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The Prodigal Son – No Story Book Ending

Posted by on March 9, 2011

Luke 15:11-32 (New International Version, ©2011)

The Parable of the Lost Son

 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.    13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.    17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
   “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.    21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’    22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
   25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
   28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’    31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

When reading this passage for probably the millionth time this morning, I had a bit of a realization – the Holy Spirit tends to do that.  After finishing it, I so wanted to know the end of the story.  We hear the father’s response of compassion and forgiveness as he explains them to the older brother is telling of his concerns for justice, but that’s where the story ends.  We never hear what the older brother has to say back.  I so wanted to continue to read that the son was overcome by his father’s compassion, love and forgiveness and his bitterness and anger was quickly transformed by his father’s example and the work of the Holy Spirit. 

But that probably wasn’t the case was it?  More than likely, the older son was not transformed in that moment.  He probably remained angry and would not enter to greet and celebrate with his brother.  Possibly, he remained angry until his dad passed away and then maybe realized his hardness of heart many years later. 

Really, we do not know.  Jesus doesn’t tell us this part does He.  I think I wanted this story book ending because my experience with stories tells me it should have this kind of ending.  As I read stories to Simeon at night, read books myself and as I watch movies and tv shows, I am being conditioned to expect “the story book ending.”  And especially with having a Christian worldview and reading a Christian story, it ESPECIALLY should have a story book ending, right? 

But life tells us otherwise.  And the Bible tells us otherwise- have you read Ecclesiastes recently?  Life very often doesn’t have the story book ending in many instances.  However, we have faith that God is at work in the world and in control of all situations that even though the ending isn’t as we had hoped it is His will and it is good.  So why doesn’t Jesus tell us the ending to prepare us for the fact that life doesn’t always have story book endings. 

Well, that is point of his teaching style.  He is teaching through a parable as he does through much of this part of Luke.  Parables always have a point and the point wasn’t to show us life isn’t always perfect.  The point of the parable is, as you know, to show an example of compassion and forgiveness for the lost.  If Jesus was to tell the whole story, then we would have all missed the point. 

Do your best to not be like me and always look for the perfect ending even though our world tells us that there needs to be one.

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