11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
Even though Jesus’ opening statement sounds casual, in reality it is a pretty grave situation. Mr. Bailley who is an expert on Middle Eastern culture writes in his book that most Middle Eastern villagers would say that generally a son wouldn’t ask his father for his inheritance. It was rude and outlandish to make such a demand. Inheritance normally passed on only at the death of the father. In effect, when a son asked for his share of the inheritance he was stating that he wished his father dead so that he could have his money! What an insult! A typical father would beat up the son who dared to make such an insensitive demand!
Imagine this father’s plight!
His younger son literally called him a barrier to his plans for a new life! Now, he had to sell his assets to give his son his share of the inheritance. In those days, there was no loose cash lying around. All the wealth was tied up in immovable properties. He had to sell his land which meant that the whole village would come to know of the ordeal. His family would become the laughing stock of the village! What humiliation and agony! Meanwhile, the boy didn’t seem even slightly remorseful about the whole matter. He grabbed the money and set off!
The father could have refused to give into the son’s demands and punished him for even entertaining such a thought! He could have forced him to stay. But this father does nothing of that sort because true love never controls or compels another to love them back. True love lets go.
13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
Without a second glance or thought, the younger son gathered all the money and galloped away to a distant country. He willingly and deliberately walked away from every discipline, upbringing, value and the fear of God that he was brought up in. Off he went and splurged his money in a wild lifestyle. Very soon he was broke. To make matters worse for him, recession hit the country! Jobs and food became scarce.
HANGING OUT AT THE STY
14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
Somehow our hero managed to find a job with a citizen of the country. This citizen must have been a wealthy man. Sadly, the only job that was offered to the down-on-his-luck boy was taking care of the pigs.
Now as far as a Jew was concerned, there was nothing more deplorable than being associated with pigs. But so miserable was this boy’s financial situation that he took up the job! But even there, he didn’t have it easy. His masters wouldn’t even let him eat the pods that the swine ate!
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
A hungry belly and an empty wallet knocked him back to his senses! He recognized his dire condition and realized that his father’s servants were treated better than he was. Slowly he made up his mind to return to his father and beg for forgiveness. Of course, he had burned all bridges when he left home. Nevertheless he decided to give it a try.
THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
One day, the father looked out and saw a wonderful sight! There in the distance was his beloved younger son slowly trudging home. Compassion for this child of his overwhelmed him. He ran all the way, took the young lad in his arms and kissed him. Even before his son had a chance to explain himself, the father embraced him and welcomed him.
The grace of God received the boy. The love of God took him in.
The son began to apologize to his father and admitted that he had no right to even be considered as his son.
He didn’t get ahead with his carefully rehearsed speech! The father stopped him short.
…to be continued…