For the month of April, I will be sharing snippets from Tim Keller's excellent book, "The Prodigal God." Today, I am amazed at how Keller links the normal understanding of this parable about the two sons to the two audiences.
TITLE: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
AUTHOR: TIM KELLER
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Dutton Press, 2008, (144 pages).
"Most readings of this parable have concentrated on the flight and return of the younger brother - the 'Prodigal Son.' That misses the real message of the story, however, because there are two brothers, each of whom represents a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.
It is crucial to notice the historical setting that the author provides for Jesus' teaching. In the first two verses of the chapter, Luke recounts that there were two groups of people who had come to listen to Jesus. First there were the 'tax collectors and sinners.' These men and women correspond to the younger brother. They observed neither the moral laws of the Bible nor the rules for ceremonial purity followed by religious Jews. They engaged in 'wild living.' Like the younger brother, they 'left home' by leaving the traditional morality of their families and of respectable society. The second group of listeners was the 'Pharisees and the teachers of the law,' who were represented by the elder brother. They held to the traditional morality of their upbringing. They studied and obeyed the Scriptures. They worshiped faithfully and prayed constantly." (7-8)