As I mentioned in a previous post, Jesus was the greatest story teller in the history of the world. And in Luke 15 he tells what is probably the greatest parable ever told. The word “prodigal” means wasteful. And the younger son has garnered most of the attention of folks listening to this story because he takes 1/3 of the Father’s estate (his inheritance) and proceeds to a “far and distant country” where he lavishly wastes it all.
But if you go back to verses 1-3 of the chapter you realize that the parable is being told TO the church folks, the students of the OT and the keepers of God’s law. When you consider the construction of the parable and all that goes into an eastern story like this you realize the main focus is on the older brother, who typifies the church folks of that day. The angry attitude of the older son is the attitude of the critical Pharisees and Scribes.
They rejoice over the sheep that was lost and then found. They rejoice over the lost coin that was found.But they cannot rejoice over sinners being saved and the very thought is scandalous. If this is a story of waste, who is the most wasteful. In a sense the Father is, because after the younger son has already blown a third of his estate, he now spends more money on a lavish and extravagant party. He even kills the fattened calf. This is a culture where meat was rarely eaten, and only on special occasions. And the fattened calf was over the top.
Here is a question. Why is it that the church does not seem to attract the same crowd that Jesus attracted? Is it possible that church folks are still scandalized by sinners and publicans in the church? Have we forgotten that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost? Have we really overlooked the fact that the church exists not for the comfort of its “members” but for those not yet a part?