Summary: A perspective on the prodigal son and his brother.
You Didn’t Get a Goat?
(Good Song: When God Ran)
A group of well-intentioned people met to discuss ways and means of helping a friend who had been down on his luck recently. Knowing him to be an extremely proud person, who would not accept money, they decided to arrange a bogus raffle. They told him that they would all draw numbered slips of paper from a hat, and the person who drew the number four would win $200. They didn’t tell him that the number “four" was on every slip.
After the drawing, each of the conspirators glanced at their slips and crumbled them up in the manner of disappointed losers. Then they waited to hear their friend announce that he had drawn the winning number. But he didn’t say anything. Finally, one member of the group asked him, knowingly,
"What number did you draw?"
He said "Six and seven-eighths," holding up…the hat-size tag.
That is a fairly good example of a man who is really down on his luck. But, in today's text, Jesus gives us an even better one about a wealthy young man who leaves the comfort of his father's house to strike out on his own. We are all very familiar with this story.
Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. The misguided, inexperienced youth has his fortune but they are soon parted. He is in a distant, famine-plagued land, and penniless. The only employment he can find is caring for pigs. Then he discovers that they are eating better than he is. In Jesus' words,
He was lonely. He was without resources. He was starving. There was no one to offer him a helping hand. He was really down on his luck. And it was in that state; of utter desolation, that he came
"To his senses," as the Bible puts it.
In the spirit of repentance, he acknowledges the urgent need for him to radically change his attitude and his approach to life. And he sets off on the long journey back to his father's house. I can believe he was repentant because he was practicing what he was going to say. (Mimic him) Don’t you do this too? Sometimes (when we’re desperate, even to God) but mostly to those around us. I do! (Play it up for laughs!)
(This is the only time in scripture where we have the picture of God running to someone.) Humbly and contritely, the son responds:
At that point, of TRUE repentance, the joyful father begins to make preparations for a party to celebrate the boy's return.
Enter the villain in this episode--the boy's older brother. He envies his errant brother because he was so warmly received by their father. He is critical of the father's joyous, no-questions-asked response to his brother's return. Consequently, he responds in anger to his father's earnest plea that he join in the celebration. He will not accept his father's act of unconditional forgiveness and mercy toward his brother. Even though I feel certain, he would have expected it for himself.