Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mar 31)

Pastor's Summary of Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

The dregs of society (tax collectors and sinners) coming to Jesus causes the religious leaders (Pharisees and the scribes) to wonder whether Jesus sees anyone as beyond God's mercy. To explain, Jesus tells three parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. In all three, the recovery of what was lost is cause for rejoicing. there are no limits to God's mercy.

Briefly, the story of the Lost Son is this: the younger son leaves home nd squanders his inheritance, finding himself a hungry outcast resorting to Gentile ways (feeling "pigs"), he decides to return to his father; his father, who seeks him, welcomes him back; the son confesses, and his father celebrates his return; the elder son returns; he learns the reason for the festivities; he accuses his father of favoritism; the father explains the situation to him. In the context of first-century Palestine, several things look out of the ordinary: (1) for a son to ask his fther for his share of the inheritqnce would be like a death wish; (2) no older self-respecting Jew would run to his son; (3) a father would demand a full displayof repentance, not the truncated one of v. 21.

Clearly Jesus tells a somewhat unrealistic story to make a point. Allegory is at work; each character stands for someone other than himself: the younger son for the "tax collectors and sinners", the elder son for the religious authorities, and the father for God. Jesus makes three points: (1) the younger son could return home-so all sinners may repent and turn to God; (2) the father sought the son (he saw him "still far off", and offered him reinstatement-so God seeks people out to restore them; and (3) the good brother begrudges his father's joy over his brother's return-so those who are godly should welcome God's extension of love to the undeserving. The parable raises a question: at the end of the era, will godly people be ready to be jkoyous in sharing the Kingdom with refomred sinners and a God who loves them?