Reading: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Everybody Gots to Die
There’s a lot going on here.
A detail that escaped me in this parable for years was the importance of dying expressed within. Right off the bat the father dies—the literal language says that he divided his life. The younger son got his share; the older brother, by law, a double share for the offense of the younger son’s having asked. This leaves the older brother effectively head-of-household, and the father, in a sense, dead!
The next death is the younger son, who awakes post-revelry willing to set aside his life as a son in exchange for any semblance of order as a hired hand in his father’s (now his brother’s) household.
The only remaining death in the parable is that of the fatted calf, which dies in order to celebrate the restoration (resurrection?) of the father and son in relationship. In stark contrast stands the older brother, grimly clinging to the life he believes he’s earned, not understanding how grace can look past all that’s happened.
I love Robert Farrar Capon’s take on the father’s closing words to the older brother:
“The only thing that matters is that fun or no fun, your brother finally died to all that and now he’s alive again—whereas you, unfortunately, were hardly ever alive even the first time around. Look. We’re all dead here and we’re having a terrific time. We’re all lost here and we feel right at home…the only reason you’re not enjoying it is because you refuse to be dead to your dumb rules about how it should be enjoyed. So do yourself and everybody else a favor: drop dead. Shut up, forget about your stupid life, go inside, and pour yourself a drink.”
No matter how you’ve lived your life, real grace is found in letting go of it.
Where do you see yourself in each of the three main characters?
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