Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Luke 15:11-32 - The Parable of the Lost Son - Pete's Bible Commentary

Luke 15:11-32 (The Parable of the Lost Son) - 11 Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. 13 "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20 So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ' 22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. 25 "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' 28 "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 31 "'My son,' the father said, '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 again; he was lost and is found.'"

The Parable of the Lost Son is such a well known parable spoken of by Jesus. That being said, is there something we can glean from this story that will inspire us?

Larry Osbourne writes the following notes on Luke 15:11-32, taken from his book Sticky Church. He says:
  • Setting the Context for the Parable of the Lost Son: Religious leaders were upset that Jesus welcomed rather than excluded people of questionable character.
  • God would rather restore than punish.
  • How do you love and respond to a rebel?
  • When they insist on leaving, Let Them LEAVE!
  • When things get tough, let them hit rock bottom.
  • 'If we soften the blows, we'll lengthen the rebellion.'
  • When the prodigals comes back run to greet them!
  • After they're back, don't punish the obedient.
(Sticky Church, Larry Osbourne, page 169).

The Geneva Bible Translation Notes says about the Parable of the Lost Son, 'Men by their voluntary falling from God, having robbed themselves of the benefits which they received from him, cast themselves headlong into infinite calamities: but God of his singular goodness, offering himself freely to those whom he called to repentance, through the greatness of their misery with which they were humbled, not only gently receives them, but also enriches them with far greater gifts and blesses them with the greatest bliss.'

The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Both Christianity and Buddhism

There is a parable similar to that of the Lost Son, recorded amongst Buddhism, though it contains some interesting differences. You can find an interesting article here. Ernest Valea writes, 'The Buddhist parable has a different message [to that of Luke's Parable of the Lost Son]. One cannot simply reach Buddhahood at once. The process is very long and demands a progressive accumulation of wisdom. Escaping from ignorance and suffering, attaining nirvana and becoming a bodhisattva is attained gradually by a day-by-day effort in training the mind and overcoming karma. Grace, in Buddhism, cannot be shown directly, but only as the disciple deserves it, which in fact is no grace at all.'The son who returns says something interesting in verse 19. He says, 'I am no longer worthy to be called your son'. The word 'worthy' is the Greek word ἄξιος (axios) and denotes one who is deserving of a due reward. Think of this for a minute from the perspective of the father. You have a child that you cherish, and love with all your heart. Since when does a loving father ever call a child to be worthy, as somehow having to earn our relationship with him? Most fathers I can think of, love their children to bits. They long for their children to do what is right, but the children are not called to earn their relationship with them!

Much of Western culture unknowingly follows this Buddhist mantra. When you consider the rebellion of a family member, who say, have stolen considerable amounts of money from the family, have rebelled against the 'rules' of the household, we quite often call them to gradually earn back their respect in the family. The grace we show is limited. We say things like, 'He's going to have to make up for that!' or jokingly, 'She'll be doing the dishes the rest of his life!' We quite often make the person work to earn back our trust, and our love for them seems to be rooted in whether or not they behave themselves in the future.

Now for a moment, let's contrast this with the Parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded by Luke (15:11-32). The Father runs towards his son, wraps his arms around him and kisses him! What an example of unconditional love and irresistible grace! This is the Father's love for his children. God is quick to forgive. As Osbourne says, 'God would rather restore than punish'. While God looks favourably upon a repentant heart, and he requires a repentant heart, he does not then call the son to 'earn' back his relationship with the Father. What God requires of the prodigal son is to turn away from the sin and follow him. This kind of change of life, is not about earning back the respect or love of God, but rather about the son's love for God being naturally expressed in a life that pleases God.

Lord - Bring back the prodigals!

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32), is part of Pete's Bible Commentary.

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