now (some 2000 years ago), both the tax collectors (Jews turned servants of the Roman empire who now oppressed their fellow Jews and pocketed huge sums of money) and sinners, came near to Jesus to hear him speak.
and the Pharisees – pastors? bible scholars? religious leaders? – and the scribes (lawyers L O L) grumbled, saying
“this man receives sinners and eats with them”
and you wonder – how did the tax collectors and sinners feel, when they heard the Pharisees grumble?
so Jesus told the crowd three short stories. and the third one went something like this:
there was a man who had two sons.
and the younger son said to his dad:
“dad, give me the share of property that is my due”
in those times, as it is now, children would only get their inheritance upon the passing of their parents. and in Jewish culture, this was a deep insult – the younger son might as well have said to his dad
“dad, i wish you were dead because i want your money now”
but his dad relented, and so the younger son took his share of the property, and went far off, and spent all the riches that his dad had given to him.
and in that far country, a severe famine arose, and the son ended up feeding pigs to make a living. he grew so hungry that he longed to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate.
and in his misery the son resolved in his heart to just return home, and beg his father for mercy. he would say to his dad:
“My Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
and so the son began to make his journey home, hungry, and tired, and ashamed. but while the son was still a long way from home, his father saw him.
perhaps his father had been keeping a lookout. the story does not mention this. but the moment the father saw his son, and while the son was still a long way from home
the father felt compassion for his son, and he ran to him, and embraced him, and kissed him.
and we do not know how the son felt in that moment. but he said to his father the words that he had prepared:
“I am no longer worthy to be called your son”
instead, the father said to his servants –
“let us eat and celebrate.
for my son was dead, and is alive again.
he was lost, but now he is found.”
now the older son returned from labor in the field, and heard the music and dancing from the celebration. and he was angry and refused to go in.
his father came out, and asked the elder son to go in. but he answered his father:
“many years I have served you. never have i disobeyed your command.
but when this son of yours came, who took your property and spent it all, who devoured your property with prostitutes, you kill the fattened calf for him. you take the very best of what’s left, and you give it to him.
how dare you.”
you are always with me – has that been just a chore to you? a command, a burden, a duty to discharge, a set of observances to keep?
all that is mine is yours. it is fitting to celebrate, and be glad.
for your brother was dead, but now he is alive. he was once lost, but now he is found.”