The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Jesus taught with parables. In fact, the New Testament has recorded 57 parables that Jesus told.  A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning or (Webster’s Dictionary) a fictitious story to illustrate a moral attitude or religious principle. The parable of the prodigal son is a well-known and precious story of the unconditional love and forgiveness of a father for his wayward, sinful son. In telling the parable Jesus wanted his followers to understand that God, our Heavenly Father, has the same love for us when we sin and are wayward.  God always welcomes the repentant heart with open arms.

In writing this parable it is not my intent in any way to add to or change scripture.   I have tried to feel the hearts of the three characters; the prodigal son, the older son and the father so that I can better understand the parable. You can almost follow the verses from the Bible.

Based on Luke 15:11-32

There was a man who had two sons, and one day the younger son said to his father, “Father, I don’t want to wait until you die to inherit my portion of your estate. I know my older brother will inherit a double portion but I want my share now so that I can enjoy life to the fullest while I am young and don’t have responsibilities to tie me down. I have things to see and places to go.

The father  saw the heart of his son and was concerned at his rebellious, arrogant and defiant attitude. He thought that maybe, just maybe, he could “earn” the respect of his son. Just maybe it would keep his son at home and he would settle down, and work the land to earn a living as a respectable citizen of the community. He still needed the farm for his own livelihood but after careful consideration decided to give his youngest son his request and give him his share of the estate.

Immediately the son began to brag about his wealth and flaunted the new found freedom that only money can buy. The son began to make plans and taunted his older brother for not joining him in his great adventure. Several weeks later he packed his earthly possessions into knapsacks and strapped them on the pack mule that would trail his new young stud camel. Dressed in his new duds he gleefully waved goodbye to his family as they watched him ride away. The father with tears in his eyes said, “Son, remember who you are and be careful. I love you my son. May God be with you.”

The further the son traveled the less he thought of home. Stopping at small towns for the night he was drawn to the flickering lanterns illuminating the saloon windows. Feeling free and rich he quickly succumbed to uninhibited drinking and lustful prodigal living. As he traveled he squelched his fading conscious with a haughty, arrogant and defiant demeanor. After some time he realized his money was dwindling and started gambling, hoping for a quick fix and looking for odd jobs.

That year a severe drought hit the land. It did not rain and the sun baked the sandy soil. This went on for months and by the next season food was beginning to run short. Seed that was stashed away for planting was eaten and the people began suffering from famine. People could not afford to hire workers and he became desperate for food and money. He finally found a citizen who agreed to let him feed the pigs. The fact that pigs were “unclean” animals no longer bothered his conscience. He was hoping that maybe he could find pieces of food in the hogs ration that he could eat. But the only feed the citizen for whom he worked had to feed the pigs were the dry, worthless carob pods that are totally indigestible for humans.

One day as he was dragging himself to work, so hungry he could barely function, he remembered home. HOME! Memories came flooding back; food, a bed, green grass, cattle in the field, a house to live in, paid servants. And then in his mind he saw his father’s face; kind, caring and familiar. He remembered the family meal time and sitting around the table eating an abundance food while talking over the days events. He never went to bed hungry. He always had a bath. He remembered his brother and the sibling rivalry and comradeship they shared. He remembered the servants and knew that they were paid fairly for the work they did. He remembered feeling safe, loved, wanted and cared for. He looked at himself and could hardly believe he had become what he saw. He saw himself for what he was; a broken, penniless, dirty, hungry, sinful man.

A force within him longed desperately for home. He straighten himself with resolve. He would go home. The desperateness of his situation overrode his pathetic plight. He had sinned against his father and against God. He was no longer worthy, nor would he even ask to be the son of his honorable father. But maybe he could be a hired servant and at least have food to eat, clothes to wear, a bed to sleep in and a respectable job. He could work for his father. He began the long, treacherous and weary journey home.

Back at the ranch the father went about his daily work with a heavy heart. Many times during the day his eyes scanned the horizon looking, longing and hoping for his son-his youngest son-his flesh and blood- to come home. Just maybe this would be the day even if  just a visit. He worried about his son, knowing he was bent on evil. Maybe, just maybe, he had settled down, married a wife and was making a decent living. But the hollow hole in his heart told his otherwise. The few reports he had heard were not good. Whenever the father saw a cloud of dust on the horizon he would pause, heart pounding and watch just in case it his son. Then the father would turn and with quiet resolve continue his work. The older son often noticed the routine and wondered if the father ever noticed the work he faithfully and carefully did. His father became quiet and often would sit for hours just looking, gazing into the distance. Did his father even notice he was there? Did his father care that he was still there? He longed for the companionship he used to share with his father as they talked about the cattle and life in general.

One afternoon as the father was walking toward the stable his eyes swept the horizon. He saw in the distance a lone figure limping toward the estate. He froze for a few seconds as he watched, eyes riveted to the scene. His son! It had to be his son. He knew it was his son. Tears streamed down his face as he raced down the road. Only one thought was on his mind, his son-his son-his flesh and blood son was coming home. The son collapsed into the open, strong arms of his father. The father tenderly and lovingly kissed his dirty son. For long time the father held his son as he cried uncontrollably. “Father, I have sinned so greatly. I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Will you hire me as your servant?”

Arm in arm they walked to the house. The father called to his servants. “Quick, go to the stable and kill a fat calf. Prepare it for supper. We are going to have a party. My son who I thought was dead is alive. He had lost his way but now has found his way home. We are going to celebrate. Get the bath water ready, and find one of my best robes and a pair of sandals for him. The family ring. Put it on his finger.”

Excitement electrified the air and news began to spread. Servants were sent to neighboring farms inviting them to come and help celebrate. Food and wine was set on tables under the trees for all to eat. Laughter, music, and dancing began to fill the air as people gathered under the setting sun. The beaming father could hardly leave his son’s side. His son was home and they were going to celebrate.

Just as dark settled over the land the older son came in from the back pasture at the far reaches of the farm. As he neared the house on his horse he could hear music and the sound of a joyful celebration. What in the world is going on? As he unsaddled the horse he asked the stable hands what was happening. They replied, “You haven’t heard? Your brother has come home and your father is so happy that he is safe and sound that he has killed a fatted calf and they are celebrating with a big party.”

The older son exploded in a violent rage of anger; cursing, and throwing whatever he could pick up. One of the servants slipped out the back door and ran and told the father about the fearful reaction of the older son. The father quickly slipped away from the party and went to his son. He pleaded with his son to calm down and join them in the celebration.

The older son vehemently refused.  He did not even want to see his brother. His brother had left behind a trail of broken hearts. He had seen all the pain, fear, and anguish it had caused his parents day after day and year after year. He himself had been deeply hurt by his brothers actions. “All these years I have worked here for you, serving you hand and foot. I never dishonored your name or disobeyed in anything thing you asked. You never seemed to notice but were always mourning and longing for this worthless son who has taken from you a portion of our estate, making life more difficult for us and he wasted it on harlots. Never have you given me a party of appreciation to make merry with my friends. And suddenly he shows up after all these years and you are celebrating? You killed one of the calves I have worked so hard to fatten for HIM?”

The father softly said, “Son you have worked faithfully with me all these years. Everything I have will one day be yours. We must celebrate.  Your brother who we thought was dead is alive. He was lost-oh so lost, and now is found.”

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