Summary: Why the original version would have been so shocking
The Gospel reading is taken from: Luke 15:11-20
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 men 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 men.’
20 So he got up and went to his Father.
But when he was still a long way off, his Father saw him and ran to him and fell on his neck - and smacked him round the ear and said: "Where the devil do you think have you been?"
The son said to him, ’Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants"
And the Father replied: "Too true my son, too true. I suppose you think you can waltz back here without as so much as "by your leave" and con me with your dramatic speech.
Do you think this is "Little House on the Prairie?" Or do you think I was born yesterday? No my son, you’ll work for me cleaning out the toilets, until your earn back the squandered fortune that you have lost.
And the son said dismally: “So does that mean that there is no chance of lots of presents, instant forgiveness and a large celebratory meal involving the fatted calf, or any thing like that?"
"In your dreams, my son" replied the Father, “In your dreams”.
And the Father took the prodigal by the same ear that he had previously smacked and hauled him off to the farm.
And lo, the fatted calf saw them approaching from a long way off - and summing up the situation perfectly - threw a big party.
And the fatted calf’s family and guests rejoiced and did a bit of disco dancing. They mooed sarcastically over the fence as the prodigal passed by.
And as evening fell, the prodigal’s elder brother heard the distant sounds of his brother cleaning out the toilets. He strolled out after supper holding a large brandy and lit an enormous cigar.
He stretched luxuriously, picked his teeth, looked down and said: "Evening Rambo, I see you’ve returned. How do you like your rapid progress from affluent to effluent?"
And the prodigal looked up and said "You can put me down with your clever barb, you smug self righteous hypocrite. We’ll get even one day”
And the elder brother departed feeling really quite satisfied with himself.
And the prodigal found his Father and said to him:
“All these years - when I was off in a far off country - this smug, self centred, hypocritical brother of mine must have caused you to gnash your teeth every day. How come he gets all the perks like the brandy, cigars and such - while I have to clean out the toilets?"
The Father replied: "Your brother is indeed boring but he does as he’s told. Get on with your work and think yourself lucky."
And as the Father departed, the prodigal said to himself:
“Blow this for a lark. I wish I hadn’t come home now. I am just as hungry and twice as guilty and four times as smelly.
When I get my day off - I know where I’ll go - it’s a day out to the pigs!!”
(adapted with appreciation from “The Heart of the Family by Adrian Plass)
When I first heard Adrian Plass read this story at the Anglican Evangelical Conference, I could not believe it.
He stood up and started reading the story of the Prodigal Son from the King James version – and I thought –BORING - until he came to the doctored ending.
And in fact this is a sanitised version of Adrian Pass’s Prodigal Son, but it sums up the ending that Jesus’ Hearers WOULD HAVE expected to hear.