– Jesus, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:20)
Jesus tells us that when the father saw the son at the edge of the village,
he pulled up his robes and ran to him.
In Middle Eastern culture, running was considered shameful.
For an honorable man to pull up his robes and run down the road would be similar in our day to a dad running down Main Street in his boxers one morning while the townspeople are out on their porches drinking coffee and watching the spectacle. A man of stature never pranced around in public!
But the father knew that if someone else were to meet the son first, they might beat him, send him away, or publicly humiliate him for shaming the family.
The community had nothing but disgust for such a scoundrel.
But surely no one would have noticed the strange, ragged looking fellow at the edge of town if a man of stature in the community was publicly scurrying down Main Street!
See the heart of God – the father standing on his porch with the light on, waiting, watching, hoping for a glimpse of the person who has spurned the relationship that he so longs to have; the father running towards his son, taking the shame of the community upon himself.
Now look at Jesus –
the King of the world,
allowing himself to be thrown naked onto a splintery cross.
As He hung there, shamed, bleeding to death, suffocating in sheer agony, He allowed His Messiahship to be put in question.
He willfully took the shame of Israel and the evil of the entire world upon his shoulders.
The hate of mankind and the wrath of God fell upon Jesus, as he took the shame and pain that we deserved.
Salvation does not come without sacrifice!
Here is the picture of salvation:
God – running towards mankind with arms outstretched, not only to embrace us but to take the nails reserved for our punishment.
These reflections have been greatly inspired by the "Rembrandt painting" of this parable, and by a book by Rev. Henri Nouwen called
"The Return of the Prodigal Son"
that is a meditation on the parable and the painting.
Why so much focus on the parable and on the painting?
This parable is the Gospel passage that captures how we can understand what
God's love and mercy really means.
Rembrandt painted the picture in 1669, just a short time before his death.
He was greatly moved by the parable and began to make some sketches for it 30-plus years earlier, but it took him all that time to compose and then paint the right painting.
Many think of it as his greatest painting and even as one of the greatest paintings ever produced by any artist.
Incidentally, the painting is very large: more or less life-sized, at eight feet and seven inches by seven feet and three inches. It hangs in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Rembrandt wants us to look at each of the three main characters in the parable and gain insight from the painting into the
deeper meaning of Jesus' parable.
The beautiful and moving story of the prodigal son is, for many of us, the best-known and best-loved of all the many parables that Jesus uses.
We know that Jesus often used parables as a way of teaching His disciples -- including us, of course.
Familiar events or everyday things are used to teach about
deep and spiritual things and
lead us to a deeper relationship with God.
Perhaps Jesus based this particular parable upon a real-life event in a local village involving a father's son who went off, encountered disaster and returned home in shame. In the same way, Rembrandt paints three real characters who look real, right down to their clothing, and who show real emotions with which we can readily identify.