By Mark Walz
Everyone knows something about the parable of the prodigal son, even if all they know is the phrase, ‘the prodigal son.’ And to some degree, most know how one son — the prodigal — leaves his family and squanders it all, only to be reunited with his family because of the mercy of his father. But what most don’t know is that there is another son who is angry at the sort of reunion the younger son receives. It is a major portion of the story, and in many ways the major point. The more I read the story the more I am convinced that the parable of Jesus has more to do with the poor attitude of the older son than just about anything else.
Remember? Remember when the party starts, after the dad accepts the son’s apology and rejoices, and the older son hears about it? When he gets wind of it he’s not happy or in any sort of rejoicy mood; “But he was angry and refused to go in.” This is typical of the way Jesus taught. He woos you into the story, and just when you think you have a handle on it, there is a twist. It catches you off guard and the message goes deep.
And for me, this is the important part. There are two lost sons. You see, parables like these remind us that none of us are exempt from being the ‘bad guy’ in the story. There are two types of people; the prodigals and the older sons. There isn’t a 3rd option. We are one or the other at some point in our lives. No one’s exempt. No matter what, we need to be found and repent when we are.
There is a constant, though. In the parable with each son, the father is determined to reconcile with his sons. This is the really good news. It is not just that prodigals sometimes come home, or that older sons sometimes get confronted too. The really good news is that our heavenly father will chase after us all. Amen for that!