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May 19, 2014

Prodigal Son: Mystery of the Parable of Jesus

For many years, perhaps like many other Christians, I was fixated on the "Parable of the Prodigal Son" told in St. Luke chapter 15. It was about the disobedient son who left home against his father’s advice. Later he ran into trouble. Then, he came back to his senses. He realized and knew his way back home to his father. On seeing him, his father ran to him and received him back home. Then he threw a party welcoming his lost son back home. Unfortunately, many preachers including some Christians have related to this parable as a true story. In reality, the story told by Jesus was not a real incident; it was a parable to illustrate some points. Jesus is a master storyteller and I believe he is still telling us stories today either in our dreams, through visions, or events to send us messages. Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son to answer the criticism the religious leaders had about him regarding his relationship and partying with sinners of those days. When Jesus told this story he mentioned it in conjunction with three other parables. In St. Luke chapter 15, Jesus first told the story of the lost sheep. Then he told the story of the lost coin. The third parable Jesus told was that of the prodigal son. Jesus answered his critics by telling them every life that God created is very important. In each of the story, Jesus discussed the value of "One Person."

In every society in the world, there are people that are ostracized either because of their looks, illness, or socio-economic status. These groups society love to condemn. Even in Christianity some misinformed preachers are preaching the gospel of pre-ordination that Jesus did not preach. They claimed God has preordained and chosen those going to Heaven and the rest of the people are going straight to hell. I have heard this over and over in some Christian programs by popular ill-informed preachers based on their cognitive analysis of the text. It is so sad how we sometimes mislead people because of disobedience to the Holy Spirit! Jesus did not preach the gospel of preordination! It was man made and an aberration of the gospel message of Christ

Explaining the Falsehood of Preordination

If the gospel of preordination were correct, Jesus would never have told these three parables in St. Luke chapter 15, emphasizing the value of one person. The false gospel of preordination came about because the Bible has this tendency to use the word, "From the foundation of the world." So in interpretation when the Bible said "chosen from the foundation of the world," the next explanation is some people are not chosen from the foundation of the world to go to Heaven. They are therefore chosen to go to hell. That is a misinterpretation folks!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life" (St. John 3:16).

The "whosoever" is anybody who chooses to believe in Jesus. This is salvation by choice, not by force. Everybody was chosen from the foundation of the world. Anybody can opt out if he or she chooses to opt out by choice, and jump into boiling water!

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

I wonder where some preachers got this gospel of preordination? God does not want anybody to perish!

Who are God’s Rejects?

Evidently if God has chosen some people, he has also rejected some people. That is a correct assertion. Who are then God’s rejects? This answer is made very clear in the Book of Revelation and also confirmed by Jesus.

"So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in Heaven, now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the words of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the earth" (Revelation 12:9-11).

Immediately when the devil was cast down to the earth, God shouted in Heaven and declared salvation for the inhabitants of the earth who are going to be deceived by the devil. That salvation according to God the Father, comes to us through Jesus Christ. The text also went further to tell us how to overcome the devil’s deception; by the "blood of the Lamb and the words of their testimony." The only beings with no salvation are the fallen angels including Satan himself. These are God’s rejects! God did not reject any human being from going to Heaven except those who refused to receive God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is where the gospel of preordination went wrong folks because those who use human cognitive analysis to explain the mystery of God are prone to error!

"Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (St. Matthew 25:41).

Those messengers who refused to follow the Lord’s instructions need to be careful. Otherwise, they may face the same fate as the fallen angels. Enjoy your celebrity image and mansions for now while watching your church members suffer in poverty. These fallen angels including Satan, have no benefit of salvation! Their fate is a done deal. Consequently, let us not confuse the fate of the fallen angels with that of humans who are being deceived by the devil.

Mystery of the Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is not about a son, although we can apply the story to a lost son who came back home to the father. The story has deeper meaning than just the prodigal son.

First, the story of the prodigal son was an illustration Jesus used to explain another incident that happened in the Bible in the same gospel as reported by St. Luke. Prior to Jesus telling this parable, a real incident happened in chapter 7 of St. Luke. This story was the incident that happened in the house of Simon the Pharisee when Jesus was invited to his house for dinner. This story was a real event and narrated by St. Luke from verse 37 of chapter 7. The woman went to visit with Jesus when she realized Jesus was in the house of this Simon the Pharisee. She started to weep at the feet of Jesus, just like a servant who offended the master. Her tears were washing his feet and she would wipe them away with her hair. She would kiss Jesus’ feet and anoint them with fragrant oil. Because this "sinful woman" was unnamed in the Bible, many people confused her with Mary Magdalene whom Jesus cast out seven demons. The story of Mary Magdalene followed after the story of the sinful woman and people connected the two women. If Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons it would be very difficult for her to be a prostitute without scaring most of her intended customers away! The sinful woman in St. Luke chapter 7 and Mary Magdalene in chapter 8 were two different women.

These two stories in St. Luke have very striking similarities. Both the prodigal son and this woman have fallen into a life of sin. Both of them came back to their senses. Both the prodigal son and the prostitute in the house of Simon the Pharisee both repented. They were both coming home back to the father seeking for forgiveness. And the father in his mercy granted both of them forgiveness, and welcomed them back home. Another common factor about the story was that Jesus told the story of the prodigal son when he was being accused for his association with sinners. The incident of the prostitute happened when Simon the Pharisee questioned Jesus being a prophet because of his relationship with this prostitute.

Second, the prostitute in the house of Simon the Pharisee was not a non-believer who just wanted physical healing like many people Jesus encountered. This story is very unique because it is the real story of the Prodigal daughter most of us missed in the gospel. We placed much of our attention on the parable of the prodigal son as if it was a real incident. The real incident was the story of the prodigal daughter. Jesus therefore used the story of the prodigal son in chapter 15, to explain the fate of the prodigal daughter he already encountered in chapter 7 of St. Luke’s gospel.

Jesus did something very interesting in telling the parable of the prodigal son to explain the fate of prodigal daughter who repented. Jesus went further to explain what happens in the supernatural of which humans are unable to perceive when a sinner repented. He went further to explain that Heaven rejoices over a repented sinner and God the Father throws a party welcoming him back home. This is a very critical point to help us understand the rest of the explanations about the mystery of the prodigal son. God rejoices when we repent of our sins and come home seeking forgiveness - - - very important! Our God is a merciful God!

Third, this prostitute in the house of Simon the Pharisee was a believer of Jesus. She was not a new believer at the time of this encounter with Jesus; she had always been a believer that fell into sin. This woman appeared to have been one of those women who believed and followed Jesus. Perhaps the story was presented in the gospel as a believer who fell into a life of sin, just like the prodigal son. She appeared to have been a believer who fell into sin and became a prostitute. Many things in the story pointed to this fact that the prostitute was a believer. She knew Jesus because nobody had to explain Jesus to her. She also knew where to find him. When she found Jesus she fell at his feet weeping, just like the prodigal son fell on the neck of the father. This prostitute repented of her sin of prostitution. She realized by going into prostitution she had shamed the Lord. She therefore came to Jesus asking for forgiveness. Why was she asking Jesus for forgiveness? She knew she owed Jesus an apology because of her sinful life style, just like the prodigal son owed his father an apology. Jesus alluded to this when he said to Simon the Pharisee, "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other owed fifty" (St. Luke 7:41).

Jesus was using this analogy to help Simon the Pharisee realize that this woman had fallen deeper into sin by going into prostitution. Jesus explained to Simon, her sins that were many were forgiven her. Jesus could have blasted that woman and told her to get away from him. But because she came seeking forgiveness in humble submission to Christ, Jesus extended mercy to her.

This prostitute also had inside information about Jesus even many of the Pharisees and religious leaders at the time did not understand. She already received the love of God prior to fallen into sin. That was why Jesus said, "she loved much." There was no way that woman could have loved Jesus in a spiritual way without already receiving the love of God. Nobody can give what he or she does not have. So, the woman came and surrendered herself at the feet of Jesus asking him for forgiveness. Let’s realize she was not the only prostitute in the city. However, she was a believer who had fallen into sin and needed forgiveness. The most compelling evidence that she was a believer before fallen into sin was the critical information she knew about Jesus. This prostitute knew Jesus was God incarnate, and she believed that Jesus could forgive her sins. She knew Jesus was God in the flesh! While a prostitute already believed in Jesus as the Son of God, the religious leaders of the time were busy making fools of themselves and questioning whether this man called Jesus was the Son of God. Another compelling information that the prostitute was a believer was revealed by Jesus when he said, "Your faith has saved you, Go in peace" (St. Luke 7:50).

Fourth, the story of the prodigal daughter and the parable of the prodigal son are the illustrations by Jesus that sinners can be forgiven if they choose to repent of their sinful ways. Jesus made it clear; he came to find the lost, to restore sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those that are oppressed. Our Lord Jesus came on a mission of rescue.

Fifth, this story of the prodigal daughter and the parable of the prodigal son help us to understand about God’s mercy for sending Jesus Christ to save us from the life of sin. The children of Israel in the wilderness sinned so many times and made God very angry. In the end, God passed judgment of them saying, "For forty years I was grieved with this generation. And said, it is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know my ways. So I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest" (Psalm 95:10-11).

Meaning, God placed a curse on many of the children of Israel that started the journey from Egypt that, they would not make it to the Promise Land. Many of them died in the wilderness. Similarly, when Adam and Eve sinned, God placed a curse on them- - - separating man from God. This curse of the original sin affected the entire human race. Today, Jesus changed the human fate of damnation. He brought us mercy and reconciled us back to the father like the prodigal sons and daughters. Jesus paid for the penalty of our sins and reconciled sinners back to God after paying the price for our ransom.

Sixth, the story of the prodigal son and daughter in St. Luke’s also illustrated what happened in the story of Noah when he sent the first dove to find a dry land. The first dove did not find a place to land her feet. A song was dedicated to this incident of Noah. It implied that Noah’s dove is like a sinner who jungle through the wilderness of this world. No matter how he or she enjoys the wilderness, will never find a resting place just like that first dove of Noah. To find a resting place, a sinner will have to return to the father and rejoice forever more. The world cannot grant you eternal joy and there is no rest for the wicked until he or she returns home to the father.

Seventh, finally we have all sinned against God. We need a savior. God initiated the plan of salvation. Each person has to make that choice to come home to the father. The decision made by parents, relatives, friends or pastors cannot save anybody. Each individual person must make a conscious effort to reach Christ and receive God’s forgiveness through his Son Jesus.

So, the mystery of the parable of the prodigal son, and the incident of the prodigal daughter is not about a son or daughter at all. It is the story of a repented sinner who comes home and seeking for forgiveness. And as Jesus said, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (St. Luke 15:10).

If you’re a prodigal son or daughter estranged from your parents, pick up the phone and call your parents! If they refuse to receive you, call a pastor and offer your repentance and seek for forgiveness.

By Yinka Vidal, author, Closer Walk with Jesus

Follow me on Twitter: @YinkaVidal

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