Ever read it? If not—AND if so—stop what you’re doing, ‘cause God’s about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to.
Sorry. Had a Digital Underground moment there.
So, now that you’ve read Luke 15:11-32….
People call that story Jesus told “the story of the prodigal son” or “the story of the lost son.” I am starting to think of it as “the story of the lost sons.” Plural. Because when you read it, both sons have lost their way. The younger son would rather party like it’s AD 99 than live in his father’s love. The older son seethes with resentment, and probably hate, towards both his brother and his dad. Both sons, at different times, aren’t realizing how much their dad loves them.
At the big bash for the youngest son’s return, the older son doesn’t want to be a part of the party. It was probably the party of the decade if Jesus was describing it. (Jesus knew how to have a good time.) And so at the party of the decade, the older son can’t take it. He can’t take the embarrassing, unbridled, unconditional love that the father has for the son.
He’s right to an extent, you know. The father would have made himself a laughing stock, an embarrassment in Jewish culture, for doing anything other than beat his kid senseless for running out on the family. The youngest son basically asked for his inheritance before his old man is even close to keeling over. Yet here is the father, stumbling over himself to get to hug and hold his kid.
This is one of those stories Jesus tells us to convey what the LORD is like when we return to God.
Rob Bell uses this story to say that Hell is like being the older brother refusing to take part in the celebration. Kind of a stretch in my mind, but there are some parallels. The father never kicks the older son out of the party, who he HAD to know wasn’t very excited about this turn of events. (We all know when our immediate family members are pouting.) But, the older son is representative of the religious, pious people who were upset at the company Jesus was keeping and inherently approving of (since Jesus ate with the ill repute). The story has nothing to do with Hell. But I think it can speak to anyone who has ever felt alienated from the higher power they believe in. This is a story for the person truly looking to be accepted and loved. And isn’t that all of us?
I leave you with a great quote from the chapter, found on page 190.
“Jesus meets and redeems us in all the ways we have it together and in all the ways we don’t, in all the times we proudly display for the world our goodness, greatness, and rightness, and in all of the ways we fall flat on our faces.”