Every story has a point of view. I knew that family. I would have told their story a little differently than Jesus did. I would have told you a little more.
The kid was a chancer, a gambler, an addict. Not his fault; he took after his old man: emotional, extravagant, uninhibited. When he hit rock bottom – seriously, pigs? And in a conveniently foreign, far-off land; a likely story – anyway, when he finally ran aground he thought, as addicts do, strategically, lining up his next hit in his head. His father had always been a soft touch. He’d lay it on thick, he’d have the old man weeping, promising the sun and the moon for his redemption by the end of the night.
It went even better than expected.
The elder brother: sober, serious, steady; he took after their mother. He had never forgiven father or brother for driving her, as he saw it, to an early grave with their profligate ways. He heard the sounds of carousing and he knew; he knew. He went to have it out with his father; he didn’t trust himself to go near his brother. Their father was already drunk, promising the moon while his threadbare sleeve caught the cup of wine and floored it, thick red liquid spilling across the mud floor.
In the morning, by the time the elder brother could trust himself to approach the main house, his younger sibling had flown the coop. Recharged, redeemed, refinanced, he had left with the dregs of the dawn. The father, well hungover, wept and belched. The elder brother, caught between his mother’s long-suffering love and compassion and his own anger at her leaving, watched him wearily, balanced between pity and contempt, shifting his weight from one to the other like a boxer.
So tell me, Jesus: how are you going to pull this one out of the pigswill (to put it politely)? What miracle will you work to rescue, to redeem out of this thick muck the bright shining river that runs from the throne in the kingdom of God?
(… to be continued)