Author Tim Keller opens Chapter One of his book, "The Prodigal God":
"Most readings of this parable have concentrated on the flight and return of the younger brother - the "Prodigal Son." That misses the real message of the story, however, because there are two brothers, each of whom represents a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven."
We talked about the two sons in the previous post in this series, but now we'll see what they represent. Keller reminds us of Luke's setting for this parable, that there were 'tax collectors and sinners' present, as well as 'pharisees.' Two kinds of people. The former were like the younger brother in Jesus' story and the latter were like the older brother.
The tax collectors and sinners were drawn to Jesus' teaching and the pharisees were indignant about that. And it is this indignant attitude that Jesus begins to address with the parable of the two lost sons.
"Jesus' purpose is not to warm our hearts but to shatter our categories. Through this parable Jesus challenges what nearly everyone has ever thought about God, sin, and salvation. His story reveals the destructive self-centeredness of the younger brother, but it also condemns the elder brother's moralistic life in the strongest terms. Jesus is saying that both the irreligious and the religious are spiritually lost, both life-paths are dead ends, and that every thought the human race has had about how to connect to God has been wrong."
Previous posts in this series: