The Prodigal Son — Luke 14:11-24

20 Jan

Luke 15:11-24 NIV
[11] Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. [12] The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. [13] “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. [14] After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. [15] So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. [16] He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. [17] “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! [18] I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ [20] So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. [21] “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [22] “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. [23] Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. [24] For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Dear God, before I get into this story, I want to do my best to identify all of the art panels, small as they are, in the border of this artwork. Starting at the top left:

  • Broken chains
  • “HOME” or, if you look at it the right way, “LOVE”
  • Two arrows pointing to the cross
  • U-turn
  • Cross
  • “My son was dead and alive again”
  • “He was lost and is found”
  • “!!!!!!!!!!” [kind of cool to have those following the two lines from the father.]
  • “You went after worth [??] and become worthless”
  • Star of David [before a psalm]
  • “Before I formed you in the womb I knew year”
  • “Only remember and be satisfied.” [this seems to be the last of three messages from God to the son.]
  • Three tears
  • A dove [images of God’s forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit before the son’s response]
  • “We believe and we are blessed.”
  • A running figure
  • “If I ascend to heaven you are there. If I make my bed in hell you are there.” [YOU ARE THERE emphasized both times. Interesting that he is bringing the psalms into the son’s thoughts with this and the part about the womb.]
  • Crown
  • “The children the promise [??] as offspring” [couldn’t tell what that third part said, but I think it comes from “The children of the promise are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”]
  • A key
  • A lock
  • “And I run down that aisle”
  • Musical notes
  • Regular star surrounded by circles [other stars]
  • “[??] mute or deaf or seeing or blind” [I think this is a reference to Exodus 4:11 Exodus 4:11 NIV
    [11] The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?]
  • Alpha and Omega in Greek letters
  • “The greatest of these is LOVE”
  • Heart with an infinity sign in the middle of it.
  • “Wonderful counselor, almighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace.”
  • “No!”
  • “Please” [If read clockwise, No! is first. If read left to right, please is first.]
  • Broken heart
  • “And I will make a new covenant with you.”
  • “!” [exclamation points on opposite corners of the border]
  • Crying eyes
  • ?? [Can’t tell if this is dove or flame, but I’m pretty sure it is the Holy Spirit either way]
  • “And those he predestined he also justified and those who he called he also justified and those whom he justified he also glorified [Romans 8:30]
  • “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two”
  • Clock pointing to 3:00
  • A cross and I think it says, “Here!!” across it.
  • Arrows all pointing to the middle of the image
  • A heart that says, “Give,” in the middle
  • ??satisfied by the call of others less wild.” [I think I found this reference. It’s from a song called “Wedding Dress” by Derek Webb. The phrase from the song is, “I am so easily satisfied by the call of lovers less wild.” The chorus says, “I’m a prodigal with no way home…” so I’m pretty sure this is the artist’s reference.”] [a second note is that this part about being satisfied is across the image from the part about being “satisfied” on the other side of the border.]
  • “Son you are always with me and all that is mine is yours.”
  • A flower
  • A cross in the middle of something I can quite make out
  • An image of crying eyes that says, “Tears stream down your face,” with an arrow at the bottom of the image pointing upwards and the word, “UP!”

So that takes care of the border. Now what did this artist decide to show me in the image itself?

  • A lot of triangles over the house [I wish I knew if there is a significance to the triangles over the house. A bunch of representations of the Trinity?]
  • The father’s house [It’s a fairly modern representation of a house. I’m surprised it doesn’t have a more prominent front porch.]
  • There are several people cheering
  • The father seems to be represented in motion with arms outspread and then arms around the boy
  • It almost looks like there are angel wings as part of the father’s arms.
  • The boys hair melds into the father’s beard
  • The boy is in modern clothes
  • The boy’s jeans are dirty and the bottoms are frayed.
  • I think the boy is barefoot.
  • The boy’s head is buried in the father’s chest.

What the artist has done to communicate so much through not only the main image, but also through the border is great.

It was about 17 years ago that I sat down and tried to find a father/husband in the Bible who was worth emulating. After looking at all of the men I could find, I ultimately landed on Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, and the father in this story. Since this is a parable in which the father represents you, I just focused on Joseph. But maybe I should focus on this father since it gives me an insight into you and your nature.

As I look at this story, I notice the part where Jesus says, “Not many days later.” I know this isn’t a real story–it’s a parable–but I wonder what those days between the bequeathing and the leaving would have been like. Was the money not enough for the boy? Did it not bring him the happiness he thought it would.

Ultimately, the story is about the father letting the boy go. That is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. Let them go and then wait. And sometimes we have to wait a long time.

There is a DC Talk song called “The Hard Way” that’s chorus says it all: “Some people gotta learn the hard way. I guess I’m the kind of guy that trying to find out for myself. I had to learn the hard way, Father. I’m on my knees and I’m crying for help.”

Father, for the prodigals out there, make their paths to you as straight as possible. And for the fathers (and mothers), help them to believe.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



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