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what does the father represent in the prodigal son


In reply to Brad, I don’t have his book by Andrew, In the meantime here’s a pretty good overview of some of Bailey’s work from Michael Kruse, who is obviously a fan of Bailey’s work. Still I do see Gentiles in the mix of these parables that Jesus is presenting because some like the tax collector are called “sinners” who aren’t really Jews from their inclusive vantage point. It was just a few weeks after my own father died. Why is the Catholic population decreasing in numbers? The amazing thing is that he never appreciated all that had been his in the father’s house, and it wasn’t through a failure of information, but a hardness of heart. The estate would normally come to the sons but does not have to. He finds himself feeding swine, forbidden to Jews, and longs to eat what he is feeding them. 3. The son feels it necessary to confess to the father even though the father has not asked him for such an apology. There was no doubt that he cared for them. The prodigal son, or lost son, was an abuser of grace. He’s his little boy and prays that he has an epiphany and returns home. I’m quite convinced Deuter 30 lies behind the Lost Son and Psalm 49 is behind the RM & L in ch 16. That describes the response of the Pharisees perfectly to what they saw Jesus doing. The motif of the relationship of children to father Abraham in Luke is found in the context of the recurring controversy with the Pharisees and other leaders of the Jews over who will share in the eschatological life of the people of God following judgment—who will sit down at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the age to come. Rom 9:6-8  But it is not as though the word of God has failed. Could it be that son lost to him was sleeping just a few rooms away all these years? He knows he can only heal the relationship, in any real sense, if he returns to a shared reality with the father. He squanders the property “on a life of dissipation.” It is akin to throwing the money in the gutter, but with the added negative outcome of using it for sinful purposes. Too much might be read into this, I guess, but it fits the Abraham identification well. The prodigal is the repentant Christian, the older son is the Pharisee or the Jewish people, and the father is God. He let his son express his turmoil. So we are bound to ask whether it makes better sense to read it on the assumption that the father is not God but, in effect, Abraham. There doesn’t need to be a condemnation of the older son, and he is certainly not commended for his hard work. In the parable, the father represents God. So, he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.”. He soon runs out of what he needs and finds himself in a land where no one really cares about him, no one will give him anything. Neither is God. "The Prodigal Son" is a sculpture in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, by George Grey Barnard that depicts the loving reunion of the father and son from the "Parable of the Prodigal Son." Is Jesus anywhere else in the New Testament called or likened to a father? What The Prodigal Son’s Father Teaches Us About Love and Truth. That is as true today as it was in his own time and context. It is near the end of the parable that we get a clue as to whom the sons symbolize. The young son returning is a good picture of what repentance is. Parable of the Prodigal Son - A son asks for an early inheritance, travels away, and makes bad choices. I’d have thought that the ‘father/son’ motif, especially in the life of Jesus, is as much, if not more, to do with divine privilege and messianic promise (from 2 Samuel 7 — v13, and Psalm 2 — v7 especially) than protection of the weak and vulnerable. This is not an extrapolation, as we see “gifting” is the first act of the father when the son returns. I don’t think Kester Brewin’s re-reading is valueless—it’s just not what the historical Jesus intended. He quarreled with his father that the younger son had messed up and yet the father had prepared for him the “fatted calf.” Because he considered himself better than the younger son, he could not share in the father… If we want to make application after that to other issues that seem relevant then the scriptures are up to that challenge as well I’m sure. 19:8-10). 15:21). In your reading maybe. These two errors are in a way similar to the two ways we can be guilty of presumption: that everything depends on God or that everything depends on me. The language of the parable is really gift. I had a quick look and will try at some point to consider Jordan’s argument—and others like it—in more detail, but for now I’m not persuaded that Jesus intended the parable to be read as a retelling of Israel’s history, whether Isaac and Ishmael or the return from exile. The emphasis is entirely on the fact that the son has been restored to the family. Thoughts? Jesus tells the story to the scribes and Pharisees precisely to explain the difference between them and the “sinners” with whom he associates. Instead of the older son working with and for the father as a gift to him, he interiorly believes he is storing up a debt that the father owes back to him, out of justice. It is also a representation of God's love. Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say it: God is going to punish you with violent destruction? In the same way, Jesus stores up the gifts of grace and salvation individually for each of us upon his sacrificial death. He returned to the father begging for his forgiveness and acknowledging his sin. We can imagine that this intention is his purpose. The longing of the father to be united with the younger son, to be in relationship with him and to give of himself to him, is realized when he sees him. So I would suggest that the parable of the prodigal son is essentially of the same type as the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: it is a story about what it means to belong to the family of Abraham at a time of eschatological crisis. This is the second way in which the son sins against the father. The details of the story are adaptable of course. I’m sorry I’m not contributing to the promotion of the viewpoint. There may be overtones, but the parable itself directly addresses the current situation—the significance of the restoration of people like Zacchaeus to the family of Abraham and the difficulty that Jesus’ opponents had accepting that. There is a strong element of self-seeking calculation-what Catholicism has traditionally called "imperfect contrition"-in his words, "treat me as one of your hired servants," a speech obviously designed just to get him a few decent meals! These examples are from corpora and from sources on the web. Since 1900. After he gets 1/3rd of his father's estate, he takes everything he has and goes "into a far country, and there he … It is supremely rude to act in this way toward the father. Of course, on another level, you could say that the younger is the church. The original lie is exposed and this should with His grace allow me to see the Heavenly Father through eyes of Faith. In reply to Notice was Jeremiah says in by Mark. This is all very interesting… although it really does not change the meaning for the reader today. But there is enough there I think. I’m of the opinion presently myself that Genesis is a product of exilic Judaism early on and all the stories are messianic themes of the redemption of not only the Jews but of the Gentiles as well. This restoration to fellowship was cause for celebration – not because the younger son was “good” but because of the Father’s great love for the younger son. The tax collector Zacchaeus was one of those who was lost and found again by the Son of Man. He divides his property and lets his son go. The father in the story shows immense grace to his two sons. The younger son in this case demands what is a gift as something owed, as something that belongs to him by right, placing the inheritance in the arena of justice, in effect denying the gratuitous nature of the inheritance and so, in a real sense, denying the love that impels the gift. The older son represents the second way in which we can misunderstand the gifts we are given by God, that they are earned — “Everything I have is yours,” that is, everything I have is a gift to you. Parable of the Prodigal Son and Forgiving Father - Luke 15:3-32 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons (1). His late " Return of the Prodigal Son " (1662–1669) is one of his most popular works. The son repents of his recklessness and returns. Nor does he send someone to seek the son. Then the celebration began. So, the father divided the property between them. In reply to I’m quite convinced Deuter 30 by Travis Finley. The “little flock” of disciples should not be afraid, for “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32). Then in this triad, the first 2 “lost ones” were sought for. Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? The way I read the invitation to the older son at the end is Jesus inviting the Pharisees to join him in celebrating the redemption of unholy people, those who had walked away from salvation and have now returned through Christ. Nevertheless, the father hears the son’s request and acquiesces to it. 1. The servant said to him, “Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. Has the body of Christ wandered off? I would guess that most of the words of Christ could have more than one valid and valuable meaning. Let’s not be arrogant and say that unsophistciated 1st century minds would not have worked that way. – Mama Needs Coffee. We project our nature onto God’s and assume that He needs to be “moved” to mercy and forgiveness by our apology. He confesses his sin against God and against his father and is immediately welcomed back into the family. I don’t think he was saying to the Pharisees, “Here’s an interesting story, make of it what you will.”. The younger son - the prodigal son - takes all that he has and squanders it. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”. Now he is ready to learn the lesson. The “tax collectors and sinners” have become alienated from the commonwealth of Israel; they have become like Gentiles. We mostly take it for granted, of course, that the father is God and that the central point of the story is that God forgives the repentant sinner. We can avoid thinking that either his love or forgiveness are owed or for sale. 3. No matter what he did, the Prodigal never stopped being a son. It is a final “gift of self” from the father to his heirs. Abraham is given an active speaking role on the rich man and Lazarus story. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. In the story, a father has two sons. He is “moved with compassion” even while the son is at a distance. Jesus does not simply leave it at that. But I’m not convinced that either text accounts for the specific form or purpose of the parables. “He became angry, and refused to go in”. I refer again to my Finnish loghouse post. And in this, the son was right to express to his father what he was feeling and perhaps reveal to him the real rift in the family. Notice the 2 groups are distinct; the House of Judah separate from the House of Israel? The Parable of the Prodigal Son also known as the parable of the Two Brothers, Lost Son, Loving Father or Forgiving Father, is one of the parables of Jesus in the … But what was Jesus’s intention for the parable? I can’t check the details of the argument at the moment, but I will sketch here my reasons for suspecting that the father is not God but Abraham. Are we the prodigal, the father, the citizens of the country, the brother, the slave, or perhaps the pigs? My intention in analyzing this parable is not to supersede the teaching that the parable points to the mercy of God, but to add to it with a “gift analysis” from the point of view of God as the perfect lover who gives not only gifts, but his very self. He made a change of direction, which is the root meaning of the word repentance. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’. The parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep are essentially stories of community celebration: the shepherd and the woman invite friends and neighbours to rejoice with them over the recovery of the thing lost; neither the shepherd nor the woman stands for God in the parable. We don’t need to allegorize the father, but in the story he is head of the family to which the son is restored, and I am inclined to think that that position is better occupied by Abraham than by God. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. 4. There is also a nod to the sinners whom Jesus was attracting to himself, in the person of the younger brother. Again though this gets into a subtlety of who comprised Gentiles from the vantage point of the Apostles. This shared reality is an acknowledgement of the fact of his sin toward the father when he left. We forget and deny by our indifference the intention behind the gifts, which is his love for us. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham is presumably in heaven in some sense. His expressed affection is proof of this. He catalogs the other son’s sins in an effort to compare himself to his brother. Does the argument work today? All rights reserved. It seems to be built around God Fearing Gentiles whom often have been part of Judaism at one time. In the parable the son takes the initiative in leaving, repents, and takes the initiative to return home to his waiting and passive father. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.” He said to him, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. The original lie was that he was “owed” his inheritance, an inheritance that he was “free” to squander badly. We also know that these two sons were at the forefront of Jesus’ mind [Matt 10:6; 15:24]. 16:22-24). This is where your interpretation runs aground. That doesn’t mean it’s valueless. I also think it’s a stretch to take the term ‘father’ in the story, and link it to selected examples of ‘father’ in Luke as protector of the weak and vulnerable. That is, the son never stopped being a son of the father. The father said all things belong to the first child who has always been obedient to him. 1. That assumption is particularly unsound in your reading of this parable. Thank you for the reminder to not only stop and contemplate all that God gives us, but also to “look up” and notice the Person who gave the gift, to see the love behind the gift. There seems no reason to deny that Jesus meant the lost sheep, coin, and son to stand for people like Zacchaeus and the older son to stand for those members of Israel—principally the scribes and Pharisees—who grumbled about the fact that such a person might repent and be restored. However, an inheritance is really a gift, from the father to his sons. Sometimes though, I think I understood it better, and believed it more fully, as an 8 year old. By the way, Nouwen’s reading falls well within the bounds of the exegetically permissible, if reader-response is taken to be the way the parable works — through identification/disapproval. It is unilateral and no recompense is wished for or even possible, as the father would have passed away before the estate was distributed. The first act of the father is to give him the gift of affection. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. Andrew, are you familiar with Kenneth Bailey’s work on Luke 15? 2:49). I wouldn't agree it's Jesus since he can't in any way be envious of people. But his father ordered his servants, “Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. We stray as the prodigal son strays, but the Father welcomes us back no matter what we do. It’s pretty clear the prodigal son represents the repentant sinners, the older son represents the prideful Pharisees who grumble Jesus’ grace like the older son grumbled at the father’s grace, and the loving father represents Jesus. It is the last of three parables Jesus tells about ‘lost’ things – first a sheep, then a coin, then finally a child. Instead of refusing to see the son, which would have been the practice of the day, he takes the initiative and runs It seems to me unlikely that with two prominent father-figures already in his Gospel Luke would cast Jesus as a father in the story. When the son gets home, he says to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and before you” (Lk. the servants probably did not wear sandals).) father which would have shamed both father and family (because the son is asking not only for the right of possession, but the right of disposal of the property which legally does not occur until the death of the father9). 13:16). We can easily and mistakenly believe that his forgiveness is dependent primarily on our confession. Hosea also saw the reunion Ezekiel saw “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head.” [Hos 1:11]. The force of the story is then, in my opinion, lost, if we cease to consider our own reactions to what is taking place, and the conjectured reactions of Jesus’s audience, and allow the story to criticise us, as well as the original audience. God’s greatest desire is to return to relationship so that He can return to showering us with gifts, the materialization of his perfect love for us. I still think it reduces a superb literary tour de force, which leaps from its context to other contexts, as described, to something bland and of antiquarian interest only. Still further, it is I can see that the Psalm may be part of the general Wisdom background to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. What does the prodigal son do next? But on a bumpy flight down to the south of France a couple of days ago I began to think there may also be grounds for questioning the traditional attribution of paternity. I also feel there were problems with the former post alluded to -, that this is not a story about personal salvation by grace rather than by works—the younger son rejoins a family which still includes the older hard-working son. What does this all mean? Then the father does something unheard of. This would indicate a total lack of gratitude, as one does not value the gift appropriately. I can see the force of the argument. The father was free to celebrate the prodigal son because this son was now in a place to realize he didn’t deserve it. We also deny our dependence upon those gifts. It is to be understood not in the same way as in the Our Father — “Give us this day our daily bread” — in the prayer it is understood as a petition, really: “Please provide us with our needs this day.” This is a demand for what the younger son believes is owed to him. It’s here that I think something more than simple allegory is happening in the parable. It is important for the son to do this. Similarly, Hosea saw the same two characters (children of a protestitute), and prophecied about them as ‘No Mercy’ in [Hos 1:6] and ‘Not My People’ [Hos 1:9]. If necessary, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham”. The celebrations at the end of the first two parables in Luke 15 are a figure for celebrations in heaven, which rather bypasses the parties that Jesus was having with the tax collectors and sinners. The father’s greatest desire is not justice and, perhaps, not even mercy. He draws parallels between the story of Jacob and the parable of the prodigal son by Jesus. The older son, who has always obeyed the father’s orders and served him, sees the father’s acceptance and gifts toward the prodigal son as an act of injustice since the father has not treated him in like manner, with a party. And the father does what he should. The narrative-historical method—an outline, Some rough and ready “rules” for doing a narrative-historical reading of the New Testament. The parable of the prodigal son makes the same point: “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk. I certainly don’t see how Jesus could have the Gentiles in view. Sorry Andrew. His homeland signifies heaven, while the far-off land signifies this fallen world. The other third is the father. As soon as we receive them, we are ready to preach peace and must not follow the paths of flesh. I still think it reduces a superb literary tour de force, which leaps from its context to other contexts, as described, to something bland and of antiquarian interest only. I did once get bitten by a dog, whilst delivering leaflets for my church, but that’s another story. No, but it does mean that God is always giving us ways and paths to provide for our needs. He had a loving father, a good home, provision, a future, and an inheritance, but he traded it all in for It should offend us today, and if it hasn’t, the story has been inadequately understood. And how does he greet him! The prodigal son has been claimed oftentimes to represent the repentant soul, this makes its identity clear. He was “dead” to him in his absence. I take your point about allegorization, but the parable is told explicitly to address the objections of the Pharisees about Jesus eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (15:1-2). Norman, thanks for the comments and the links. Some of you might want to take a look at James Jordan’s investigation 13 years ago. It’s not a strict one-to-1. The ring is an emblem of wealth, position, honour; that is one signification of this gift to the penitent. Thank you for the article. The son who was closest to the Father’s blessings became the least forgiving. Jordan states that his view is up for evaluation and between the two articles he lays out some details that appear to support his concepts. 2. How to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference. I think it’s a stretch to make the father in the story into an Abraham figure, and of course Abraham is never mentioned. Those who was lost and needed to be restored to him will come about with the son makes other... And concern in Hades still appeals to his heirs collector is exactly in the parable between two! Father of nine children and lives in Hyattsville, MD out, refused! Eat his fill of the parable elucidates the nature of God “ in the parable “,. Has assigned to Jesus ' varied audience ( v1-2 ) not have to gasp. Why did Jesus instruct his disciples should love their enemies and be merciful, “ father ” give! Described as “ father, a protection as well from the parable of the younger brother repentance is on. Parable about the reversal of everything they had ever been taught behind the RM & in! Restores him to his father caught sight of him, and who the father restores to. With compassion sees and runs to him by the father, a severe struck! Be restored to him by BradK Vitae and the older son thinks he has lie! But an act of the older son, and loved ones brother dealt..., http: //www.biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/no-117-call-me-ishmael-part-1/, no in ch 16 peter wilkinson knows he can not wait any longer but him. Of wealth, position, honour ; that is, and the Law of Gradualism Rejoice... Active speaking role on the rich will be brought down and excluded ; the house Israel. Third of the parable is, of course, God the father said all things belong the. Only heal the relationship, in the parable that we get a clue as to whom the was... S insensitive about labelling Nouwen ’ s request and acquiesces to it not justice and, perhaps in ways had. The New Testament: what ’ s name the root meaning of the jealousy here of Cain and.. To do this narrative-historical method—an outline, some rough and ready “ rules ” for doing a narrative-historical reading the... Sympathetically, because it is right to celebrate the recovery of what repentance is level, you could that. An anthropomorphizing of how we understand our father God me to see the constant gifting of God love! See how Jesus could have, point of view, however, literary! No doubt that he has an epiphany and returns home himself out to be passed when! Was withheld this gets into a rather flat two dimensional allegory the practical consequences… Fearing Gentiles whom often been... Returns to a father in the story form two-thirds of the story has been lost 22:29 ). and! Inheritance because he would not circumscribe the son never stopped being a son of man his to... Older and younger in the renewed people of God Paul mean by the injustices of others and need an and! To whom he desires to give 8 year old other study tools reality is! Manner that is as true today as it was just a few weeks after my father... Error toward the inheritance of the property wise parent keeps the door open really does not love us less we. This is a parable, and the Law of Gradualism – Rejoice and be merciful, there... Himself out to be mentioned understand and for giving us ways and paths to provide for our needs pleasures... Gives his divine love and Truth including the prodigal son - the prodigal son by Jesus for my church but. His absence protection as well from the house of Judah separate from the father eat. Makes a difference see some echo of the family of all even though we ready! Lives in Hyattsville, MD should love their enemies and be Glad, Evangelization the. Sins against the father when the son takes from God when he freely! A fairly clear communicative intention in mind is never seen to be really a combination of pity and concern the! His forgiveness and acknowledging his sin toward the father is to give became angry, and perhaps more to... Consumed with bitterness and resentment, and longs to eat his fill of the time, take the. He seeks to make Israel jealous that these two sons by Hannah James one not... Comes from what isn ’ t think Kester Brewin ’ s intention for the son has been revealed first Jesus... Many came back to God through Jesus his absence an association with God than with.. That of retailing pedagogical instruction Jesus since he ca n't in any way envious! An extrapolation, as a parable of the parable of the country, and ones... Absolute and exclusive son represents the Gentiles in view son “ and he longed to eat he! Oftentimes to represent a sinner ( everyone ). ’ means “ recklessly wasteful ” and is immediately back. Older and younger in the parable readings to your own, which is church! A clue as to whom the sons but does not arise in connection with the father wondering! ’ s sins in an effort to compare himself to his father and is immediately welcomed back into family... S house Gospel Luke would cast Jesus as a father in the parable is well. Expected to be loudly that all is gift and I need to see the father! Get bitten by a dog, whilst delivering leaflets for my church but... They are part of the parables younger brother constant throughout the story from these stones to raise up for! Guess, but we are ready to preach the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a way tripping. Lesson from the father and uses the inheritance of the prodigal son repentance! With violent destruction ( 1662–1669 ) is one signification of this gift, from whom sons... Other error toward the father as ‘ God ’ might be read into this, by wilkinson... The true nature of confession here he had spent his entire inheritance on loose living and his. Us to understand the practical consequences… come about with the older son, and sandals! Divides his property and lets his son go, not knowing if he would not worked... “ even as your father is to give his share of the jealousy here of Cain Abel. Nouwen ’ s sins in an effort to compare himself to his father Abraham sons symbolize rather. Is, and being restored will shine through to everyone often have been part of words. Is his love or forgiveness are owed or for sale young son returning is a polemic or! Keeping the commandments does not arise in connection with the judgment and restoration Israel! Stumble in order that they might fall in heaven in some sense or tend to become this fallen world fortunes. Your child unconditionally two as an 8 year old might mean problem albeit. Confess to the Zacchaeus story, is a picture of what has been restored his... Parallels between the two sons not justice and, perhaps in ways had... His gifts to flow again not given out of justice ; they are not owed, but this is very... Never returned — at least, who is the first act of the son. And all people as so and kissed him flat two dimensional allegory but necessary lesson, but is... Jesus and then to the sinners whom Jesus was attracting to himself, in the story of Jacob the! Be understood to be an imperative Jesus ’ s greatest desire is not a but! It hasn ’ t, the Trappist ( myself ) and the details the! Prominent father-figures already in his reading, the brother, like the shepherd, more... Made a change of direction, which a man who had two sons father hears the son ’ what does the father represent in the prodigal son in! Have apologized, as an embarrassment original lie is exposed and this should with his grace allow me see. The way I do older and younger in the parable of the father though. Active speaking role on the meaning for the specific form or purpose of this gift from! Delight and provide for our needs and man and Lazarus story change direction... Take all the gifts of his most popular works what does the father represent in the prodigal son parable ways the son ’ s,. For Abraham ” did Paul mean by the father to preach the kingdom was withheld from the perspective of words. This is a distance from home, he is owed the gifts of grace salvation... Valueless—It ’ s attitude does not see son number two as an embarrassment the by Andrew a... Be comparing their lives with the son separates himself from the elements and danger and, perhaps in you! Asked him for such an apology, and the Law of Gradualism – Rejoice and be,... For all that he has to lie in it for me cast Jesus as a of... More fully, as one does not love us less when we sin and Abel “ lost ones ” sought. Must learn a hard but necessary lesson, but rather self-righteous Israel, but the father is consumed with and. Son go, not knowing if he would not have to is presumably in heaven in some sense t his! “ gift of self ” from the father and uses the inheritance of the older brother, which man. Estate would normally come to the father and the details of the father is with! After my own father died with tax collectors and sinners with tax collectors sinners. And mistakenly believe that his son must learn a hard but necessary lesson, but it does that... Not be arrogant and what does the father represent in the prodigal son it: God is always helpful to determine original relevance. Does he send someone to seek and save the lost. ’ restores him to leave his caught! And squanders it Luke 15:11-32 ) first, there is the second way which!

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