Monday, September 3, 2018

The Parable of the Prodigal Son with Baba Bishop Nelson Nzvimbo

(Also known as the Two Brothers, Lost Son, Loving Father, or Lovesick Father) is one of the parables of Jesus and appears in Luke 15:11–32. Jesus Christ shares it with his disciples, the Pharisees and others.

In the story, a father has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance and after wasting his fortune (the word "prodigal" means "wastefully extravagant"), becomes destitute. He returns home with the intention of begging his father to be made one of his hired servants, expecting his relationship with his father is likely severed. The father welcomes him back and celebrates his return. The older son refuses to participate. The father reminds the older son that one day he will inherit everything. But, they should still celebrate the return of the younger son because he was lost and is now found.


The parable begins with a young man, the younger of two sons, who asks his father to give him his share of the estate. The implication is the son could not wait for his father's death for his inheritance, he wanted it immediately. The father agrees and divides his estate between both sons.

Upon receiving his portion of the inheritance, the younger son travels to a distant country and wastes all his money in extravagant living. Immediately thereafter, a famine strikes the land; he becomes desperately poor and is forced to take work as a swineherd. (This, too, would have been abhorrent to Jesus' Jewish audience, who considered swine unclean animals.) When he reaches the point of envying the food of the pigs he is watching, he finally comes to his senses:

But when he came to himself he said, "How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough to spare, and I'm dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.'" He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran towards him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. — Luke 15:17–20, World English Bible
The Parable of the Prodigal Son with Baba Bishop Nelson Nzvimbo

This implies the father was hopefully watching for the son's return.

The son does not even have time to finish his rehearsed speech, since the father calls for his servants to dress him in a fine robe, a ring, and sandals, and slaughter the "fattened calf" for a celebratory meal.

The older son, who was at work in the fields, hears the sound of celebration, and is told about the return of his younger brother. He is not impressed, and becomes angry. He also has a speech for his father:

But he answered his father, "Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him."— Luke 15:29–30, World English Bible

The parable concludes with the father explaining that because the younger son had returned, in a sense, from the dead, celebration was necessary:

"But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found."— Luke 15:32, World English Bible

Context and interpretation

This is the last of three parables about loss and redemption, following the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin, that Jesus tells after the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse him of welcoming and eating with "sinners." The father's joy described in the parable reflects divine love, the "boundless mercy of God", and "God's refusal to limit the measure of his grace."

The request of the younger son for his share of the inheritance is "brash, even insolent" and "tantamount to wishing that the father was dead." His actions do not lead to success, and he eventually becomes an indentured servant, with the degrading job of looking after pigs, and even envying them for the carob pods they eat.

The mention of the son's longing to eat with the swine in Luke 15:16 could refer to how the Pharisees viewed the sinners (and Christ, for eating with them) in Luke 15:2. The Pharisees, caught up in their ideas of ritual cleanliness, might have thought of these people as filthy pigs.

On the son's return, the father treats him with a generosity far more than he has a right to expect. Some have suggested that this mirrors what Christians should do after sinning: feel contrition and return to their Heavenly Father, who will graciously welcome them back.

The older son, in contrast, seems to think in terms of "law, merit, and reward", rather than "love and graciousness." He may represent the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus.

The father, who represents our Heavenly Father, implies to the older son that his love for both sons is not dependent upon their perfection, but their willingness to return to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

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