"Prodigals" Part 2: The Younger Son
Greg Taylor invites you to come with friends in tow Sunday, February 24, 2019 when we look deeper into the life of the Younger Son in the Prodigals Story in Luke 15.
A man had two sons . . .
The most famous story of Jesus is not only about one son named the “Prodigal.” In this mini-series of sermons beginning February 17, 2019, we’re remembering that the story begins, “A man had two sons.” Who was the other son? We’ll find out in the weeks to come, but if you want to read ahead, the two parts of the story occur like this: the younger son (Luke 15:11-24) and the elder son (Luke 15:25-32). So this mini-series is called “Prodigals,” and we will be invited to see ourselves in the characters of this powerful parable.
First we’ll focus on the story of the younger son, the one who left.
The Return of the Younger Son
Sunday February 24, 2019 we remain in the moment of the parable of the two sons when the younger son returns.
The moment is captured in a famous 1661 painting by Rembrandt van Rijn called, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”
I first learned about the painting from a book by one of my favorite theologians, the late Henri J.M. Nouwen. The cover of the book is the painting, and Nouwen tells the story of his discovery of the painting and growing fascination and longing to understand the scene from the standpoint of the younger brother, the father with one large and one small hand, which he sees as intentionally depicting the mother and father hands and heart of God. Then Nouwen spends chapters relating to the older brother and his own story of being the aloof, self-righteous, brooding older brother. In Nouwen’s view, we’re all prodigals, and the story could very well be named not just the prodigal son but the prodigal sons.
The book (or audio) is well-worth the read. I want everyone I know to learn what Nouwen has taught me. That loving God can truly follow a more difficult life goal to become God’s beloved and learn to be loved by God. That we are prodigals who still have a home, are still called beloved, can wear a ring of son and daughter on our finger, shoes for our feet, and a robe of welcome is the good news of this amazing parable of Jesus.
When he was a long way off
When the younger son was still far off, his father saw him, was filled with compassion, and he did something surprising.
He ran to meet his son. In some cultures, like Jewish culture, the slower the more dignified. A grown man wouldn’t run like a boy, particularly to greet a son who had cursed him with death by demanding his inheritance. A man shamed in front of his family and neighbors would not further embarrass himself by hiking up his robe and running up the road to meet his betraying son. This is one of the central images of the story and why the story could rightly be called “The Father Who Runs.”
There’s a great contemporary picture of the father who runs in the story of Derrick Redman. During the 1992 Barcelona, Spain Olympics, British 400 meter runner Derrick Redman had come back from achilles injury that took him out of the 1988 Olympics. He had worked toward this day for a decade and during the 400M, just one hundred meters from the finish line, Redman pulled up with a torn hamstring.
He waved off medical and tried to limp to the finish in excruciating pain. The race had ended but the crowd was stunned by what was about to happen. Out of the crowd a man bounded down the stands, pushed aside a security guard and ran to the side of Redman. It was Redman’s father.
Arm and arm father and son finished the race, a beautiful picture of a father's love.
Dear Lord, many of us don’t even realize what we’re missing in life is to see you run to us, to wrap us in your loving embrace. Would you make us aware of this powerful embrace of your beloved?