This post, continued from yesterday, is based on chapter 9 of Jacob and the Prodigal by Kenneth Bailey, explaining some of the cultural background to the parable of the prodigal that may escape us.
- The father behaves like a mother. An oriental patriarch would be expected to remain at home in stately dignity. Instead, he runs down the road and showers the son with kisses.
- The father, as a symbol for God, evolves into a symbol for Christ. The father in the parable does exactly what Jesus was accused of doing: receiving sinners and eating with them (Luke 15:2).
- The meaning of the banquet:
- According to the father: (Luke 15:23-24). The father does not say, “He was lost and has come home.” The son was lost and dead, and as a result of the father’s costly demonstration of love, he was now found and resurrected. The banquet is a celebration of the success of that finding and that resurrection.
- According to the little boy: (Luke 15:26-27). This boy isn’t a servant because they’re inside the house making preparations. Additionally, a servant would have referred to the father as ‘my master’ not ‘your father’ (verse 27). The boy offers the community’s understanding of what’s happening:
Your brother has come, and you father has killed the fatted calf, because [now comes the second interpretation of the banquet] he [the father] has received him [the prodigal] with peace! (Luke 15:27, Kenneth Bailey’s translation)
For the community, the banquet is a celebration of the father’s efforts at reconciling his son.
- According to the elder son: (Luke 15:30). Is the banquet in honour of the prodigal or in honour of the father? Will the guests congratulate the father or the son? Note that the older son’s view, commonly accepted, conflicts with the other two.
- The older son’s anger. He is angry not that his brother is safely home, but that he’s been reconciled—without having to pay for his sins! He insults the father by refusing to join in the celebration.
- The father’s response to the older son. The father, for the second time, offers a costly demonstration of unexpected love. Grace is offered to both the law-breaker and the law-keeper.
- The sons’ responses. The younger son accepts being found. We don’t know what the older son decides. The previous two parables end in joy; here the joy is missing.
|Posts in this series|
|1||Introduction & overview|
|2||Three stories, one parable|
|3||The parable of the lost sheep|
|4||The lost coin|
|5||To find the lost (Part 1)|
|6||To find the lost (Part 2)|
|7||To find the lost (Part 3)|