FIND THE MISSING SON
The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is well known. Many exegetes have written tomes on it.
Timothy Keller wrote a book titled “THE PRODIGAL GOD – Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith” in which he suggests if the son was ‘prodigal’ or ‘recklessly extravagant’ as in ‘having spent everything’, the Father (or G-d) is even more so.
The context in which Yeshua Adonai tells this parable is supremely important. He speaks of a single sheep that has gone astray and 99 sticking to the pen and about a shepherd who goes hunting to bring back safely the lost sheep.
He speaks of a woman who lost a valuable coin out of ten she had and hunts for it until she finds it.
And then he shifts from the metaphor of the sheep or coin to that of the prodigal son, a human being, who is in search of something, some sort of fulfilment or completion, who goes off wandering in search of the same.
There is a place, or a space, or a relationship(s) that he abandons – the nation, city, village, tribe or household he was born into, his specific culture, his affluent and comfortable life, his father and brother, his apparently having everything that was meant to and ought to hace kept him happy.
But, no! He had to leave all of it and yet take a part of it – his share of the past – and head elsewhere. There he ‘spent everything’ he had with ‘reckless extravagance’.
And the story goes that when he had ‘spent everything’ and is in distress and agony, not having exactly found the fulfilment or completion he had set out to discover, he remembers all that he had abandoned, his home and its comforts, his origin. Something along the lines of what the poet T S Eliot said: “and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
So he ‘returns’ to the Father, the act of what the Hebrews term TESHUVAH, or what Christians term as ‘repentance’, metanoia or making an ‘about turn’, and heads back to where once belonged.
Surprisingly, he is received and restored to his prior privileges without a word of condemnation or judgement by his father though his elder brother has his own reservations about the prodigal being accepted back into the fold.
The story is interesting and is Jewish in nature, the way Yeshua tells it. There is indeed an origin, a father, a place of peace, delight and abundance which, it is surmised, will be missed at some point in time by any son, that peculiar type of human being, who abandons it for whatever reason he or she might have.
The nature of the Father is of interest. He grants his son his desire to wander and even give him money to facilitate his adventure but he is also awaiting the day the son will return having spent it all recklessly and plumbed the depths, so that he can give him both acceptance and even more of riches. , But this time, the son will know the difference. In fact, in the story, the father sees his son returning ‘afar off’ and runs to meet him and escort him back to his true inheritance.
This is the extent or limit to which the Hebrews understood the nature of their G-d, for whom Yeshua uses the metaphor Abba or Father. They had understood that this G-d waits patiently for those who stray from Him to make Teshuvah and return home. They would be received and restored to their inheritance.
But there is something radical missing in this story. Something or someone important. And that is revealed if one understands the context in which the parable is told by Yeshua.
The Hebrew G-d is loving, generous and has foresight but does not get in the way of anyone who strays. He waits patiently for sense to dawn in the stray, perhaps through suffering, so that he can make Teshuvah. And for one who makes Teshuvah, the Hebrew G-d, as per the understanding of the Jews, would even come half-way down the road to receive himl and take him home for full restoration.
The Moshiach, or Saviour, though was bringing a greater and deeper light than this limited understanding of the Jews who did not have access to the exact representation of G-d. The Moshiach, as some of us understand Him, is the exact representation of G-d.
What does the Moshiach do when confronted with a prodigal or a stray?
Luke 15: 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “If one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, doesn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?
Luke 15: 8 “Another example: what woman, if she has ten drachmas and loses one of these valuable coins, won’t light a lamp, sweep the house and search all over until she finds it?
The missing person in the story of the Prodigal Son is the Son of G-d, Yeshua Moshiach. The revelation of the Son in this context is the completion of the story and the fuller knowledge of G-d the Father. The Son is the One the Father has now deputed to find the lost sheep and the lost drachma. And, while the Father waits, the Son wanders the face of the earth looking to find the lost ones and bring them home to the Father and to perennial safety.
Why did the Moshiach not insert himself into the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Because He had already provided the context for the Parable and was present in person to those to whom he told the tale. He was hoping they would recognise Him as the Son, as the Moshiach, and that His very presence with them was the sign that He had found his lost sheep, his valuable lost coins. All they had to do was believe in Him and follow Him home.
Many people believe that ‘the goodness of G-d leads to repentance’, a turning around, a return. The goodness of G-d is the Son of G-d, Yeshua, the Moshiach. Recognising Him as Moshiach or Saviour is Teshuvah or Metanoia, the about-turn in life and spirit.
John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved.
Luke 5: 30 The P’rushim and their Torah-teachers protested indignantly against his talmidim, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” 31 It was Yeshua who answered them: “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the ‘righteous,’ but rather to call sinners to turn to God from their sins.”
What is repentance but the life-changing recognition that the Moshiach left the Father’s Kingdom to search for those truly lost and to apply it to one’s own self? Whoever recognises this Moshiach has come to repentance and salvation.
John 10:9 (Yeshua said) I am the gate; if someone enters through me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”