Revelations from the Word

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A man had two sons

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Then He said: A certain man had two sons [huios]. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me my share of your estate now. So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living... And he arose and came to his father. When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him... Then the father said to his servants, Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet... Now his older son was in the field. And as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing... And the father said to him, Son [teknon], you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found" (Luke 15:11-32).

The Pharisees and the scribes reproached Jesus for welcoming people with a bad lifestyle and for eating with them (Luke 15:1-2). So He told them three parables, one about the lost sheep, one about the lost drachma and one about the man who had two sons. The latter were called sons [huios] because they had reached a certain maturity and that legally they were able to enter into their inheritance (Galatians 4:1-7). The younger son claimed his portion, and the father gave to him, as he did to the older son (Luke 15:11). Keeping to the law, the father kept half for himself and shared the other half between his two sons, the older one receiving double that of the younger one. This is a parable of the Kingdom of God in relation to His people, Israel; the older one represents the Pharisees and the scribes, and the younger represents the publicans and sinners.

The younger one although having received his part of the Kingdom, didn't know how to manage it. He squandered all his inheritance in leading a bad life. But he repented and came back to his father who gave him back his dignity by offering him a new covenant (in Jesus), by reclothing him in a new robe (the mantel of salvation) and by organising a celebration of rejoicing for this son who was found again, as a man rejoices with his friends when he found his lost sheep and a woman rejoices too with her friends when she has found her lost drachma.

The older one, who also received his portion of the Kingdom, didn't know how to manage it either. He behaved as a slave (under the law) and not as a son (free) in his father's house (John 8:31-35). He was jealous of his father's welcome at the time of his younger brother's return for the law brings competition and jealousy. That is why he was not able either to rejoice with the people of the household, or to repent of his attitude. This son represents the generation of those who could not weep when their brother was lost and could not dance when the latter was found again (Matthew 11:16-19). So the father no longer called his older one (the Pharisees and scribes), son [huios] but child [teknon], which took away from him the right of inheritance of the Kingdom.

Jesus had already warned the Pharisees and the scribes, "Publicans and prostitutes will go before you into the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 21:31) and the "Kingdom of God will be taken away from you" (Matthew 21:43). The Pharisees and scribes therefore denied the Kingdom of God to those who followed them, and did not enter it themselves (Matthew 23:13), for they only appeared to be righteous (Luke 18:9-14). But the Father, full of compassion, is always ready to welcome whoever repents.