I goofed in the sense that Keller actually begins his explanation in the Introduction, so I wasn't beginning where he did. Sigh.
Without further ado (because there's been enough ado already), here are important quotes from the Introduction to Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God.
"I will not use the parable's most common name: the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is not right to single out only one of the sons as the sole focus of the story. Even Jesus doesn't call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but begins the story saying, 'a man had two sons.' The narrative is as much about the elder brother as the younger, and as much about the father as the sons. And what Jesus says about the older brother is one of the most important messages given to us in the Bible. The parable might be better called the Two Lost Sons."
As I said in a previous post, the book makes a much different approach to the familiar story and in the quote above Keller makes that view much more clear. There wasn't just one boy, there were two and there was a father also, though his role has not been left untouched by teaching and preaching over the years.
Keller's Introduction goes further, spelling out who he understands the two boys to represent - it's fascinating. He says his book is ". . . written to both curious outsiders and established insiders of the faith, both to those Jesus calls 'younger brothers' and those he calls 'elder brothers . . .'"
Right away my categories get blown. I had pretty much a standard view of this story, a view probably shared by most of you, that the younger son represented the lost world Jesus came to save and the father represented our Heavenly Father. There wasn't really any interpreting done as far as the older son was concerned.
But now I think Keller is right. There's a reason Jesus makes a point of there being TWO sons. And what I think we will find as we go is that, while there may have been a day we related to the younger boy who repented and returned, we might have more in common with the attitude of the older brother these days. Or maybe it's just me.