The parable of the prodigal son (as I mentioned in my sermon, I prefer the title “The Two Sons”) is a powerful piece of scripture. We are all pretty familiar with the story, which is one that the Orthodox Church uses as the model for the sacrament of confession and which is always read on the third Sunday before Lent starts. Some thoughts:
-The parables of Jesus naturally reflect the culture and times, and the prodigal son story contains two hideous breaches of the tribal code. The younger son asks for his inheritance while his father is still living – he is basically saying “you are dead to me”. The older son wants to feast and make merry with his friends rather than his family – this is his big mistake along with the envy of what is going on with the younger son.
-There is a textual variation in Luke 15:22. Some versions have a “quickly” in the part about bringing out the robe; others are missing it. It is a minor point but it does color the verse differently – the “quickly” emphasizes the instantaneous forgiveness that God grants us.
-The Rolling Stones do an incredible version of Rev. Wilkins’s song Prodigal Son on Beggars Banquet. It is the story set in an American Gospel/Spiritual context – check it out here.