Pastor Jon Ehlers, Evangelisk Luthersk Kirke i England. Sommerlejren 15.-20. juli 2017
Bibelstudie Lukas 15
Who are tax collectors? Sinners? Why were they disliked by the Pharisees?
Do we have any other examples in Luke of Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners? How did they go?
15:22 what was the big deal about eating with sinners?
15:4 why might Jesus’ reference to the Pharisees as shepherds be offensive to them? Why is this ironic?
Is there any significance to the phrase has lost one of them?
Why does the shepherd search for the lost sheep?
Is the shepherd’s reaction at finding the lost sheep the same as yours would have been? Why or why not?
Why was he rejoicing?
15:6 what is the role of the community in rejoicing?
15:7 who are the ninety-nine who need no repentance? Where are these ninety-nine?
15:8 how would the beginning of this parable cause offense to the Pharisees?
What are these ten silver coins and where would they be kept?
15:9 who are those who come and rejoice with her? Where are they living?
15:10 why such joy in heaven? What does this invite the Pharisees to do?
What are the different ways in which joy is experienced in these parables?
Spørgsmål til samtale
Hvem er toldere? Hvem er syndere? Hvorfor brød farisæerne sig ikke om dem?
Er der andre eksempler i Lukas evangeliet, hvor Jesus spiser med toldere og syndere? – hvordan gik det?
12,22: Hvorfor var det et ”problem”, at spise med syndere?
15,4: Hvorfor er det anstødeligt overfor farisæerne, at Jesus refererer til dem som hyrder? Hvorfor er dette ironisk?
Har sætningen: ”Mister et af dem” nogen betydning?
Hvorfor søger hyrden efter det får han har mistet?
Er hyrdens reaktion på at finde fået igen, den samme reaktion du selv ville have haft? Hvorfor, hvorfor ikke?
Hvorfor glædede han sig?
15,6: Hvilken rolle spiller venner og naboer i forbindelse med, at glæde sig?
15,7: Hvem er de 99 retfærdige, der ikke behøver omvendelse? Hvor er disse 99?
15,8: Hvordan ville starten af denne lignelse kunne vække anstød ift. farisæerne?
Hvad er disse ti drakmer og hvor ville man opbevare dem?
15,9: Hvem kommer og glæder sig med hende? Hvor bor de?
15,10: Hvorfor vækker det sådan en glæde i himmelen? Hvad inviterer det farisæerne til, at gøre?
På hvilke forskellige måder opleves glæde i disse lignelser?
This section gives us the context for as Jesus presents a defence of his questionable actions and it also serves as an invitation to the Pharisees and scribes to join him in joyfully welcoming home those who were dead but now live. They are invited not only to drop their concerns about Jesus, to replicate his behaviour in their own practices.
We may recall when the scribes and Pharisees complained about Jesus’ table fellowship in Lk. 5:29-32; 7:36-50; 19:1-10. Thus we discover that this kind of behaviour for Jesus was typical. It also associates the legal experts and Pharisees with the wilderness generation who complained against God’s representatives, Moses and Aaron.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Tax collectors – These folks were not despised because they were tax collectors – they are not liked in any culture – but because they were collecting money for either Herod or the Romans, or both. Because they were in regular contact with Gentiles they would have been defiled and unclean.
Sinners – This is a more generalised term. They may have been people too poor to know the law properly or to try to keep it (Lk. 7:49). They were regarded hopelessly irreligious by the Pharisees. They did not observe the prescribed purity and dietary laws.
This man receives - In ancient times a rich man may feed any number of poor people to demonstrate his righteousness, but he would never eat with them. However, when guests are received, the one who receives them eats with them. The meal is a sign of acceptance. This is affirmed as the host showers his guest with a long string of compliments to which the guest must respond.
This accusation may mean that Jesus Himself was hosting the sinners at table (cf. Mk. 2:15f). If this is the case, then Jesus would have followed a set formula as host. He would begin by mentioning the honour his guests brought to his home. The guests would either respond by invoking the honour of God on the table host by affirming that they have received honour by being in the host’s presence. For Jesus to host sinners would have been a far greater offense to the Pharisees than if He merely ate with them casually or accepted an invitation to dine at their home.
And eats with them – Table fellowship is an important matter, even today. But this is especially true in the Middle East. To invite someone to a meal in the Middle East is an honour. It is an offer of peace, trust, and brotherhood. The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieved in table-fellowship, is the most meaningful expression of the message of the redeeming love of God (Jeremias).
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
What man of you – It is doubtful that a Pharisee would take up the occupation of shepherd under any circumstance. Thus Jesus’ addressing Pharisees as shepherds is a culturally and theologically conditioned decision of great significance.
Having a hundred sheep – Moses was a shepherd; David was a shepherd; Ezekiel describes Israel’s kings a shepherds (Exk. 34), and God even refers to Himself as a shepherd (Ps. 23). But in real life, the Pharisees included shepherd among the vocations which were unclean and unable to worship at the Temple. Due to their occupation they were excluded from God’s people. Thus the parable begins with a shock to the Pharisees sensibilities. Anyone who believed shepherds were unclean would be offended by being referred to as one. This may well have been a not so veiled attack on the Pharisees and their attitude toward others.
One hundred sheep – If someone was wealthy enough to own 100 sheep he almost certainly would not be the shepherd. He would hire a shepherd. The average household would have held about 15 sheep. The picture here is probably of a communal flock over which the shepherd was keeping watch. The shepherd is not a “hireling” but probably a member of the extended family and certainly a member of the local community who would take great pride in caring for the animals of his family and of his friends and families of the village. If a sheep is lost, the entire community loses.
If he has lost one of them – This means that it is the shepherd’s fault that the sheep is lost. He has been negligent. Sheep are naturally gregarious characters, so if a sheep is lost from its flock it becomes quickly agitated and disoriented.
Does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country – The shepherd counted the flock while they were still in the wilderness, and after discovering one was missing, he naturally took leave of the sheep in the country (probably leaving another shepherd in charge) and sets out to find the lost sheep. The ninety-nine are left hanging. We are not told if they made it safely back to the village.
The one that is lost – A lost sheep lies down helplessly and refuses to budge.
He lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing – The shepherd is forced to carry the obstinate animal over a long distance, but nonetheless, rejoices because of the restoration that lies ahead of him. He rejoices even though he realises the hard work is in front of him. After the sheep is found it must be restored. It is the restoration with its implied burden and express joy that lies at the centre of this parable.
By analogy, cast as leaders of the people of Israel, the legal experts and Pharisees who complain against Jesus’ practices at the table find themselves under indictment for their failure to act in ways that befit faithful shepherds; whereas, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, acts in ways that rescue and care for the sheep.
Rejoice with me – Joy appears twice in the parable. There is joy at finding the lost sheep, irrespective of the burden of restoration, and joy in the community at restoration of shepherd and sheep.
Ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance – This is best understood as irony. For Jesus, all are lost sheep who need a shepherd to guide them (Is. 53:6). All must repent. The ninety-nine were left in the wilderness, so the listener does not know if they made it home or not.
There are at least four clusters of theological themes, each significant in its own way:
- The joy of the shepherd at finding the lost sheep. This joy becomes communal upon his safe return.
- Joy in the burden of restoration. In this parable Jesus is defending His welcoming sinners into fellowship and restoring them to God’s people. Without the burden of carrying the lost sheep home, there is no restoration.
- The gracious love of God that seeks the sinner. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the sinners and tax collectors belong to God’s people. God wants them back and goes to great trouble to accomplish this. Divine love goes out to seek the sinner before the sinner repents.
- The last theme is repentance. The parable raises two questions with regard to repentance. The first is who is expected to repent? Secondly, what is the nature of repentance? All must repent! For Jesus, repentance was a response to the proclamation that God’s kingdom had come into our midst. Repentance is NOT a precondition for the reception of grace. The only thing the sheep does to prompt the shepherd to seek for him is to become lost. The shepherd finds the sheep, carries the sheep, and brings the sheep safely home; then we hear of repentance. Being found and restored is equated with repentance.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
What woman – This coin was probably a part of this woman’s dowry. Village women wear their dowry in coins on a necklace. The beauty of the necklace as a whole is destroyed when one coin is lost. Again, the loss is more than monetary.
Jesus’ use of a woman as the main character in the parable would have been seen as offensive by the Pharisees. Pharisees daily prayed I thank you God that you did not make me a woman.
Ten silver coins – In the ancient world most coins were made of brass. These were valuable coins and represented twenty months’ average wages.
If she loses one coin – A peasant village is, to a large extent, self-supporting, making its own cloth and growing its own food. Cash is a rare commodity. Hence the lost coin is of far greater value in a peasant home. This coin represents one tenth of her dowry, what she would have to live on if her husband should die or divorce her. In essence, this is her life insurance policy.
Sweep the house – The movement of peasant women in the ancient world was very limited. She knows the coin must be in the house. She knew it could be found if she kept on sweeping.
There is joy before the angels of God – Emphasis again falls on heavenly joy that ensues from the restoration and repentance of the sinner. Thus Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners and tax collectors was an expression of the divine celebration accompanying the restoration of the lost.
We note two intensifications from the previous parable:
- It is now one in ten, not one in one hundred
- The place where the search took place was much smaller.
15:12 what is wrong with the words give me the share of property that is coming to me/
How would Jesus’ audience expect the father to react to this demand? But how does he?
What should the elder brother’s response be at this time?
15:13 why didn’t the younger son hang around?
15:15 what is wrong with feeding pigs? What are these pods in v. 16?
15:17 what does it mean that he came to himself?
15:18-19 is this a confession of true repentance? Why or why not?
15:119 why would he want to be a hired servant?
15:20 what is it to feel compassion?
Anything strange about the father running?
15:21 what is missing here? Is that significant?
What was the significance of the father ordering the servants to get a robe, ring, and shoes for the boy? What were these items and what did they provide the younger son? Why might this make us scratch our heads in wonder?
15:23 why a fattened calf and not a sheep?
15:24 how was the son dead? Now, how is he alive?
What options are still available to the son?
How does the parable come full circle?
Lukas 15, 11-23
Spørgsmål til samtale
Lukas 15,12: Hvad er der galt med ordene: ” ...Far, giv mig den del af formuen, som tilkommer mig...”
Hvilken reaktion ville Jesu tilhørerer forvente, fra faderen, på dette krav? Men hvordan reagerer han?
Hvad burde den ældste brors svar være på dette tidspunkt?
(15,13) Hvorfor blev den yngste bror ikke hængende?
(15,15) Hvad er der galt med, at fodre grise? Hvad er det for nogle bønner, der nævnes i v. 16?
(15,17) Hvad betyder det, at: ”han gik i sig selv”?
(15,18-19) Er dette et vidnesbyrd om sand omvendelse? Hvorfor eller hvorfor ikke?
(15,19) Hvorfor ville han være daglejer?
(15,20) Hvad betyder det, at få medynk?
Er der noget sært over, at faderen løber?
(15,21) Hvad mangler der her? Er det vigtigt?
Hvad betyder det, at faderen får tjenerne til, at hente: Festdragt, ring og sko til drengen? Hvad var dette for genstande og hvad giver de den yngste søn? Hvorfor vil dette få os til at klø os i hovedet af forundring?
(15,23) Hvorfor en ”fedekalv” og ikke et får?
(15,24) Hvordan var sønnen ”død”? Og nu - hvordan er han ”i live”?
Hvilke muligheder har sønnen nu?
Hvordan fuldendes cirklen i denne lignelse?
This parable has two halves: 15:11-24 & 15:25-32. Today we will examine the first half.
15:11-16: 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
Father – The younger son acknowledges his father and politely addresses him as such, but he acts in ways toward him that are out of keeping with how a son should act toward his father.
Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me – This is an outrageous request. In essence, the younger son is wishing that his father was already dead. For a son to make this demand would be unthinkable in Middle Eastern society. There is no provision among the Jews or Arabs that entitles a son to his inheritance before the death of his father.
The younger son would get half of the inheritance of his older brother. The eldest son would get twice as much as everyone else together.
The young sons request is twofold: he requests the division of the inheritance (a not uncommon practice in the Ancient Near East to avoid disputes at the father’s death), but astonishingly he requests immediate access to the capital for his use during the father’s lifetime. The younger son had no right to this capital until the father’s death.
And he divided his property between them – It is utterly remarkable that the father agreed to the younger son’s request and gave him the capital he demanded. Jesus’ listeners would have expected the father to explode with anger and severely discipline the impertinent son for his insult. It is difficult to imagine a more profound display of grace and love, which granted freedom to reject the father. Here the father has placed himself at a severe disadvantage.
Between them – The elder brother was expected to respond in two ways. First, he should loudly refuse to accept his share of the inheritance as a protest against the implications of his brother’s request. His silence strongly suggests that his relationship with his father is not good. Second, the listener would expect the elder brother to take the role of reconciler to establish a right relationship between the father and younger son. In Jewish culture, breaks in relationships are always mended through the mediation of a third party. But the silence of the older brother demonstrates his refusal to reconcile his brother and father (cf. Ps. 133:1). Therefore the older son also benefits from this transaction.
Not many days later … took a journey – The young son did not wait around very long before heading for the hills. Rejecting Ps. 133:1, he declared by his actions that he had no desire to dwell together in peace. But he needed to leave in haste. By selling the capital, hatred for the younger son would increase throughout the community. He would have been greeted with horror and amazement.
And there he squandered his property – We are not told that the younger son wasted his capital on immoral behaviour, only that he was wasteful.
A severe famine arose in the country – Jeremias has traced a series of ten famines in and around Jerusalem from 169 BC to 70 AD. Famine would have been a powerful illustration for any first century Palestinian audience. And a Jew in a faraway land without money or friends would have been especially vulnerable.
Hired himself out to one of the citizens – This lad was known to have arrived with money and was expected to have some self-respect. But he literally glues himself to this person. In the Middle East the polite way of getting rid of hangers-on was to assign them a task you know they would never do.
To feed pigs – To the dread of the listeners this younger brother accepts the unthinkable job of feeding pigs. This was certainly not kosher!
He was longing to be fed with the pods the pigs ate – This was the wild carob was a shrub, which the pigs could grub for its berries. It can be eaten by humans, but it is bitter and has no nourishment. The prodigal could not fill his stomach with them, regardless of how many he ate. They do not contain enough nourishment to keep a human alive.
15:17-24: 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
But when he came to himself – Occasionally this phrase may refer to repentance, but that is NOT the case in this context. A more likely meaning is to change one’s opinion or mind. This exact phrase is used in Luke 18:4 and it is clear there the judge does not repent; he relents.
He is not repenting of the sin he has committed, but he has come to the realisation that he is at the end of his tether; this is why he turns back toward home. He is not sad about what he has done; he is sad his money is gone!
Treat me – This phrase is like a command. The younger son has a good plan and he intends to instruct his father to carry it out. The prodigal sees his failure in terms of money lost to his father.
Treat me as one of your hired servants – He devises a face-saving plan to return home as a hired servant of his father. As a hired servant he would be a free man, living with his own income, living independently in the local village. His social status would not be inferior to his father and brother. And as a hired servant he has the potential to pay back what he has squandered. As a hired hand he could fulfil his moral duty to his father. In short, he is attempting to extricate himself; he desires no grace.
And he arose and came to his father – As the younger son would have entered the village, everyone would come out to see him. Taunts, mocking, and even physical abuse could be possible. He would have to walk the walk of shame.
And felt compassion – This may mean that the father realised the gauntlet the younger son would have to face from the villagers so he went out to protect him. In fact, the father’s actions are a series of dramatic actions calculated to protect his younger son from the hostility of the villagers and to restore him into fellowship within the community.
And ran and embraced him – Oriental noblemen with long runs do not run anywhere. To do so is humiliating. It was considered absolutely undignified for older men to run in the ANE. The father makes the reconciliation public at the edge of the village. Thus the son enters the village under the protective care of his father. Rather than experiencing the hostility he deserves and anticipates, the son witnesses and experiences an unexpected, visible demonstration of love and humiliation. The father’s actions replace words of acceptance.
In ancient times a rich man may feed any number of poor people to demonstrate his righteousness, but he would never eat with them. However, when guests are received, the one who receives them eats with them. The meal is a sign of acceptance. This is affirmed as the host showers his guest with a long string of compliments to which the guest must respond.
The younger son had publicly and visibly rejected his father. Now, the father publicly and unexpected demonstrates his love and acceptance of his son. The father just as earnestly seeks his lost son as the shepherd for the lost sheep or the woman for the lost coin.
And kissed him – This was a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness. When a serious quarrel has taken place in the village and reconciliation has been achieved, a part of the ceremony enacted as a sacrament of reconciliation is a public kiss by the leading men involved.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son – The son responds with only a part of his prepared speech. His proposed solution of becoming a hired man is missing. It is now that he repents and receives the grace of his father. His pride is broken. He is shattered by his father’s demonstration of love in humiliation. He was overwhelmed by this unexpected deliverance. He understands he cannot offer any solution to their ongoing relationship. The point is not the lost money, but the broken relationship which he cannot heal. Now he understands that any new relationship is a pure gift from his father. To think he can compensate his father with his labour is an insult.
Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him – The best robe is certainly the father’s. This would be the robe the father wore on feast days or special occasions. The father’s robe will assure acceptance by the community. This command also brings about reconciliation between the younger son and the father’s servants.
This robe may have eschatological importance. Is. 61:10 reads, For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness. In Gal. 3:26 we note that in Baptism God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ. In Rev. 7, the saints in Paradise are clothed in the white robes of righteousness, which were washed in the blood of the Lamb.
And put a ring on his hand – This would be a signet ring. This ring could be pressed into clay or wax before official documents are sealed. His father gives him authority to make business transactions on behalf of the family – even after squandering the capital given to him.
And shoes on his feet – This signified that he was a free man in the household and not a servant. By putting sandals on his feet, the servants recognise the son as their master.
And bring the fattened calf – The selection of a calf rather than a goat or sheep means that most, if not all, the village will be present at the feast that evening. To kill a calf and not invite the community would be to insult them. As with the shepherd and the woman, this joy must be shared with the community. The animal would feed up to 100 people, and it would be another way of reconciling the younger son with the community at large. The calf would not be roasted on a spit, but cut into sections and baked in bread ovens. It would be timed to be ready by the early evening, when the men return from the fields.
Let us eat and celebrate – When the younger son returned home and it had been discovered he had wasted all his father’s capital among the Gentiles, he would have been cut off from the community. Property lost to the gentiles was a serious matter. This son had not only broken his relationship with his father and brother, but also radically with the community at large.
My son was dead, but is alive again – Death speaks of the tragedy skirted—dead, now alive—recalling for Jesus’ audience not only the gulf the younger son had dug between himself and his family by his initial actions (15:11-12), but also the depth to which the son had subsequently fallen. In terms of his family relationships and identity, the younger son was dead, and he had come close to material death in the pig pens. This resurrection calls for celebration!
The son still has the option of living independently from his father as a hired hand in the village. He could refuse the grace offered by his father. Perverted pride could convince him that he is too humble to be treated as a son. Instead, he receives the pure grace. Grace wins. The father and son can now make merry.
This section begins with a living father wished dead, but it concludes with a dead son found to be alive.
15:24 what does this music and dancing signify? What does it tell us about the feast?
15:26 where is the older son in this picture? Why call the young boy for information? What information would he want to gather?
15:28 why did the older son have good grounds to be angry?
Culturally, what was the older son’s obligation? What was he saying by refusing to go into the fest?
What would Jesus’ listeners expect his father to do when he heard about his refusal to come inside? How does the father’s action of going out to the older son mirror what he did for the younger son?
In the older brother’s response, what title is missing? Is this significant?
15:29 what do the words I have served you tell us about the older son’s feelings toward his father?
What is ironic about his words I have never disobeyed your commandments?
What does the phrase that I might celebrate with my friends tell us about the older son’s view of family and guests at the feast?
15:30 why this son of yours?
Why would he be so upset that the fattened calf would be killed for the one who had wasted his capital on prostitutes?
15:31 how does the father answer address every issue raised by the elder son?
What is missing at the parable’s conclusion?
Where are you in these parables?
Spørgsmål til samtale
(15,24) Hvad betyder musik og dans i denne sammenhæng? Hvad fortæller det os om festen?
(15,26) Hvor er den ældste søn i dette billede? Hvorfor kalde på en af karlene for information? Hvilken information kunne han ville indsamle?
(15,28) Hvorfor havde den ældste søn god grund til, at blive sur?
Kulturmæssigt, hvad var så den ældste søns forpligtelse? Hvad gav han udtryk for, ved at nægte at gå ind til festen?
Hvad kunne man forvente, at Jesu’ tilhørere forventer af faderen, da han hører, den ældste søn nægter, at gå med ind til festen? Hvordan spejler faderens reaktion, da han går ud til den ældste søn, hvad han gjorde for den yngste søn?
I den ældste søns svar – hvilken titel mangler? Er det vigtigt?
(15,29) Hvad fortæller ordene: ”jeg har tjent dig” om den ældste søns følelser ift. sin far?
Hvad er det ironiske i ordene: ”Jeg har aldrig overtrådt et eneste af dine bud”?
Hvad fortæller sætningen: ”Så jeg kunne feste med mine venner” om den ældste søns syn på familien og gæsterne ved festen?
(15,30) Hvorfor: ”Men din søn dér”?
Hvorfor blive så sur over, at fedekalven slagtes for den, som har ødslet formuen væk på skøger?
(15,31) Hvordan tager faderen fat i alle de problemer, den ældste bror fremhæver?
Hvad mangler der i lignelsens konklusion?
The second half of the parable is culturally and stylistically a repetition of the first half. The externals are different, but the essential nature of each of the two halves is the same. Furthermore, the father’s response to each of his sons is virtually identical.
This section of the parable is Jesus’ response to His critics. They were so focused on the wickedness of the tax collectors and sinners and on Jesus for daring to dine with them, that they could not see God’s mercy at work among them. These outcasts were being restored physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but all the grumblers could see was human garbage.
15:25-32: 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Now his older son was in the field – Jesus uses this brief line to stage manage the parable and re-introduce the elder son. He appears when he does to heighten the comparison between the two sons.
He heard music and dancing – The word translated music may refer to a double-pipe. It is clear that there is a loud, joyous, boisterous celebration in progress, when the older son approaches the house. As the meat was cooking, pipes or drums would begin to play; this signalled to the village that there was something to eat. There would be no official beginning time. Everything would be in motion as people would come, sing, dance, drink wine, talk, eat, go out, come back, and so forth. The eating and drinking will last half the night.
And he called one of the servants – This word can also be translated son or young boy. The older son would have entered a gate into the courtyard of the home which provided access to the front part of the house. He meets the young boy before reaching the house. In Palestine, when a large banquet is held, the adults attend, but not the children. The young boys congregate in the street outside the home. They would form the first group the older son would meet.
What these things meant – He would be able to tell by the rhythm of the music that it was a joyful celebration. The imperfect verb indicates that he kept asking him question after question. He wanted to ascertain if his brother came back wealthy or poor. We assume he discovered the fate of his younger brother from this lad.
But he was angry and refused to go in – Custom demanded his attendance. At such a banquet the eldest son has a semi-official role to play. He is expected to move among the guests, offering compliments, making sure everyone has enough to eat, ordering the servants around, and becoming a sort of major-domo of the feast. Often the older son does not eat with the guests. If the older son would enter the house he would be seen to join the family in honouring his brother. If he wanted to fight with his father about how his brother was received, he should first enter the house and fulfil his role as joint-host. He is expected to publicly embrace and congratulate his brother and accept the compliments that will be showered upon him. He would be expected to show special honour to his brother as the honoured guest. When all are gone, then he may complain that the boy should not be trusted and should not have been welcomed in this public manner. Instead, the older son choses to publicly humiliate his father by not going into the feast and carrying out his obligations.
In the Middle East the father is held in the highest regard, so the older son’s actions were extremely insulting. In any culture, to publicly refuse to participate in a banquet hosted by your father would expose a family feud to the public gaze. There is now a break in the relationship between the older son and his father nearly as catastrophic as the one fostered by the younger son.
His father came out – Again the listener would expect the elder son’s father to react with fierce anger toward his impudent son. He would, for the moment, ignore the sulking son and carrying on with the festivities or find a way to public embarrass the older son for his disgraceful behaviour. But for the second time in one day, the father goes down and out of the house offering in public humiliation a demonstration of unexpected love.
And entreated him – The father came out to entreat the son, not scold or rebuke him, as one would expect. We have now reached the centre portion of this section of the parable – what will be the older son’s response?
Look – The elder son address his father without using a title. Titles have been used throughout sections of direct speech in the parable until now. This alerts us to the absence of a title now, and means this is probably significant.
These many years I have served you – The older son here demonstrates the attitude of being a slave, not a son. Literally he says I have slaved for you. His attitude is one of “give me what I deserve for my service to you.” He sees this as a labour dispute over unpaid wages.
And I never disobeyed your command – What an ironic thing to claim just after he has publicly humiliated his father. The difference between these two sons was that the younger one was disobedient and rebellious while absent from the house, but the older son was estranged and rebellious in his heart while he was in the house.
Yet you never gave me a young goat – The elder son accuses his father of favouritism. This sentence is very egotistical. The words to me stand first in the word order. He complains that this rebel gets a calf, but I don’t even get a goat for serving you faithfully. With these words the older son denies all the unmerited love his father has shown him throughout his life. Besides, he was welcome to come and dine on the fattened calf with his family, friends, and community.
That I might celebrate with my friends – This is the older son’s confession that he is not part of the family. He has removed himself from the fellowship of his family. It is obvious that his friends do not include his father, brother, or the guests currently at the feast. Emotionally the elder brother’s community is somewhere else. For him, a good meal with his friends is an occasion for joy. The recovery of a brother, who was as good as dead, i s not! He is unwilling to rejoice at this banquet. If his father would give him a goat, he would go with his friends-not including father or brother-and be joyous.
There is a sinister aspect to these words. Since the departure of the younger son, all the father owns has gone to the older son, but the older son cannot dispose of it until his father dies. The elder brother is angry that he cannot hold his own banquet with his own friends with his property until his father dies. He admits as much openly. His younger brother was granted disposition and had all the banquets he wanted. Why cannot the older son have the same privilege? The story has come full circle.
But when this son of yours came – He refuses to acknowledge him as his brother and attempts to imply that his evil ways may, in some way, reflect the character of the father.
Who has devoured your property – He is attempting to convince his father that the younger son does not love him. If he loved you then he would have preserved your capital to take care of you in your old age. But he has devoured your money with prostitutes. Earlier in the parable there is no mention of prostitutes, but this information is added by the older brother who imagines what his younger sibling was doing on his journey.
With prostitutes – The elder son is portraying himself as honourable, respectable-at least that is what he thinks about himself-while his younger brother is disgraceful, reckless, and shameful. Fattened calves were eaten at wedding ceremonies, but this son of yours, who has chased after the prostitutes, gets a wedding feast; the elder son is incredulous.
The elder brother may be trying to paint a picture of his younger sibling as a rebel. If he can demonstrate that he belongs in this category, then he should be put to death according to the Law (Dt. 21:18-21). The difference between the two brothers was that the younger one was “an honourable sinner” in that he was open with his father. He told his father all that was in his heart. But the older brother was a “hypocritical saint” because he hid his feelings in his heart. He remained in the house all the while hating his father.
In many ways, the elder son has social propriety on his side. The younger son had shamed his father and deserved to be shunned. Why is it that recklessness and shamefulness are rewarded with jubilation when responsibility and obedience have received no recognition?
When the father came entreating his older son he may have expected his humble action of unexpected love and grace to have a similar result that it had on the younger son. Unfortunately it was not met with repentance and reception of undeserved love.
Son – The father should be furious with his older son, but instead he pours out gracious love towards him. If he would order the son to enter the house and do his duty, the son would undoubtedly obey. But what would be gained? He wants a son, not a servant. Even though his elder son showed him no respect by omitting his title; the father begins his appeal with the affectionate title son. These words come from a wounded, hurting heart, as the father longs for his joy to be complete by seeing his two sons reconciled.
And all that is mine is yours – The father here assures the older son that his rights are protected even though pure grace has been extended to his younger brother who has returned home. Here the father responds to the older son’s claim of servanthood. The father responds that he is not a slave, but he is the heir. He owns everything. All that is the father’s is the older sons. How could he give him anymore? This should have been evident when he came out to entreat the son-no master would do that with a servant.
It is fitting to celebrate and be glad – This informs the older son what the focus of his joy should be, not a meal with friends and a full stomach, but a brother who was dead but now he is alive. In Judaism, the kingdom of God is often identified with a banquet, but for them no sinners would be honoured guests at such a meal.
In the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Prodigal Son, we find joy at their centre and end, but in this portion of the parable, there is no joy at its centre or conclusion. We are not told if the father experiences the joy of gaining his son. The father is left pleading for joy that is currently absent.
For this your brother was dead, and is alive – This is a cry from the heart to understand grace. This is your brother! This is no apology or defence of his action; a Palestinian father would never do either. Rather this is an articulation of a compassionate appeal that has already been extended to the son in the father’s act of going out to him in the presence of the villagers. The younger son was dead, but now he is alive. The older son is also dead, but will he receive life?
Where resurrection and new life break forth, how can you not celebrate?
Here we see two basic types of people: the lawless without the law and the lawless within the law. Both break the father’s heart. Both end up estranged. The same unexpected love is demonstrated in humiliation to each. To both this love is crucial if sinners are to become children.
This parable has no conclusion. Chapter 15 began with eating, and it concludes with an open invitation for those complaining to join the feast. Each of us is faced with the same question; whether prodigal or prideful.
Lagt på www.vivit.dk 17.-19. juli 2017. firstname.lastname@example.org