I Am Prodigal Son -By Brother Chuck
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They call me the Prodigal Son, or the son who went away. This is a story about my family and my rebellious heart. My father is getting up in years. He's the owner of a very large farm in western Israel. He's smart, savvy, and a good businessman. He deeply loves his family and his farm. My mother passed away three years ago during harvest time. She was beautiful and kind. She was really wonderful. I really miss her. My older brother is well-rooted to the farm. He's obedient, dedicated and he works very hard. He likes to bark out orders to me. He's always telling me what to do. Honestly, he really gets on my nerves. But, he's my brother, and I still love him.
Based on the parable, "The Prodigal Son." Read it here, the way Jesus told it: Luke 15:11-32 (ESV). This is my version.
Our farm, where I grew up, is just east of Joppa. Joppa is a Mediterranean Seaport city located about 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem. My father is rather wealthy. He's always made smart business decisions, and he never wastes money. He's always been a saver. He planned to leave my brother and me a great inheritance upon his death. As is our Jewish tradition, upon my father's passing, my older brother will receive two thirds of the estate and I, the younger son, was to receive one third of the estate.
On our farm, we grow many varieties of crops in the fields. We grow grape vineyards for wine and harvest olives by beating the olive trees. Every olive branch has to be beaten with sticks in order to loosen the olives. What a chore that is. We grow hay and straw for the livestock. We also grow oranges, cabbages, onions, leeks, carrots, cucumbers, parsnips, turnips, radishes, celery, plums, cherries, figs, grain, pomegranates, and barley. We rely on the winter rains to water our crops and droughts are common. Often these droughts cause famine in the land. The fields are plowed with oxen and mules. And seeds are all sewn by hand, many hands. We probably have 500 field hands or more. In addition to vegetables and fruit crops, we raise oxen, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, chickens and the like. We used the livestock's manure to fertilize our crops.
My brother always enjoyed working on the farm. But me? I was sick of it. Everyday, I'd watch my friends, who lived across the road sleep late into the day. Then they'd get up around midday and go to the sea and go swimming or they'd go fishing. Sometimes they'd go to town and drink wine, laugh and have a good time. I wanted to have a good time too. I was so sick and tired of getting up every morning when the roosters crowed and going to work in the fields, or the vineyards, or the olive tree groves to beat olive branches. Then we also had to feed and care for all the livestock. I was just sick of it all! Long days and hard work never seemed to end. There must be a better way to earn a living, I often thought to myself.
So one day I got the idea of asking my father for my share of the inheritance so I could leave and escape this life of farming and hard work. So I went to my Dad and I said, "Dad, I'm sick of this place. I want to have fun! Just give me my share of the inheritance now, so I can leave and go do what I want to do." I could see in my Dad's eyes that I disappointed him. The anguish was written all over his face. I suppose to him, it meant that I didn't want to wait any longer for him to die. I wanted my inheritance now. That's kind of like wishing he was dead. Although I didn't feel that way. As disappointed as my father was, he didn't rebuke me. He patiently granted my request and divided the inheritance between us.
A few days after that, I gathered all my belongings and I set out for a distant country. I had plenty of money from my inheritance so I paid for transportation and ate good food all along the way. I was happy. I was smiling. I was laughing. I was having fun, and I was having the time of my life. This adventure was great! After many days of travel, I finally arrived in a distant country. With the money I had, it was easy to make friends. I bought wine for everybody, and I got drunk, and I lived a life of wild living. I drank, I ate, I gambled, I bought jewelry and fine clothing and I even spent money on prostitutes.
Soon, I had spent everything I had on
wild living. And now, all my new friends are gone. I found myself
broke and destitute. I had no money left, not even to pay my rent on
the pillared house I lived in. The landlord booted me out. No money.
No friends. No food. No place to sleep. Nothing. And now, on top of all of
that, as if things weren't bad enough, this country was in a
persisting drought that caused a severe famine throughout the whole
country. I couldn't find a job to take care of myself. No one was
hiring because of the famine. I sold my fine
clothing and jewelry so I could buy some food. Soon that money was
gone too. I become in dire need. I hadn't eaten in days. I was so hungry.
Eventually, I convinced a citizen of that country to hire me. He sent me to feed the hogs. I was so hungry, even the carob pods I was feeding the swine looked good to me. But no one gave me anything to eat. It was at that moment, I realized what a fool I had been and I came to my senses. "Just look at me now!" I said to myself, "Here I am working on someone else's farm and feeding someone else's pigs. I could be doing this at home." I remembered that all the hands and servants on my father's farm always had plenty of good food to eat and food to spare. And here I am working on someone else's farm starving to death when I could be home working on my fathers farm with plenty of food.
So I said to myself, I will set out immediately for Joppa and return home to my father's house. And I will 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 servants." (Luke 15:18-19 NIV) So, immediately I set out on my long journey home. Along the way, I thought about my brother, my mom, but mostly, I thought about my dad. I didn't know how he'd react. My brother would probably say to me, "I told you so." But I'm afraid my father will reject me since I spent all my inheritance on wild living. I know, I'm not worthy to be his son, but my hope, at least, is that he will hire me on as a field hand. Then at least, I'll have food to eat. Over and over again, I practiced saying, "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 servants." (Luke 15:18-19 NIV)
I walked for many days to get home. No rides this time. I wore out my sandals walking. Twice along the way, bandits tried to rob me. But they didn't get anything, because I didn't have anything. It was a long hard journey. And all the way home, over and over again, I thought about what to say to my father. I was sure he would be angry for squandering my inheritance. He will probably reject me. But I will plead with him to just let me be a hired servant. Soon I was home.
As I walked toward the fields where my father was working, I could see him supervising the field workers, even though I was still a long way off. Then he saw me. He recognized me. He ran to me. "Why is he running?" I wondered. Is he in a hurry to kick me off the farm?
But wait, he doesn't look angry. He
looks sympathetic, and he looks overjoyed. I think he's happy to see
me. When he reached me, he threw his arms around me and he hugged me
so tight. I couldn't believe it. This wasn't the reception I
expected. As he was hugging me, he began to cry. I could feel his
warm tears run down my neck. He wasn't angry at all. He didn't reject
me. He accepted me just as I was, and I was broken. I was filthy,
homeless, broke and destitute. And I said 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 servants." (Luke 15:18 NIV)
But my father shouted to the servants, "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." (Luke 15:22-24 NIV) So we began to celebrate. Friends, neighbors and servants were all invited. The food was delicious! It was the best beef brisket I ever ate. We ate potato kugel, latkes, matzo ball soup and everything. It was all so delicious. It felt so good to be home again. My father looked over at me and said, "Welcome home son."
My older brother was still working in the field. After he finished
his chores, he walked toward the house and he heard music and dancing
and laughter. So he called Noam, a servant, and he asked him what was
going on. "Your brother has come home." he replied. "And your
father has killed a fattened calf, because he has him back, safe and
sound." My brother became very angry. He refused to come in and
join the celebration. So my father went out and pleaded with my
brother. But my brother was too angry and would have no part of it.
My brother said to my 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. But when this son
of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you
killed the fattened calf for him!" My father replied to my brother
and said, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is
yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother
was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."(Luke 15:31-32 ESV)
In this wonderful parable, the forgiving father represents God. The younger son represents you and me, the lost, and the unsaved. The older son represents the self-righteous. The message of this parable, I think, is more about restoring the believer rather than converting the sinner. The father allows his son to leave and squander everything. This is a picture of God allowing the sinner to go his own way. After the younger son came to his senses, he was content to just come home as a working servant. His attitude was one of repentance and humility. But to his surprise, his father restored him back into the full privilege of being his father's son.
What about the older son? He worked hard on the farm every day. He always obeyed his father and did exactly as his father wished. He brought no shame to the family or to the farm. But one can clearly see by the older son's words and actions, that he is showing no love for his father or for his younger brother. The older son was angry with his father for welcoming home his younger rebellious brother. The older son was jealous and thought only of himself. There was no joy for the younger son's return home. This parable concludes with the father pleading with the older son. The bible doesn't tell us what ultimately happens to the older son.
So what about you? Are you the prodigal son that is back after squandering? Or are you the older son who is resentful, angry and self-righteous? The awesome thing is, God the Father, loves both of them.
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