There are many ways of reading the story of the Wayward Son (Luke 15:11-32). In the context of the other two parables Jesus offers, it is fundamentally a story about the joyous response to one who repents and turns to God: “[T]here is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10; cf. v. 7). The father in the story of the Wayward Son is just as “prodigal” as the wayward son and it symbolizes the joy of which v. 10 speaks. But this isn’t the only way to understand the narrative.
In a recent post entitled “Inverted Sonship: Jesus as Prodigal Son,” καταπέτασμα offers an interesting take on the parable. He posits that Jesus, on a certain level, functions as the prodigal against which the Jewish religious figures had railed in texts like Luke 7:34. Jesus is seemingly gluttonous, cavorting with sinners, while the Pharisees stick close to the Torah and therefore to God, the prodigal’s father. But they miss the message in their response to the prodigal’s return. The Pharisees didn’t see that in Jesus’ ministry that now was the time for celebration. As God’s son, his messiah, the messianic banquet was set to arrive soon. In the words of καταπέτασμα, “It is God who throws Jesus’ parties, not sinners.”
I’d be very interested in seeing this interpretation of the parable fleshed out more, especially in light of Lukan themes. This parable is unique to Luke, not part of the double-tradition. Moreover, it is presented as a triad of parables about the repentance and the finding of “lost” things. How does the idea that Jesus is the son in the story fit in with these other parables?
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