We start this well known parable by reading why Jesus even told it in the first place. It is because Pharisees were complaining that Jesus was hanging out with tax collectors.  Pharisee represents seemingly “good” and “righteous” people, while tax collectors represents seemingly “bad” and “sinful” people.  It’s like well respected policemen asking why Jesus was hanging out with drug dealers.  

So Jesus tells them this story.  Evan reads the whole story out loud.  He’s not very good at reading with expression and intonation, so it just sounds like robotic monotone mumbling.  I question if he knows what he is reading, because I can’t really follow him.  Surprising, he is able to retell the story with accurate details proving that he understood what he was reading.  

I ask Evan if he understands how the older brother feels, expecting that he would completely agree with him, since Evan is also the older brother who is sometimes jealous of his younger brother.  However, surprisingly, he says that he doesn’t.  If Ian went out and came back, he wouldn’t be angry, but happy that he came back.  I am very surprised.  I guess Evan loves Ian more than I realize.  Even with all the bickering, they are inseparable brothers.  Unfortunately, the brothers in the story do not love each other.  Actually they are not loving people in general.  They don’t even love their father.  

Some may say, it is completely understandable for the older son to be mad at the great reception of his bad younger brother.  But actually, it is not understandable if you are a loving family.  As Evan proves, if you love your brother and your father and have a loving relationship with them, you will not be jealous and angry that your brother is accepted back, but you will actually be glad and happy for your brother.  

Jesus is saying that we are all one family! The Pharisees think they have nothing to do with these tax collectors, but through this story, Jesus is saying they are all sons of God. And again Jesus points out the heart of the Pharisees. The seemingly “good” people, the people who look righteous on the outside, are actually bad people with dark hearts full of hatred and jealously.  They work so hard in the Father’s house, but they have no loving relationship with their father nor their brother.  Jesus is pointing out their hidden hearts again.

The story ends with a cliffhanger.  What happens at the end?  The father pleads with the older brother to join in the celebration, but does he?  What would be a perfect ending?  For the older brother to go in with his father?  But there is still something missing with that ending.  The relationship between the brothers have not reconciled. The perfect ending will be for the younger brother to come out to where the older brother is and show his love.  He should plead with his older brother saying that he has done wrong, that he is sorry, and now he has changed.  He should ask the older brother to come inside. Then the older brother can show his love by accepting his younger brother, and join in the father’s feast together as a family.

This story is often told as a story about a prodigal (wasteful) younger son, but it shows more clearly the prodigal (wasteful) love of the father to both of his sons.  However, it also points at how we are to love one another.  As a person who has received prodigal love from the father, should also show prodigal love for each other.  We hope that it will be a happy ending with the whole family truly celebrating and enjoying one another.


Amy Hwang

Amy is the Faith Formation Ministry Leader at Living Water CRC.

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