One of the most notorious passages of the New Testament is that of \”The Parable of The Prodigal Son\” found in the Gospel of luke: Chapter 15 verses 11-32. This article series is going to be focused on moving through this parable in combination with Henry Nouwens \”The Return of the Prodigal Son\”
The Series is going to be broken up into three articles dedicated to the journey of a Christian as they find themselves struggling to become more Christlike.
This first article will be dedicated to the story and journey of the Prodigal Son and the lessons we can learn about ourselves and about our almighty God.
The context for this parable is seen in Luke 15: 1-2: Jesus is speaking to the pharisees and scribes who had brought challenge against his decision to break bread with those considered to be at the absolute bottom of society. In his rebuttal of their challenge Jesus paints a picture of the value of a person through parables, the prodigal son is one of these stories used by Jesus at this time.
(Verses 11 through 12) The story begins with the younger of two brothers demanding his inheritance from his father, within the culture of the people Jesus was speaking to this demand is synonymous with wanting his father to be dead. The father grants the request and sends him on his way
(Verses 13 through 16) The son squandered what he had been given and being unable to support himself when famine struck he worked with the pigs under a citizen who hired him, eventually growing further destitute the son began to wish he would be fed with the pigs.
(Verses 17 through 24) Eventually, this young man broke and when he did, he decided to return to his father to request he be a servant. While the son was still a while off the father saw him and met him upon the road embracing him and kissing him, the son made his request and the father\’s response was to throw a celebration recognizing the returned son as his own.
Many Christians have a story of coming to God from a place of confusion, depression, addiction, trauma, and a whole host of other things. This story of the prodigal son is a vastly simplified version of the story of humanity, where each of us in our own way squander that which God provides in an endless number of ways throughout our lives. And for those who choose to return to God, there is an endlessly compassionate and wise father waiting to embrace them.
Henry Nouwen captures the beauty of this part of the story alongside the story of Rembrandt, an artist from the seventeenth century. In his book \”The Return of the Prodigal Son\” Nouwen says something that quite beautifully represents the transition that each Christian encounters multiple times: \” It is the movement from the glory that seduces one into an even greater search for wealth and popularity to the glory that is hidden in the human soul and surpasses death\”
Many Christians and non Christians struggle with the origin of their validation, for some it is founded on their success, some examples of this include personal image, academic accomplishments, reputation within the community, career advancements and achievements, and plenty others. The problem with this foundation for self validation is that in the end all of these things are in constant flux, there is nothing consistent about the world other than its brokenness and its inconsistency. Validation is most securely rooted in something that is consistent, and if nothing in the world is consistent a person must look outside the world, a person must look to God.
God is displayed within the parable as a loving father who embraces you even when you have wished him to be dead and turned away from him. For humans there is no better place to rest a sense of self worth and validation.