Two Brothers – by Greg Albrecht
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.“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! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him.’“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”—Luke 15:11-32
Jesus was teaching the undesirables—the untouchables, the unloved, moral outcasts and discredited people like tax collectors—when the religious teachers expressed their disapproval of what he was doing.
The 15th chapter of Luke records Jesus’ response to their condemnation of his ministry, and the fact that he spent time with the least, the last and the lost via three parables. Some Bibles title them—the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Perhaps these three parables should be seen as three acts of one play, one parable about God’s amazing grace. They are all about being lost and about being found.
Let’s consider the lost son. Classically, this parable has been called the Prodigal Son. Prodigal is a word that is no longer popularly used. It carries the meaning of being recklessly extravagant, squandering and wasting resources in a foolish manner. Normally, people assume prodigal refers to one of the leading roles in this parable, one of the three characters with which Jesus challenged the neat, tidy, dogmatic and legalistic world of the religious leaders of his day. For that matter, he still does challenge the religious industry.
This story never gets old. No matter how many times we study this parable, we find ourselves looking into a mirror and we say “that’s me.” It’s a story of every family, every generation and every community.