Jesus is not a novelist. His story telling, as recorded in the Gospels, is more to illustrate a point or to open our minds to a new insight into reality than it is to engage us in a narrative. The "Prodigal Son" parable is longer and more detailed than most. The point Jesus is illustrating is that a father's love will lead him to do amazing things for his sons. One assumes, rightly, that this is intended as an illustration of God's relationship with us. As Luke has passed on the story, it was told by Jesus to provide insight (into His vision of God) to His (judgmental) adversaries.
What follows is based on a meditation I led Sunday. I think it provides deeper insight into the point Jesus is making.
So imagine the scene. Music playing, laughter and talking in the background. An older man stands talking with a younger man. The older man is a bit stooped and looks worn out, yet happy. He is also concerned. His eyes bore into the younger man with care and concern. His manner is gentle. He is pleading, his worn hands extended before him like a beggar.
The younger man looks mad, his gestures wild and expressive. He juts his chin forward and makes glaring eye contact, then withdraws with arms folded across his chest. He is obviously more intent on accusation than discussion. His loud tone and unfriendly facial expression convey his inner rage.
Finally, in desperation, the old man reaches out to grasp his shoulder. The young man pauses. The older man reaches for the other shoulder as well, his weary face dropping a bit as he slowly and softly talks. Somehow, for a moment, the son is drawn in. Perhaps he see he has pushed his father too far. Perhaps he has heard his own disrespect flowing out of his mouth. Perhaps a father's love has penetrated his anger, if only for a moment.
His dad looks at him, again and speaks.
"My son. My precious, first born, son. I have always loved you. You were the great joy of my life. At your birth I danced. I gave you my heart at that moment and you have had it ever since. Everything I have is yours. All of it.
Open your eyes, my boy. Look..... See.....
You say I have never given you a kid goat to celebrate with your friends? My son, I have given you the entire heard, old and young, each goat is already yours. All that is mine is yours!
You say you slave for me? Can't you see that it is yours already? Everything you do, all your efforts, all your work---it is not for me, it is for you. I have already given you everything. All mine is yours!
You are precious to me, my son. You have always been with me. With have been together, side by side, making a life together. Have I not told you of my love? shown you my love? Have I not given you everything?
Open your eyes, my son. Look.... See.....
Your brother smells unclean, he wreaks of pigs. What worse could have befallen him? He is dead; dead to you, to our village, to our way of life. He is dead to himself. You should see the shame in his eyes. Would you keep him in exile, locked away in death, feeding pigs? A son of Israel, your own flesh and blood? Your brother lower than a pagan? Would you be content to see him live that way forever?
You have everything, dear boy. All mine is yours. His share is gone. He has nothing. If you have everything, can you not have compassion as well? Can you not welcom your brother home? Can you not love your father enough to allow me some joy in my old age? Can you not love me enough to be happy for me, because my son was dead and is alive, my son was lost and is found?
Must I lose you, too? Will you not open your eyes to see? All that is mine is yours. All of it. Can that not be enough? Can you not join me in celebration?
****I contend this parable may be the finest example of proclaiming the Gospel that there is. It reveals the heart of God. It makes clear the vocation of church. It calls to the lost and reminds the 'righteous' of their vocation to love, to reconcile, to embrace. But most of all, it gives us hope. Hope that no matter how we stray, there is a Father scanning the horizon, ready to run, scoop us into His arms, love us and celebrate with us. The Father's desire is that all of us will live. All of us. It has pleased Him to give us the Kingdom. All of His is ours, all of it!