Jason Hildebrand on the Younger Son

What are the implication of a son, younger or older, leaving home in the Middle East? Henri Nouwen explores those implications in the Return of the Prodigal Son. He says that, especially in Jesus’ time, this would have been an unheard of event. Quoting Kenneth Bailey:

For over fifteen years I have been asking people of all walks of life from Morocco to India and from Turkey to the Sudan about the implications of a son’s request for his inheritance while the father is still living. The answer has always been emphatically the same. . . the conversation runs as follows:

Has anyone ever made such a request in your village?

Never!

Could anyone ever make such a request?

Impossible!

If anyone ever did, what would happen?

His father would beat him, of course!

Why?

The request means–he wants his father to die.

The younger son makes this demand, this heartless rejection of his father in Jesus’ parable.

The young man leaves, unprotected and totally unprepared for the tragedy that soon consumes him.  What does he do?  He repents, he does an about face, he reconciles to his current state and points his heart towards home.  That is always a good move to make.

Nouwen summarizes his homecoming in these words:

Looking again at Rembrandt’s portrayal of the return of the younger son, I now see how much more is taking place than a mere compassionate gesture towards a wayward child.  The great event I see is the end of the great rebellion.  The rebellion of Adam and all his descendants is forgiven, and the original blessing by which Adam received everlasting life is restored.

Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much I am left free to leave home.  The blessing is there from the beginning.  I have left it and keep on leaving it.  But the Father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper again in my ear: “You are my Beloved,on you my favor rests.”

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