We are looking at the Prodigal Son parable in the Gospel According to Luke. The parable is found in the Gospel According to Luke chapter 15. For the next few blogs, I would like to highlight and reflect on the characters portrayed in the parable. The characters we will be focusing on are the Father, the Younger Son, the Older Son, and the Servants.
The Father is an interesting character. The Father likes to break what I would call social norms and shows a ridiculous amount of love. The first thing that is notable about the Father is his youngest son comes to him asking for his inheritance early. I believe Timothy Keller said this somewhere in his book "The Prodigal God" that his son is, in essence, wishing his Father was dead. Without any comment, hurt, or reflection from the Father he divides all of his wealth and estates between the two brothers. He gives the younger brother the money of his inheritance early. The Younger Son then leaves the family.
There is a passage of time. The Father has not seen his youngest son for some time. Probably thinking he may never see his son again. But while working in the field and looking out into the distance, he sees his younger son. The Father does not wait but runs to his son. Before the Younger Son can say anything, he wraps his arms around him and kisses him.
The story shows the son not dressed well and coming to the Father defeated and poor. The Son speaks to him, telling him he has missed the mark at being his son, even going so far as to say he is not worthy of being called his child anymore. But the Father calls his servants to dress his Son in the finest close and jewelry. He then calls for the biggest calf to be killed to through a giant party celebrating the return of his son. For background, this calf would be an investment and sold for a decent amount of money.
A party is thrown, and all are having a good time, except for the Older Son. The events must have happened so quickly that he was not told about the party. The Older Son hears the music and the party and asks what is going on? The Father comes out to the field by his Older Son and invites him to the party. The Older Son refuses to join the party. The unusual response from the Father is to remind his eldest son how much he loves him and just because he didn't throw him a party for his steadfast loyalty and work doesn't mean he does not love him less. The Father explains why they are celebrating, but never once offers to fix the broken relationship of the brothers. He invites the older brother to share in the party.
What sticks out to me in this parable is first the love the Father has for his children. No matter how much attitude, brokenness, and hurt the children throw at the Father he remains lavishly loving to them. He goes so far in showing an abundance of forgiveness for the youngest son and a wealth of grace and care for the older brother. In this story, there is never a scarcity on of resources, love, or compassion.
The second thing that sticks out to me about the Father is how he behaves. First, running was not a respectable or proper way for a man of status to act. Second, he has no further obligation to the youngest son. The boy wished his father dead and took the families money only to waste it away. Can you imagine your child wanting you were dead, taking half your families income and wealth, leaving to another country, and never contacting you? That comes with deep hurt, and I am sure no one would have judged the Father at the time for rejecting the son. In the shame-based culture Jesus lived in, it would be shameful what the child had done and would be equally disgraceful to take him back. This wayward black sheep of the family was welcomed back with open arms and no doubts.
I think the Father can teach us how to love in a world full of hate, abuse, and mistrust. I believe the Father shows us how God loves and how we are called to love. We are called to love like the Father not just to family, but beyond because the parable itself points to the characters representing more than just a family. I invite you to ponder the love, grace, and the abundance of the Father and how you might show love, grace, and abundance to people in your life?