‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
– Luke 15.23-24, 28.
When we read the story of the Prodigal Son, it can be easy to focus on the moment of reconciliation as the overall message of the story. It’s certainly a key theme which is incredibly helpful for us to reflect on. However, while only the younger son is reconciled with, both sons have to respond to a similar request – ‘Let’s Feast’.
This invitation is responded to differently.
The Prodigal Son is swept away and into the celebrations, while the Older Brother refuses to go in.
When Jesus is telling this parable, he is inviting both the sinners and the Pharisee to the celebration – a celebration to which we today also need to respond to!
This picture, which I unfortunately can’t find a source for, is not directly on the story of the prodigal son. However, the invitation of Jesus to the person to join in the heavenly feast captures some of the themes of the story brilliantly.
The door is wide open, all are free to join.
There’s a large crowd eating a banquet.
Jesus is gesturing towards the crowd, a free invitation to join. Yet his hand is clasped firmly around the wrist of the person, and they find themselves holding on tight even as they point to themselves – saying ‘Who? Me? Why Me?’
They’re on their knees, similar to how the Prodigal Son is in the painting by Rambrandt. The firm grasp of Jesus is like that of the Father embracing his Son.
The story of the prodigal son is more than just a story, it’s more than just a rhetorical device in conversation with the Pharisee; it’s an invitation by Jesus to join in the celebration of life!
“Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
We are the Child who was dead, we were lost; we are the child who has been made alive again, we are the one who has been found and, Jesus says, that is a reason to celebrate.
So, when you reflect on the story of the Prodigal Son and the Father’s invitation to join the banquet – will you go in?