robe would mean an ornate gown reserved for religious feasts or weddings. The signet ring signaled to the servants & the community that the son was completely restored to the family. Preparing the fatted calf indicates a huge celebration involving the entire village. (2022: Jesus reminds us that God does love a good comeback story.)
Now, if our parable ended on this joyous note, I would concur with the Prodigal Son title. But Jesus continues with the Older Son’s bitter reaction to the great celebration. Bailey’s panel noted that the Older Son should have served as a mediator of the conflict earlier in the story, yet he did nothing. Now, he refuses to take on the traditional role as host of a family banquet. The Father publicly humiliates himself a 2nd time in our story by leaving the party to reason with the son, who shakes off his father’s pleas. The Older Son complains of not even being given a goat for a party with his friends, which the panel noted pointedly excluded the family. The Father returns to the party with great sadness. Jesus concludes the story with the Older Son pouting outside the home. (2022: Jesus is asking us, “What would we do?” Go into the joyous banquet or hold onto our righteous anger at the Father daring to forgive the sinner? Note: Our Jewish friends often used banquets as a symbolic description of the after-life, so this isn’t a trifling question.)
Finally, a little trivia: “prodigal” can mean wasteful. As we read this story, we certainly see the Younger Son as wasteful, since he has burned through his family inheritance. However, I think that we can also consider the Older Son as wasteful as well. He is taking his Father’s love for granted & doesn’t even acknowledge what a special privilege it is to be in His presence.
So I would submit that our parable should properly be entitled “The Parable of the Prodigal Sons” or, since He plays a key role in both halves of the story, “The Parable of the Loving Father.” Now if you’ll excuse me, being a fan of the chariot races in the movie Ben Hur, I’m going to watch the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire. It should be epic! (Sigh. Who wants to tell Darren there are no chariots in the movie? – Editor.)
* Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet & Peasant, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1976.
13720 Roe Ave.
Leawood, KS 66224
24000 W. Valley Pkwy
Olathe, KS 66061
1601 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108
601 NE Jefferson St.
Blue Springs, MO 64014
8412 W. 95th St.
Overland Park, KS 66212
Can’t find something? Let us help.