Parable #32. Lost (Prodigal) Son:
- Today is Day #32
- The Thirty-second Mashal of Messiah
- “This Man”
- The grumbling Separated Ones
- The Prushim’s call to Exclusivity and Alienation
- The Messiah’s call to Redemption and Reconciliation
- A firestorm of controversy
- The older brother was a failure too
- The Jewish Prince who dined with Pigs
- How stupid can this Lost Son be?
- When the Lost Son first began to come to his senses
- Repentance is more than remorse
- The Returning Son devised the wrong plan for his return
- It is hard to give up one’s Pride and independence in service to The Father
- The Disgraced One who believed he had become a Permanent Outsider
- So what happened next?
- What the offended Father decided to do
- The Father’s final decision surprises us all!
- The forced imposition of Total Grace
- The Father’s love is all that makes sense now
- So it is time for us to return home to the Love of The Father
- The speech that could not be finished…
- The Best Robe
- The Signet Ring
- The Sandals
- The Fatted Calf
- Give Me a hug and let’s have a Party!
- The Metaphor of the Great Banquet
- Every Jew is invited to the Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation
- The only person who can dis-invite you is you!
- Messiah’s main appeal now is to the Non-orthodox and Secular Yehudim
- The Celebration of New Life
- The other Lost Son
- The eldest son chose the wrong path to live by
- Choosing self-righteousness over the path of love
- The Protest of the Eldest Son: This is Vulgar Grace!
- A life lived by the letter of the Law
- Hearing, understanding and obeying the Language of The Father’s Heart
- The Rest of the Story
- Final Conclusion
Today is Day #32:
1. Today is “Day #32” in the forty-nine day Countdown to Shavuot.
2. Today is thirty-two days which are four weeks and four days of the Omer.
.היום שנים ושלשים יום, שהם ארבעה שבועות וארבעה ימים בעומר
Haiyom shnaiym ushloshim yom, shehaym arba’ah shavuot ve-arba’ah yamim ba’omer.
“You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days.” (Leviticus). “You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu’ot for Adonai Eloheinu.” (Deuteronomy).
“Blessed are You, Adonai Eloheinu, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.”
ברוך אתה, אדוני אלוהינו, מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וצוונו על ספירת העומר.פ
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
The Thirty=second Mashal of Messiah:
וַיֹּאמַר אִישׁ אֶחָד הָיוּ לוֹ שְׁנֵי בָנִים׃ וַיֹּאמֶר הַצָּעִיר אֶל־אָבִיו אָבִי תְּנָה־לִּי אֶת־חֵלֶק הַנְּכָסִים אֲשֶׁר יִפֹּל לִי וַיְחַלֵּק לָהֶם אֶת־הַנַּחֲלָה׃ וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ יָמִים וַיֶּאֱסֹף הַבֵּן הַצָּעִיר אֶת־הַכֹּל וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל־אֶרֶץ רְחוֹקָה וַיְהִי זוֹלֵל וְסֹבֵא וַיְפַזֵּר שָׁם אֶת־רְכֻשׁוֹ׃ וְאַחֲרֵי כַלּוֹתוֹ אֶת־הַכֹּל הָיָה רָעָב חָזָק בָּאָרֶץ הַהִיא וַיָּחֶל לִהְיוֹת חֲסַר־לָחֶם׃ וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּדְבַּק בְּאֶחָד מִבְּנֵי הַמְּדִינָה בָּאָרֶץ הַהִיא וַיִּשְׁלַח אוֹתוֹ אֶל־שְׂדוֹתָיו לִרְעוֹת חֲזִירִים׃ וַיִּתְאָו לְמַלֵּא בִטְנוֹ מֵהַחֲרוּבִים אֲשֶׁר יֹאכְלוּ הַחֲזִירִים וְאֵין נֹתֵן לוֹ׃
A certain man had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “My father, give me the portion of riches that will fall to me.” So he divided the inheritance for them. After a few days the younger son gathered everything and went to a distant land. He was indulging in food and drink and squandered his possessions there. After he finished off everything, there was a severe famine in that land and a shortage of bread. He went and joined one of the citizens of that land who sent him to his fields to graze pigs. He craved to fill his stomach with the carob pods that the pigs were eating, but he did not give anything to him.
וַיָּשֶׁב אֶל־לִבּוֹ וַיֹּאמַר מָה־רַבּוּ שְׂכִירֵי אָבִי אֲשֶׁר יֵשׁ לָהֶם לֶאֱכֹל דַּיָּם וְהוֹתֵר וַאֲנִי אֹבֵד בָּרָעָב׃ אָקוּמָה־נָּא וְאֵלְכָה אֶל־אָבִי וְאֹמַר אֵלָיו אָבִי חָטָאתִי גַּם לְשָׁמַיִם גַּם לְפָנֶיךָ׃ וּנְקַלּתִי מֵהִקָּרֵא עוֹד בְּנֶךָ שִׂימֵנִי כְּאַחַד שְׂכִירֶיךָ׃
He returned to his heart and said, “How numerous are my father’s hired workers, who have enough food to eat and more! But I am perishing in the famine. Let me get up and go to my father and say to him, ‘My father, I have sinned both against Heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.’”
וַיָּקָם וַיָּבֹא אֶל־אָבִיו עוֹדֶנּוּ מֵרָחוֹק וְאָבִיו רָאָהוּ וַיֶּהֱמוּ מֵעָיו וַיָּרָץ וַיִּפֹּל עַל־צַוָּארָיו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו הַבֵּן אָבִי חָטָאתִי גַּם לְשָׁמַיִם גַּם לְפָנֶיךָ וַאֲנִי נְקַלּתִי מֵהִקָּרֵא עוֹד בְּנֶךָ׃
He got up and came to his father. While he was still at a distance, his father saw him and felt moved. He ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. The son said to him, “My father, I have sinned both against Heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָב אֶל־עֲבָדָיו הָבִיאוּ אֶת־הַשִׂמְלָה הַיָּפָה וְהַלְבִּישֻׁהוּ וּתְנוּ טַבַּעַת עַל־יָדוֹ וּנְעָלִים בְּרַגְלָיו׃ וְהָבִיאוּ עֵגֶל הַמַּרְבֵּק וְטִבְחוּ אֹתוֹ וְנֹאכְלָה וְנִשְׂמָח׃ כִּי זֶה־בְּנִי הָיָה מֵת וַיֶּחִי וְאֹבֵד וַיִּמָּצֵא וַיָּחֵלּוּ לִשְׂמֹחַ׃
The father said to his servants, “Bring the fine robe and dress him! Place a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet! Bring the fattened calf and butcher it, and let us eat and rejoice! For this son of mine was dead, but is now alive! He was lost, but is now found!” And they began to rejoice.
וּבְנוֹ הַגָּדוֹל בַּשָׂדֶה וַיְהִי בְשׁוּבוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר קָרַב אֶל־הַבַּיִת וַיִּשְׁמַע קוֹל זִמְרָה וּמְחֹלוֹת׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֶל־אַחַד הַנְּעָרִים וַיִּשְׁאַל לָדַעַת מַה־הַדָּבָר׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו כִּי־בָא אָחִיךָ וַיִּטְבַּח אָבִיךָ עֵגֶל הַמַּרְבֵּק עַל־אֲשֶׁר שָׁב אֵלָיו בְּשָׁלוֹם׃ וַיִּחַר לוֹ וַיְמָאֵן לָבוֹא הַבָּיְתָה וַיֵּצֵא אָבִיו וַיְדַבֵּר עַל־לִבּוֹ׃ וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־אָבִיו הִנֵּה זֶה שָׁנִים רַבּוֹת אָנֹכִי עֹבֵד אֹתְךָ וּמִיָּמַי לֹא עָבַרְתִּי אֶת־מִצְוָתֶךָ וְאַתָּה מִיָּמַי לֹא־נָתַתָּ לִּי גְּדִי לְמַעַן אָשִׂישׂ עִם־רֵעָי׃ וְעַתָּה בָּא בִנְךָ־זֶה אֲשֶׁר בִּלַּע אֶת־נַחֲלָתְךָ עִם־הַזֹּנוֹת וַתִּזְבַּח־לוֹ אֶת־עֵגֶל הַמַּרְבֵּק׃
His older son was in the field. He returned, and while he came near the house, he heard the sound of music and flutes. He called to one of the young men (one of the servants) and asked to know what was going on. He said to him, “Your brother has come, so your father butchered the fattened calf because he has returned in shalom.” This angered him and he refused to enter the house. His father came out and spoke to his heart. He answered and said to his father, “Look—for these many years I have been serving you, and all my days I have not transgressed your commandments. But all my days, you have not given me even a young animal so that I could celebrate with my friends. Now here comes this son of yours, who has swallowed your inheritance with prostitutes, and you slaughter the fattened calf!”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו בְּנִי אַתָּה תָּמִיד עִמָּדִי וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־לִי לְךָ הוּא׃ אֲבָל אָחִיךָ הִנֵּה רָאוּי לָשׂוּשׂ וְלִשְׂמֹחַ עָלָיו כִּי הָיָה מֵת וַיֶּחִי וְאֹבֵד וַיִּמָּצֵא׃
He said to him, “My son, you are constantly with me, and all that I have is yours. But as for your brother—look, it is appropriate to celebrate and rejoice over him, because he was dead and is now alive. He was lost and is now found.”
The Prushim (Separated Ones, Pharisees) and Yehudim who were experts in the Law “grumbled” (as you recall the first Deliverer, Moses, was treated in a similar manner) among themselves against the Messiah (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). The Messiah is referred to by these elite religious leaders as “this man” (a contemptuous use of an impersonal pronoun). These religious leaders publicly protested that Rabbi Yeshua was not the “Moses to come” (promised Deliverer) who He claimed to be. Their proof that ‘this man’ was not the Messiah was that He liberally gave too much access of Himself to bad company—-the Messiah ate with sinners.
The leaders complained that Rabbi Yeshua preferred the company of non-practicing Yehudim (Jews) over their own respectable class, the practicing hyper-orthodox Prushim and the rulers of the Law. So, this man had to be rejected because the Messiah showed no sense whatsoever of pious separation and social superiority.
Another complaint of the religious elites was that the Messiah taught lies. One of His biggest lies being that He claimed Adonai loved the irreligious, immoral and wicked children of Israel just as much as He did the righteous ones. Messiah’s love of the lower class (religiously non-compliant Jews) was a threat to the upper class religious establishment. Messiah was a serious threat to the establishment’s total control of the economic, social and religious infrastructure of the Jewish people.
The grumbling Separated Ones:
These grumbling Separated Ones (i.e. self-appointed holy ones) and experts in the law (scribes) enjoyed a social monopoly on the cultural-religious practices of the people of Israel.
So these false shepherds did everything they could to maliciously slander the Messiah personally and impede His teaching ministry publicly. And when this was not enough to protect their strangle-hold on the hearts and minds of the people, these men even made an alliance with the pagan Roman government to kill the Messiah. They considered the messianic teaching of the Rabbi of rabbis to be a vulgar lie; a vulgar application of the grace (chesed and chen) of Adonai.
These men contended that only ‘they‘ should be granted the joy of forgiveness and eternal salvation because ‘they alone’ were the ones who had worked hard to deserve it. They claimed that anyone who would say that salvation should be given as a free gift to a non-practicing Yehudi (sinner who had not done the requisite religious good works) was either a fool or worse yet, an agent of the evil one. So the moral imperative for these men: “You must do the required religious good works to balance out the scales or on the day of *judgment your name will be blotted out of the Book of Life.” (*cf. Proceedings of the Heavenly Court.)
The Prushim’s call to Exclusivity and Alienation:
The strong belief of the first century (CE) Prushim rabbinate was that all men should be compelled to become just as legalistic, judgmental and segregationist toward others as they were (their Ministry of Alienation). In stark contrast, the grace imperative of the Message of Messiah is don’t worry about complying with all of the religious stuff the rabbis are obsessed with; instead, accept the gift:
Therefore, Adonai Avinu was openly declaring through M’shioch to His people (Israel) that the numerous rabbinic depictions of Him as a judgmental, legalistic, vindictive Father were slanderous. In contrast the Messiah taught us that our Father in heaven is a Father of Mercies (Avi HaRachamim) who deeply loves all of His children. The Message of The Father (HaAv) to us is immediately leave the oppression of false teaching of the prideful religious establishment and return home to Me (Abba Avinu):
“I am your Father of Mercies who Loves You!”
The Messiah’s call to Redemption and Reconciliation:
In the two previous meshalim of Messiah, the mashal of the “Lost Sheep” and the mashal “Lost Coin,” we learned that Messiah is our Good Shepherd (HaRo’eh HaTov) and our Redeemer (HaGo’el). Today we are looking at the thirty-second mashal of the Messiah. This is the parable of the Lost Son. This we believe is an appropriate title because in this parable there is only one lost son (at a time) in view both at the beginning (the first son to be lost) and at the end of the narrative (the last son to be lost).
In this the final lesson of the “Lost” (Trilogy) the Messiah explains why He so strongly believes that the (treasured inheritance) of the forgiveness and eternal salvation of Adonai must be equally distributed among all of the children of Israel; irrespective of whether they are religious or not. In other words, the Messiah is teaching that: the Salvation of Adonai is His gift of forgiveness and the (permanent) Indwelling Presence of His Spirit that is freely and generously offered to all of His beloved children.
This is so because for the Yehudi (Jew) salvation is a gift pronounced on us at ‘conception.’ It is a “birthright.” It is not earned. Therefore, the only thing any Jew need do to receive the salvation of Adonai is simply for him (or her) to accept the gift (1, 2, 3, 4).
A firestorm of controversy:
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”
In just these few words the Messiah sets in motion a controversy that would have shocked and outraged every Jewish person (religious and non-religious) in His audience. The people would have been asking each other, “Have you ever known a son to come to his father and demand his inheritance from him before he died?” The answer of everyone in the crowd would have been “No!” Certainly no one would have even thought of committing such an unthinkable, grossly offensive act. This offense of publicly dishonoring one’s father would have been taken as an insult to the entire Jewish community.
The people understood that to demand your inheritance from a living father was equivalent to saying, “Father, I wish you were dead!”
Jewish law permitted a father, under some circumstances, to settle his estate while still living. For instance, if his wife died and he remarried, he might choose to settle his children’s estate right then. However, this kind of arrangement was always done at a father’s initiative. Never was an estate settled in this manner at a son’s initiative. Furthermore, the actual disbursement of the estate’s property could not occur until the death of The father. This is so because The father had the legal right to benefit from any income that might be derived from the use of his property as long as he lived. In the thirty-second mashal of Messiah, therefore, the younger son had grossly insulted and harmed his loving, kind, and generous father (and the community) in at least three ways:
Insult #1. The lost son demanded that he be given his inheritance, in effect saying, “Father, I wish you were dead!”
Insult #2. Then the lost son insisted upon the immediate liquidation of his (one-third) share of the father’s estate. This robbed his father of the additional future income that he would have received had the property not been sold.
Insult #3. Finally, let us not forget the shame, embarrassment and public ridicule that The father must have had to endure due to his lost son’s ridiculous and outrageous request.
The older brother was a failure too:
What about the (firstborn) older brother? He was a failure too. Yes, he should have been outraged by his younger brother’s behavior. This is true. But he also should have been highly motivated to help his younger brother to repent of his sin (do teshuvah), turn back and be reconciled with the father (HaAv). Instead, the older brother appears to be emotionally indifferent to the needs of both his father and his brother. He consistently acts like he cares only for himself.
By Jewish standards it was the duty of the firstborn son to severely chastise (rebuke) his younger brother and to convince him to repent of this disgraceful act. After the younger brother rejected both his father and brother’s counsel it was then the eldest brother’s responsibility to keep track of him (through any means necessary) so that when the younger son inevitably hit bottom, the firstborn son could go and get him, solicit his repentance, and safely return him home. Then, once the eldest brother brought his younger brother home, it was his privilege to return him to his father; so that he might be joyously reconciled to the father; and also be reconciled to the entire Jewish community of which he was a valued member. But none of this happened!
In like manner to his self-centered younger brother, the firstborn son made sure he stayed focused on his “portion” (*two-thirds) of the inheritance. He accepted no responsibility for anyone but himself. From what we can see this principal heir to the family fortune never lifted a finger to help anyone but himself. He worked very hard only to preserve his own inheritance. He did not care one bit about the welfare of his broken-hearted father or his lost brother. In this self-centered way the older brother was a complete failure. He was the one best able to be a Minister of Reconciliation. Yet he chose instead to be a Minister of Alienation instead.
*The Jewish law allotted one-half as much to the younger son as to the elder, that is to say one-third of the estate at the death of the father (Deuteronomy 21:17). Instead the father divided his estate before he died (lit. “cut asunder”). Therefore, the firstborn son got what he secretly coveted all along. He asked for and got his double share of the substance or property of his father’s estate before his father had died.
The Jewish Prince who dined with Pigs:
“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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”
By this utterly disgraceful conduct the younger son had severely alienated himself from his father, his (extended) family, and his entire community. The local community was outraged by his behavior, appropriately so, and no doubt absent his father’s intervention would have soon executed judgment upon him. Not surprisingly, we read that as soon as the young man could he took off to a far country. The prodigal son had quickly severed himself from every natural family relationship and all his religious roots (he was an ancient prototypical version of a modern secular Jew).
The family property was sacred and to sell it without a serious reason was a shameful, selfish act. Apparently, from the moment the youngest son left his family and people he immediately proceeded to descend into wasteful, “wild living.” Literally he “winnowed;” he scattered his property to the (four) winds. The Messiah interjects a powerful metaphor into the story at this point when He says:
“A severe famine came upon the land.”
For these agrarian people who are dependent upon the soil for their livelihood, a famine was a terrifying, deadly threat. What does the impoverished, arrogant, irreligious Jew do in a foreign land? He won’t return home. He is too proud. And he won’t look for help from any of his own people who live in the far country. Why? Because the prodigal son has completely renounced any ties to them (no help from the nearest synagogue for him).
So this disgraced, stubborn non-religious Jew goes to a gentile and asks for help.
However, there is a sad catch to the help. Due to the famine the employer has no food to provide the foreigner but he does offer him shelter as trade for his tending to his pig herd. Tragically, in his foolish state the young man is so desperate to find a place to hide his disgraceful condition that he takes the job.
So, during the famine the lost son possesses shelter but no food (covering without food; i.e. think fig leaves but ‘no fruit‘). The young man, like the pigs he is caring after, has to forage for his food. The pigs in their hunger are eating carob pods. The type of carob spoken of here grows on a small shrub and has very bitter berries. The berries possess no nutritional value and are so distasteful that not even the pigs will eat them, except in times of famine.
The young man was so desperate with hunger that he longed to fill his stomach with this despicable food that was even low grade for the pigs. One wonders what this young man ate. Did he have to compete with the pigs, so that he lived off the same bitter berries? The narrative of the mashal seems to indicate “yes.” Therefore, this once priveleged son now “dined with pigs!”
In the Scriptures the herd of swine represent “the fat” (חֶלֶב; what is neither kosher or nutritious). This concept of not eating the fat (חֶלֶב) in the Tanakh is expanded in the HaBrit HaChadashah. Here the term flesh (הַבָּשָׂר) is used. This is an all-encompassing term that refers to the prohibition of our being ruled by our false-self (sourced in the world) that wars against our true-self that oiginates from Avinu Shebashamayim.
*The flesh is a conscious and unconscious antagonist. IT is a diseased, parasitical entity of invalid consciousness (thinking) that is not sourced in Abba Avinu and (for now) resides in our bodies. IT is made up of the world’s impure social conditioning that is not at all sourced in the healthy, wholesome, happy conscious life of the Holy One. Regretfully, IT is on the substance of this contaminated, invalid, illegitimate thinking that the (pagan) Gentile world system feeds on and subsists on.
The lost children of Israel have been complicit in the care and support of this evil system, when in truth it our place as the firstborn nation of G-d (the Yisra’el; i.e. the Rule of G-d) to be the Supplanter of IT. However, unlike the gentiles, the true Jewish soul can never subsist indefinitely on such a diet. Our bitterness and the real heartache of our soul is that we are starving for real food (Adonai’s goodness, righteousness, and truth) while in the spiritual famine we just keep on tending the herd. For it is a true saying:
The royal children of Israel were made a new creation by our Father in heaven in such a way that we can only be satiated in the hunger of our souls when we subsist solely on the royal food and drink of the Spirit of Adonai and His Living Word; the D’var HaShem who became flesh and dwelt among us—He is the Messiah. He is our Bread from Heaven.
How stupid can this Lost Son be?
Meanwhile, no one among the gentile populace lifted a finger to help this young estranged Yehudi. Why should they? They don’t care one bit if this foreigner lives or dies.
So the local Gentile community left the young man alone to starve to death while he spent his last days tending their pigs!
The emotions of the Jewish audience at this time had to be “all over the place” by now. The audience’s feelings likely were a roller coaster of disgust, anger, righteous indignation and wrath one moment, to confusion, anxiety, pity and even compassion the next. Surely by now the surly crowd felt some sympathy for this young foolish. They must have wondered what horrible thing might happen to him next.
This self-afflicted one now has no money, food, family or friends. He is living in exile in a hostile gentile land, dependent on a foreign society that could care less if he lives or dies. He is competing with pigs to find just enough edible food that he to barely surivive. Certainly, the audience must have thought at this point, “This young man is reaping judgment for what he has sown.” Yet, they no doubt pitied him. In dreadful anticipation the people likely expected the next thing they would hear from the Messiah was that the lost son died (in judgment); no doubt a tormenting, meaningless death. The death that he deserved.
When the Lost Son first began to come to his senses:
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'”
“When he came to his senses...” (i.e. when the lost son began to think intelligently about his circumstances). This coming to his senses is a “hint,” a rabbinic way of saying that the second born son began to think in a new and productive way about his circumstances. What was that new way? He began to think about his father in a spiritual way (i.e. “He returned to his heart” and said, “I have sinned against heaven”). Similarly, when we find ourselves in crisis and begin to direct our attention toward our Father who dwells in heaven, new and exciting possibilities open up to us. This is what Teshuvah (repentance) is, when we:
Turn-around and see what you are missing, look to the Face of Abba Avinu, then “new and exciting possibilities will open-up for you.”
However, the seeking of The Father’s Face is but a beginning. The Lost Son’s repentance was not yet full or complete. It was a partial repentance (lit. “return”) motivated more by hunger and duress than by genuine remorse. Notice his words, “Father, I want to become a hired servant.” The prodigal (Latin for ‘life waster‘) is devising a face-saving strategy to return as a day laborer to work for his (wealthy) father who employed “many servants” (all of whom were treated much better than he was being presently treated). Otherwise, if he does not return home to his father soon, he knows he will die of starvation.
Repentance is more than remorse:
Sincere repentance is more than remorse and is not to be confused with the “sorrow of the world.” The sorrow of the world is the self-originated sorrow of getting caught. It is wounded self-vanity and pride. The sorrow of the world creates anxiety, self-pity, helplessness, hopelessness, despair, fear, depression, guilt, condemnation instead of conviction, and shame. The sorrow of the world can lead to remorse, but not a remorse that leads to reconciliation with Adonai. This kind of sorrow leads to self-hate and self-isolation. The ungodly sorrow of the world is based on a rigid existential stance of radical self-justification. The sorrow that is according to the will of G-d awakens a repentance that produces salvation. But the sorrow of the world produces death.
True repentance (תְּשׁוּבָה-teshuvah) requires action. True repentance requires that we move away from our stubborn stance of self-justification (pride; the Cult of Me), then humbly we must return to G-d and His righteousness (His justification of us). There are three characteristics of genuine repentance:
(1) Hearing (שמיעה). The recognition of wrongdoing, accompanied by confession;
(2) Understanding (הֲבָנָה). The determination or resolve to stop doing wrong; and
This Lost Son (younger, modern-secular Israel) is “now” engaged in the repentance process. He is just now coming to his senses and recognizes that he has done a grievous wrong to his father (our Father). He is determined to leave the far gentile country (pagan culture) which is not his (our) ‘home.’ He acts on his resolve. He sets out for home (i.e. Home is “the Place” [הַמָּקֹום – הָאֵל֙ בֵּֽית־אֵ֔ל] where the one who hears, understands, and obeys dwells [abides forever] with Adonai Avinu). However, as far as the Messiah (Rabbi from Heaven) is concerned, the son still has the wrong idea about what the ‘right thing‘ is that he must do when he returns to face his father (The Father).
The Returning Son devised the wrong plan for his return:
Tier-one employees. In ancient times there were three tiers of servants. In tier-one there were ‘bond-servants’ who served essential positions in managing a family’s estate, who could actually become part of the family. These were the special employees who enjoyed all of the benefits of life-long employment. These tier-one employees enjoyed the safety and security of employment for life.
Tier-two employees. Tier-two employees included the ‘lesser servants.’ These lesser employees were general purpose laborers who worked under the supervision and direction of a bond-servant and other temporary employees who were called “hired servants.” The lesser servants lived under the landowner’s roof and were accountable to his authority. They too enjoyed the benefit of life-long employment.
Tier-three employees. The ‘hired servants’ were tier-three employees. These were temporary employees who most often were artisans and skilled tradesmen. These tier-three temporary employees were independent contractors who would hire out for specific tasks and be paid wages. Only during the limited time of their employment would these persons be provided food and shelter. When not working directly for the landowner these persons were completely dependent on themselves. They were independent contractors.
These tier-three temp employees enjoyed very limited support from their employer but unlike the bond-servants these temp employees, when not in the direct employment of the landowner, were free to do whatever they wanted; and because they were independent contractors they could build up wealth for themselves (instead of for the landowner; i.e. The Father).
It is hard to give up one’s Pride and independence in service to The Father:
The prodigal son had decided that it would be best if he became a Hired Servant. This option allowed him to return in such a way (teshuvah) that he could keep some of his pride and independence. He is not lazy anymore. He is willing to work. He has a plan. He has chosen the independent path. He will return, but on his own terms. He will not return as a member of his father’s household. He hopes to save face by admitting he was wrong, accepting the consequences of his actions, and doing the best he can as a hired servant ‘to earn’ his way back into the good graces of his father and the community.
The lost but now Returning Son now decides to return home as a tier-three independent contractor. He will be a temporary employee. He will be a hired servant. He will ask for his father’s forgiveness. But he will not ask for his authority. He will have to set up a household of his own. Who knows maybe he will be able to work himself out of this mess and become a success like his father. But he will have to do it himself. The young son (as yet) does not believe in or expect grace!
The Disgraced One who believed he had become a Permanent Outsider:
“So he got up and came to his father.”
After the disgraced son comes to his senses he sees his real condition. He understands that he has sinned. He sees his own pitiful plight. He is aware of the severity and grossness of his many hurtful actions toward his father. He understands that there are real consequences to sin. He believes it would be unjust for him to return to his father and be hired as a servant-member of his household. He is humbled. So he will work as a temporary hired servant. He will now serve at a level beneath all of the household servants who previously served him.
So what happened next?
Can you imagine the curiosity and anticipation of the Messiah’s audience about what would happen next? They had been angered by the younger son’s sense of gross entitlement. Yet, he fell into such a hard set of circumstances that some felt pity for him. Now the crowd must be thinking:
“What will happen next when the disgraced son returns home?”
Once he returns the word of his arrival will spread quickly to all the members of the close-knit farming community. What will be their reaction to his return? What will be the response of his older brother? Will the people of his village and the older brother accept him or will they reject him and send him away (banish him)? The audience does not know what will happen. This is so because they do not have a predictable feel for what The Father (HaAv) might do. In the end it will be the will of The Father that will decide what everyone will do. And so far, no one can predict what that will be!
What the offended Father decided to do:
What will HaAv do when the sinful (irreligious- rebellious) son returns?
The unpredictable behavior of The Father (HaAv) is the most confusing and strange element of the story thus far. The crowd does not know what to make of The Father and his bazaar behavior. “Why in the first place did he approve his son’s outrageous request?” We expect everyone except the Messiah believed that The Father (HaAv) erred in His approval of his young son’s disgraceful request. We expect most of the people in the audience also believed that the son should have been immediately punished for his ridiculous, outrageous request. So what will the offended Father decide to do?
Understandably, the people are hesitant to predict. No one in the listening crowd understands the behavior of this eccentric Father. Yet, we believe nearly all of the people are thinking, “Certainly The Father must understand by now that He (HaAv) has grossly erred in his previous liberality.” “Surely, He has learned by now that He needs to be more forceful and discipline his son better this time.”
The Father’s final decision surprises us all!
“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.”
So what is the offended Father’s decision?
Against all convention and contrary to every expectation The Father (HaAv) expresses love rather than judgment. The Father demonstrates to his son compassion, grace and acceptance rather than anger, judgment and rejection. Is there any noticeable difference in The Father’s behavior as compared to when his son left home versus when he returned? Yes, when the son left home The Father, HaAv was passive and acceded to his youngest son’s demands. However, when the son returned home The Father, HaAv was forceful and dominant.
Yet it is strange to us how this rich, powerful Father chose now to exercise the full force of His will upon his son. Why did He not do so earlier? Now The Father, HaAv totally censured his son’s demand for (deserved) harsh discipline and imposed His undeserved total grace upon him!
The forced imposition of Total Grace:
This kind of bizarre decision and behavior is very confusing to us. Is it not? We ask, “What kind of Father is this?” Is He just an emotional fool? Why is He so forgiving? Without discipline and punishment won’t this undisciplined son just revert right back to his old ways? So once again we see that the Rabbi of rabbis has masterfully confounded his listeners (the shocked crowd of nearly two thousand years ago and ourselves today).
The Father’s final decision to impose radical grace upon his prodigal son surprises us all. The Tzaddik (Righteous One) has just touched the hearts of his listeners. The setting in Messiah’s story was a communal one. The Jewish audience, like the farming community in today’s narrative of the Lost Son, knows all too well the stance The Father, HaAv has taken toward his wayward son: “He greatly loved his lost son and longed for him to return.” We now identify with and understand the suffering of Abba Avinu:
The Father is the One who every day longs for and looks for His estranged and lost son to return home.
No doubt each day The Father, HaAv has repeatedly asked his neighbors, “have you seen my son?” Then when his son returns, when we feel His great relief ignite into explosive joy, then swiftly we are transported out of our own ’emotional indifference‘ into the fire of the Father’s passionate love.
In the crowd’s (our) identification with The Father, HaAv, the people were enabled to enter into the experience of the love of The Father. When The Father rushes to welcome His son we, the crowd, are compelled to run with Him headlong toward the son. Then, when we reach the son, we are shocked to discover that we have arrived to meet our own true self. For we are the beloved son who was lost and now has returned and it is in the embrace of our Loving Father that we return home. For in the Presence of His embrace nothing is allowed to exist except His love, mercy and grace. For Home is a place where, thankfully, our sins are remembered no more.
אָנֹכִ֨י אָנֹכִ֥י ה֛וּא מֹחֶ֥ה פְשָׁעֶ֖יךָ לְמַעֲנִ֑י וְחַטֹּאתֶ֖יךָ לֹ֥א אֶזְכֹּֽר׃”פ“
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.”
The Father’s love is all that makes sense now:
One minute ago the love of The Father, HaAv made no sense to us. Now the love of The Father is all that makes sense to us. Our Father in heaven (Avinu Shebashamayim), in His great love for us, has made a public spectacle of Himself. He has humbled Himself before all the community of the holy angels and all the nations and peoples of the earth.
In ancient times it was undignified for a Jewish elder to act as this Father did. In the Jewish culture of Messiah’s day it was disgraceful for an older man to run. For The Father, HaAv to run in His robe He would have had to pull it up, which was thought of as undignified embarrassing act for an older man. However, this exceptional Father was not concerned one bit about public opinion. He girded up his robe and ran with all of His might to meet His boy. He valued his son more than he cared about anything else. “He ran to embrace and welcome His son!” So we need to always remember this and never forget:
Modern Israel is the once lost but now Returning Son!
So it is time for us to return home to the Love of the Father:
This lavish love of The Father, HaAv, should suspend our fear of judgment. There is no risk for us if we return. There is only risk if we don’t. We are starving for spiritual substance in a time of spiritual famine. So what risk is it to return home? Home is not just the physical land of Israel. Home is wherever the Presence of Adonai is. One can live in the physical land of Israel and still be spiritually living in a “far (pagan)country.” The land of Israel is not home until the Presence of the Loving Father is allowed to rule “over,” “through,” and “in” all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all of our strength (our entire neurological and physical being). We must come to our senses:
It is time to return to the permanent Home of His eternal love dwelling in our hearts.
The speech that could not be finished…
“The son (הַבֵּן-HaBen) said to him, ‘Father (אַבָּא-Abba), I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son (בִּנְךָ-Bincha).'” The returning son began his planned speech of confession, “Make me as one of the hired servants…” but his Abba (אַבָּא), Father interrupted him and would not allow him to finish. For The Father had already forcefully and abruptly preempted his somber speech with a flurry of deeply affectionate hugs, kisses and joyous tears! [*The returning son in his addressal of his Abba, Father simply addressed his Father as ‘Abba.’ This addressal does not exclude his older brother. It includes the brother. The Father has two sons. Therefore, when ‘we’ address our Father in heaven in this familiar, intimate way we always include the other members of our family. So our correct intimate, affectionate addressal to the Father is Abba, Avinu (אַבָּא, אָבִינוּ-Abba, Our Father).]
When we read the Jewish besorah (Good News Message) of the Love of Abba Avinu we must not only listen carefully to what is said but also to what is not said. The Messiah has just revealed here a change of heart in the Prodigal Son, not by what he says but by what he does not say. Remember his plan? “I have sinned against heaven and against you, take me on as your hired servant.” However, when he experiences this great outburst of deep, affectionate love from his Abba, Father, he (the beloved son) immediately experiences a powerful, life transforming change in his heart.
The aging Father abandoned His dignity, wildly running toward his returning son; then He fully and passionately embraced him.
No doubt with tears in his eyes the beloved youngest son said to his Father, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Then the returning son leaves it there. No excuses. No proposal or plan. Weeping, without speaking another word the fully repentant son (the one who is loved lavishly, humbly and unreservedly by Abba Avinu) then submitted himself in complete trust to the kind, generous, and loving authority of his (our) loving Father.
The Best Robe:
“For He [יְהֹוָה אלֹהַ֔י] has clothed me with the garments of salvation (בִּגְדֵי־יֶ֔שַׁע), He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (מְעִ֥יל צְדָקָ֖ה). “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe (הַגְּלִימָה הַנָּאָה) and put it on him. Put a signet ring (טַבַּעַת) on his finger and sandals (נַעֲלַיִם) on his feet. Bring the fattened calf (הָעֶגֶל הַמְפֻטָּם) and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate (אוֹתוֹ וְנֺאכַל וְנִשְׂמַח-lit. ‘let us eat and be happy’). For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
HaAv interrupted the returning son so that he could not speak another word. For the first time: The Father forcefully took charge and the son meekly submitted.
Immediately, the Father ordered his beat-up, weak, bare-footed son to be dressed up in His best robe. The “first” robe was the robe HaAv wore on feast days and other highly special occasions. This was the kind of fine stately garment that came down to the feet; the kind of regal robe that only kings and men of great wealth wore (lit. “a robe of the first order;” i.e. the finest garment he had).
The Signet Ring:
HaAv put a ring on his returning son’s dirty, scarred hands.
He brought out the ring. The ring is a signet ring, which means the son has been given the equivalent of The Father’s power of attorney. HaAv has completely restored to the son his representative authority. Did the son earn that? No. He did not. This generous act of The Father was an act of total grace!
“Put sandals on his feet.”
Then HaAv put sandals upon his son’s cut up, calloused bare feet. By The Father ordering the household servants to put the sandals on the feet of His son he was reinstating him (in the servants’ minds) as being a master over them. No order could have better ‘symbolized’ the son’s restored regal status.
The Fatted Calf:
“Give Me a hug, let’s have a Party!”
“Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” The Father ordered a lavish, community-wide celebration to be held in honor of his beloved son’s return. So immediately the household servants prepared the fatted calf that was made ready for the great celebration. Therefore, in his great rejoicing over the return of his son HaAv received the son as if he were royalty. The fatted calf was fed with wheat (the golden grain of Shavuot). It was designated for use only on an exceptionally special occasion. The feast required approximately a hundred persons in attendance to consume all of the animal. This number was required so that none of the fatted calf (fed on the golden grain) might be wasted. Traditionally the fatted calf was slaughtered for the visit of the governor of the province or the marriage of the eldest son or some other important special occasion.
Give Me a hug and let’s have a Party!
The prodigal son comes to a transforming experience of repentance. True repentance always manifests into joy. The Father had his servants prepare a banquet to celebrate the son’s return. With this command HaAv assured reconciliation between his son and his servants. At the same time, HaAv assured completion of His son’s reconciliation to the entire community. He takes his finest garment, worn only during festivals or special occasions, and puts it on his son. This represents at this time that the son is of the first order of importance in The Father’s household. Then HaAv places his signet ring upon his son, a symbol of trust, and has sandals placed upon his feet showing that the son is a free man, not a slave. Then The Father included the whole community in his joyous celebration of reconciliation by publicly announcing, “Let’s kill the fatted calf!” The point being that as the guests arrive at the banquet and as the people stream in to greet the returning son, congratulate him, and hear his story of redemption, the whole community will be participating in his reconciliation, not just with HaAv but with the entire Jewish community.
The Metaphor of the Great Banquet:
In His previous use of the banquet metaphor the Messiah addressed the unbelief of the people of Israel, both as it pertained to the the hyper-religious Yehudim (Jews) and to the secular and unorthodox persons (sinners). In the symbology of the Great Banquet Abba Avinu has most generously provided a feast (His feast of salvation) for all His children. This Feast is made ready by four universal theological realities:
Reality #1. The Kingdom of Heaven has come (Shavuot).
Reality #2. The Atonement of Israel has already been accomplished (Yom Kippur).
Reality #3. The Work of Redemption is done (Pesach).
Reality #4. We are still awaiting the day when the Kingdom of Adonai will become the ruling kingdom here on earth (Sukkot).
Every Jew is invited to the Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation:
Therefore, the Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation provided by Abba Avinu for the children of Israel is already made ready. Now all of the children of Israel are invited to eat bread in the Kingdom of heaven. However, thus far very few of Adonai’s chosen people have decided to attend. Since the invitation is voluntary the children of Israel can refuse to attend. All have been ‘called’ by Elohim Avinu (G-d Our Father) but thus far few of us have accepted the call. Messiah teaches us that the orthodox Yehudim in the time of His first appearance (there will be a second coming of Messiah) were the first to receive invitations to attend the Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation. However, this group of religious leaders emphatically declined the invitation. This elite class of hyper-religious Yehudim even invented excuses for why they could not attend. Some of their excuses were polite; others were not so polite.
The bottom line: As a group these persons actually decided that they did not want to attend the Banquet. So, they did not attend. They even did everything they could to dissuade the non-orthodox and secular persons not to attend the Banquet. Ever since then the orthodox Jewish movement has clung to their hyper-legalistic codes and culture and they have repeatedly and continuously refused The Host’s (Adonai’s) generous invitation.
The second wave of invitations went out to the non-orthodox (non-practicing) and secular Yehudim. For almost two thousand years now this group has enjoyed a growing number of acceptances. The people of this group refuse to live a legalistic lifestyle. Nearly all of these persons desire a non-legalistic happiness-filled life of love, mercy, and grace.
However, for a number of reasons, these acceptances have been insufficient in number to fill up the banqueting hall. Therefore, the Host has been ordering that invitations be sent to a third wave of invitees.
The third wave of invitations (to the Great Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation) went out to those persons who live in “the highways and along the hedges.” These are the Gentiles. They live outside the boundaries of the Yehudim, who are the natural guests. And these persons are not just politely asked to attend, they are “compelled” to come in, so that the House of the Host might be “filled.”
The prophetic paradox here is that although the Great Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation was prepared specifically for the Jewish people (orthodox, non-orthodox, and secular) that due to our rejection of the Divine invitation many of us in the past and present will miss the (yet future) follow-on celebration of entrance into and participation in the messianic kingdom. I am now referring to the yet future Banquet of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; which is the marital banquet of the Firstborn Son of Israel (there are two parts to this future celebration; one in heaven and one here on earth).
The only person who can dis-invite you is you:
Messiah is teaching our Jewish family in this mashal of the Lost Son that we can Iose our salvation. He is saying, “If you are a Yehudi by birth then the only person who can dis-invite you to the Banquet that is prepared for you by Adonai is your own self.” How does a Jew dis-invite himself? He can dis-invite himself from participating in the present Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation (Kingdom of heaven) and he can dis-invite himself from the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Kingdom of Adonai) that will be celebrated in the future messianic kingdom.
A son (or daughter) of Israel can dis-invite himself (or herself) from the gift of redemption, reconciliation, and eternal life simply by rejecting Abba Avinu’s offering of His own Firstborn Son, the Messiah, to be our Kinsman Redeemer; and in so doing by rejecting the Spirit of Adonai who permanently Indwells the Messiah.
Adding insult to Abba Avinu’s injury: Some of our own religious leaders have not only rejected the Divine invitation they have even blasphemed Adonai by repeatedly saying that the Presence of the Spirit of Holiness Indwelling the Messiah was actually the spirit of the “evil one” and that the many miracles done by the Servant of the Holy One (Eved HaKadosh) were actually the works of demons. Therefore, in the 1st century (CE) the Messiah was even wrongly accused of being a “Sorcerer;” cf. Sanhedrin 43a).
Messiah’s main appeal now is to the Non-Orthodox and Secular Yehudim:
So back to the mashal of the Lost and Returning Son. Who among the Jewish community today is the Messiah making His main appeal to? It is mainly the non-orthodox and secular persons who are entering into the Kingdom of heaven. These non-pious and secular Yehudim both in the past and today are the ones the first Lost Son represents. It is the modern day non-religious Yehudim who are outcasts from Israel’s age-old ultra-orthodox religious establishment that we believe will be the first Jews to turn back to Messiah’s teaching on the Love of Adonai in these last days.
This means that as we rapidly approach the soon coming Golden Age of Israel’s restoration we messianic Jews need to stop being overly religious and start being more merciful, loving, and joyous like our Loving Father in heaven; who is accurately depicted by Messiah as the Loving Father in the mashal/parable of the Lost Son. We are fast approaching the promised time when every man will have his own fig tree and his own vine; when the knowledge of Adonai will flood the earth. It is time, therefore, for us to de-emphasize organized religion and each of us adopt a personal relationship of love with Adonai and our fellow man. We believe the Holy Spirit has been deeply grieved by those of us who are messianic Yehudim looking too much like our orthodox counterparts. We confess that we include ourselves in this latter offending group.
What we need now is less orthodoxy (doctrine, words) and more orthopraxy (practice, action).
If we truly abandon our impersonal religious intellectual systems and fully embrace the Love of Abba Avinu (a personal relationship) then all of our young people will have visions and all of our senior citizens will dream dreams (become wise).
The only Halakha (walk) we need today is to follow the Spirit of Grace and Truth (the Torah of the Spirit). The Spirit who is Personified Love will help us in our daily endeavor to simply love Adonai with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, and all of our mind; and to love our neighbor as we are loved (as the Messiah has loved us).
The Celebration of New Life:
“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
The son whose sin separated him is now reconciled by the chesed (loving-kindness) of HaAv. The one who wished his Father dead is now made alive by his Father’s mercy. He was willing to return as a servant but his Father’s great love restored him as a son. Truly celebration is in order. But there is still another Lost Son that must also be returned (reconciled) to The Father.
The other Lost Son:
“Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and repeatedly and eagerly questioned him what was going on [What is it that is so special that everybody is celebrating?] ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother immediately became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.”
Messiah now tells us “the rest of the story.” He switches the focus of the narrative from the now (redeemed and) reconciled second born son to the still alienated firstborn son. For the sake of the beloved Father the whole community is happy to see his second born son returned to him alive and well. However, rather than rejoicing at the joyful reconciliation of his father to his brother, the eldest son has become incredibly incensed at his father’s gracious treatment of his younger brother and he flies into a public rage.
This inappropriate behavior comes as a shock to us. We really did not know the eldest brother had a serious spiritual, psychological and relational problem. It was hidden to us. At the beginning of the story we were certain the eldest son was the good son and the younger son was the bad son. We were so busy focusing on the obvious problems of the younger lost son that we did not detect the covert and even more serious (hidden) problems of the eldest brother. Now we know there is still one lost son that needs to “come to his senses” and return to the love of HaAv. However, to our great surprise the firstborn son stubbornly refuses to accept (believe in) the forgiveness and grace that has been extended to his younger brother by the Father.
What is it that is going on inside the eldest son so that he is refusing to reconcile with his younger brother or have any part in the welcome home Great Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation of The Father?
In spite of HaAv openly and repeatedly begging his eldest son to do so, to everyone’s amazement and disappointment, the eldest son has firmly and steadfastly refused to enter into his Father’s House and join in the Great Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation; thereby deeply insulting and injuring his Loving Father in front of the entire Jewish community.
Tragically, just when total family harmony was within easy reach, the firstborn son has now done what the second born son originally did at the beginning of the mashal: He rends the social fabric of his Father’s heart and of the entire Jewish community that he is a member of.
The eldest son chose the wrong path to live by:
Again, the listeners fully expect a stern reaction by HaAv. And again, this remarkable person surprises us. Rather than demanding his eldest son come in and show respect, The Father takes the initiative and goes out to the eldest son and pleads with him to come in. But the firstborn son indignant and angry will have no part in the reconciliation of his brother to his father, the community or himself; as far as he is concerned, he has no brother. His brother is dead to him. The eldest son in his bitterness has willed that his younger brother be dead!
“So he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you here at home and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'”
The seemingly responsible eldest son again fails to do the right thing. He refuses to submit to his Father. He refuses to act like an eldest son, who is one day to take his Father’s place as the spiritual leader of the family. He refuses to go in to his Father’s house and be reconciled to his brother. Rather, the eldest son bitterly accused his Father of treating him like a slave. He humiliated his Father by harshly and contemptuously criticizing Him in public.
Instead of loving his younger brother, the older brother is jealous of him. He believes his Father should be putting on a great feast for him and not his brother because “all of these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders; not even once have I transgressed you in all of my years of (indentured) service.”
Choosing self-righteousness over the path of love:
In other words, the firstborn son believed his relationship with his Father was defined by his works. He never served his Father out of a spirit of gratitude and love but out of a singular motive of obligation and material reward. He looked forward to the day when he could be in charge and order everyone around in the household. Unlike The Father the lost firstborn son did not see others as persons to love. He saw others as slaves who must obey orders:
The firstborn son is completely blind to what love is. He is truly blind to how much his Father greatly loves him.
The firstborn son wrongfully thinks of himself as being a slave living in a state of unending bondage. Publicly he bitterly complains to his Father, “You should be putting on this grand celebration for me, your virtuous, hard-working, loyal eldest son and not this other perverted fool you call your son!”
The eldest son, therefore, is completely oblivious to the fact that his errant brother has returned home in a state of sincere humility and repentance. He is nothing like he used to be. It doesn’t matter to the oldest son that his despicable younger brother is now a new creation. The previous younger brother does not even exist anymore. In a way the prodigal son did die. In truth the second born son did return to his Father from the dead as a “new man.”
The firstborn son doesn’t care one bit that the uncompromising, persistent, radical love of his Father has completely transformed his younger brother’s life so that he is now a new man being remade into the likeness of—-The Father.
The Protest of the Eldest Son: This is Vulgar Grace!
The firstborn son is incensed! He is outraged!
Anger and resentment issue from the self-centered heart of the elder son. He hates his Father’s gracious act of lavishly restoring his brother to an honored status in His household and within the community. To this future heir and head of the most affluent household in the community, The Father’s actions are despicable. He has rewarded the evil son with good. He has wickedly taken the favor and property that rightfully belongs ‘solely’ to the righteous elder-son and wastefully given it to the evil son.This is unjust, profane grace. This is degenerate, perverted grace. This is vulgar fake-chesed!
A life lived by the letter of the Law:
In masterful irony, the Messiah has turned the tables on his audience. The loud-mouthed, rebellious, arrogant, selfish youngest son who deserved to be a slave, turns out to be the humble, good son; and the quiet, obedient, submissive, unselfish eldest son who seemed to be faithful shows himself to be an utterly insolent, self-righteous, and wicked person.
The eldest son and imminent ruler over all of the wealth and power of the Loving Father has rigorously lived by the letter of the law (that kills), but the spirit of the law (that brings life) is far from his heart. In fact, in his “hard heart” there exists a spirit of slavery (not the spirit of a son). The irony is the prodigal son once consciously and relationally lived in a place that was far from his Father but he returned home as an honest sinner and in every way he became united with his Father in spirit. But the eldest firstborn son, who alone physically remained with his Father, who ‘appeared’ to be the son closest to HaAv, actually was the son most distant from him in his spirit (in his heart).
Hearing, understanding and obeying the Language of The Father’s Heart:
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 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.'”
The Loving Father said to his eldest son, “Even though you are impudent and rude, you are my appointed heir: ‘All that is mine is yours.'” The all here includes The Father’s spiritual wealth. However, pitifully, all that the firstborn son appears to be interested in is his receiving all of his Father’s material wealth. He has despised his spiritual birthright (1, 2, 3). He is not one bit interested in inheriting His Father’s loving character or His forgiving generous nature.
The Father desperately tries to point out to the firstborn son that he has had the joy of being with him all of his life, and now he should rejoice with him in his deep-seated joy over his brother’s return.
The Loving Father keeps repeating to his sole remaining physical heir the invaluable language of His Heart. But the son is not hearing him. He won’t listen, understand, and obey. The words, “You are always with me and everything I have is yours,” explicitly acknowledges that this privileged son is the designated future head of the household but the anguish of HaAv is that:
The eldest son is not ready to be the Servant-leader of the family.
This depiction illustrates perfectly the elevated status that the Prushim rabbinate and experts of the Law and their successors, the present-day Orthodox rabbinical movement, have enjoyed for nearly two millennia (in the family of Abba Avinu). They are the blessed ones. The separated ones. The righteous elites. They are the sole recipients and privileged guardians of the covenants and the Law. However, they are the enemies of the chesed of Adonai. Tragically, the eldest son, the proud one, is so caught up in the vanity of his own hyper-legalistic beliefs that he is incapable of identifying with the loving-kindness, mercy and Joy of Abba Avinu when one of his worldly and irreligious siblings exercises full-faith in the chesed of HaAv.
הרי לא קבלתם רוח של עבדות לחזר אל הפחד, אלא קבלתם רוח המקנה מעמד של בנים, וברוח זאת אנו קוראים “אבא, אבינו!” פ
“After all, you did not receive a spirit of slavery to return to fear, but rather to receive a spirit that grants the status of sons, and in this spirit we call, “Abba, Avinu!”
For the orthodox when any Jew embraces the non-legalistic grace, love, and mercy of our Heavenly Father, they feel anger and outrage. They cry injustice. Heresy. Blasphemy! The Messiah’s teaching about the radical Love and Graciousness of Abba Avinu is a severe threat to them. This is so because their whole system of religious governance over the household of Israel is not based on a spirit of love (sonship) but on a spirit of legalistic bondage (fear, guilt and shame; slavery).
Faith solely in the Grace of Adonai will destroy the straw house of legalistic Judaism and will replace it with just one integrated new commandment, that we “love one another as the Messiah has loved us.” This we can do only when we cease to think of ourselves as being institutionalized religious slaves and begin aright, as free men and women, to believe that we are beloved, unconditionally loved sons and daughters.
The mashal of the Loving Father and Lost Son provides our elite religious leaders of today (of every type) with a graphic picture of their own flawed, failed religious systems that are well represented in this graphic depiction of the stingy, angry, proud, judgmental, self-righteous elder brother.
Certainly the Messiah has produced a vivid Torah picture here of Adonai’s extreme passion for loving all of his lost children (secular Jew and religious Jew) that justifies yet another (second) coming of Messiah into Israel to “seek and to save all who are lost.”
The Rest of the Story:
Because this unfinished business is exclusively a Jewish family matter, and no other group of people other than the children of Israel can write the final act to this mashal, our Messiah, the Master of the Jewish narrative, deliberately leaves the conclusion up in the air, in suspense. In effect, the Rabbi of rabbis says to His Jewish audience (all of us):
“You write the final chapter of this story. How are you going to respond to the unprecedented act of the love of Abba Avinu, who is the Giver of Salvation (הַנּוֹתֵ֥ן תְּשׁוּעָ֗ה-Hanoten Teshuah)?”
What have we learned from the gracious words of Messiah? Will we be like the youngest son who humbly returned to the Love of Adonai; or will we be like the elder son who remains to this day in a state of stubborn rebellion (the spirit of slavery) and resistance against the rule of the Giver of Salvation?
The Rabbi of rabbis has spoken to us in a mashal. He has revealed to us the hidden knowledge of the Loving Father. He has not withheld from us the revelation of His Great Love. The words of the Messiah speak to us today so that we might know the truth about our Loving Father; so that the descendants of Abraham and Sarah that are born in these last days might set our hopes upon Him. It is this Living Word of Abba Avinu that reaches out to us over two millennia. His beautiful voice cries out to us over this great span of time:
“Accept and reclaim your birthright!“
Attend the Great Banquet of Redemption and Reconciliation. Set your heart aright. Believe in the Giver of Salvation. Accept the free gift of:
“The Grace, Love, and Mercy of Abba Avinu.”
In conclusion we must decide which system of Jewish belief we will be ruled by and which son or daughter of Abraham we will be. Will we be like the honest-humble-submitted younger son who gladly accepted the rule of the Loving Father? or will we be like the dishonest-proud-rebellious firstborn son who loved his physical birthright but completley despised his “spiritual birthright?”
So you see the final conclusion of this story is up to us.
In the end we believe the younger son has chosen to live by The Father’s Decree of Life. He desires only to love his Father and enjoy His loving Presence for as long as he can. Like his Father the younger son will also always choose to be compassionate and gracious to all; especially his errant eldest brother. For he has chosen to permanently live by the Grace of G-d.
The eldest son, however, has chosen to reject the pleas of The Father and embrace his own Decree of Death. He secretly desires only to become the ruler over all that The Father has. So unlike his Father he will never be gracious; especially to that “other son.” Why should he? As he has made it abundantly clear: “Your son is dead to me. He is no longer a brother of mine!” Therefore, in the measure he has judged he shall be judged. For it is written:
אל תשפטו למען לא תשפטו, כי במשפט אשר אתם שופטים תשפטו ובמדה אשר אתם מודדים ימדד לכם. פ
Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For with the judgment that you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure that you measure, it will be measured to you.”
So you see the final conclusion of this story is up to us. Which household rule do you choose to live under? Have you decided to live under the rule of Abba Avinu or your own rule? Do you choose to be the son who is returning to Abba Avinu solely by His graciousness and love; or the son who stubbornly chooses to live as a slave to his own pride? Which son or daughter of Abraham will you be?