THE STORY OF THE PRODIGAL, THE INDIGNANT, AND THE LOVING FATHER

I love Jesus' parable popularly known as "The Prodigal Son." Although the essence of the story related in the 15th chapter of Luke (verses 11-32) is familiar to so many, there is no shortage of layers to explore and lessons to be learned from this simple narrative. Which lesson stands out may depend on one's perspective at any given moment. And if we are to understand Jesus' message, it helps to understand his audience. One reason Jesus spoke in parables was so the stories would be remembered and retold—even when the message was not totally understood. As a story such as this is retold to ever broadening and more receptive audiences, it seems reasonable that the lessons learned deepen and expand.

The scene for Jesus' telling of the prodigal's story is set as indignant scribes and Pharisees are having a fit over the fact that tax collectors and sinners have been hanging around listening to Jesus. He welcomed—even ate with—them! But who were the scribes and Pharisees? And why did they hate the tax collectors and sinners so much?

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