Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday have been and gone and so we’ve entered into the season of Lent.
It happens that the sermon at the Ash Wednesday service I went to yesterday was on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The title of the Sermon was ‘The Waiting Father’, and while listening to the sermon and reflecting on the passage I was struck by how many things there are to notice about this parable. So I resolved to make this parable the centre of my Lenten reflections this year. As such I will be doing a series of short posts throughout lent of my thoughts and reflections.
Here’s the passage as found in the NIV:
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 servants 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 servants.” 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 round 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 elder 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 elder 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.”’
– Luke 15:11-32
I was thinking about the opening verse last night before I drifted off to sleep.
Jesus continued, “There was a man who had two sons.”
I wondered what there was to reflect on, a man having two sons hardly seems significant in and of itself. But then I was drawn to the word before it: continued. Jesus continued.
Continued from what? I grabbed my Bible and looked at the chapter before and the chapter after and noticed that this section of Luke is filled with parables. More than this, while each of the parables help explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is like they are each very distinct examples.
There’s the man who threw a banquet, a king who goes to war.
There’s a shepherd and his missing sheep, and a woman who loses a silver coin.
There’s the one about a shrewd manager, and the story of Lazarus and the rich man.
And there’s the one about the man who had two sons.
Often we share anecdotes in conversation to make a point, and we might say to one another,
‘Did you see that youtube video of the guy doing somersaults on top of a crane?
“Did you see that Buzzfeed video about Christians?”
“I was watching Michael MacIntyre do this joke about how posh people can use any word to mean drunk -‘I was absolutely lamp-shaded!'”
And it strikes me that this could well have been the same.
“Did you hear that one about the Shepherd and his sheep?”
“I remember hearing this preacher and he talked about a rich man and this beggar, Lazarus.”
“Oh, you should have been there! He told us this story about this man who had two sons and...”