I’ve heard a few sermons this past year that have re-informed my understanding of the Parable of the Lost Son, more commonly referred to as the “Prodigal Son.” Last week I began reading Timothy Keller’s, The Prodigal God and found it to be quite profound. It’s a book that sheds new light on what has become a very well known parable and it does so in a way that is strikingly consistent with the context surrounding it in Luke.
I’ll give you one example to consider. Keller points out that Jesus tells this parable as a reaction to the attitude that the Scribes and Pharisees have toward the sinners that Jesus eats and spends time with. In short, he says, this parable is less about the younger brother who runs away only to return and repent and more about the older brother who refuses to rejoice when the younger brother returns and the father graciously accepts him.
Keller says it this way,
“The targets of this story are not “wayward sinners” but religious people who do everything the Bible requires. Jesus is pleading not so much with immoral outsiders as with moral insiders. He wants to show them their blindness, narrowness, and self-righteousness, and how these things are destroying both their own souls and the lives of the people around them. It is a mistake, then, to think that Jesus tells this story primarily to assure younger brothers of his unconditional love. No, the original listeners were not melted into tears by this story but rather they were thunder- struck, offended, and infuriated. Jesus’s purpose is not to warm our hearts but to shatter our categories. Through this parable Jesus challenges what nearly
everyone has ever thought about God, sin, and salvation. His story reveals the destructive self-centeredness
of the younger brother, but it also condemns the elder brother’s moralistic life in the strongest terms. Jesus is
saying that both the irreligious and the religious are spiritually lost, both life-paths are dead ends, and that
every thought the human race has had about how to connect to God has been wrong.“
It’s been a very edifying, challenging read and I encourage you to pick it up. It’s available at a very reasonable price HERE and will be available on the Resource Table in the church soon.