Today I would like to talk about the Prodigal Son study from the The Parables of Jesus in the <a href="Deeper Connections series. After an introduction from the Gentile city of Susita, on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, the scene switches to Ben Witherington III (Asbury) sitting in a boat in Gloucester Harbor, north of Boston?where the movie The Perfect Storm was filmed. Fishermen left this harbor on their ships, and many never returned. Witherington talks about how the women and children would sit in ?widow?s watches? on the tops of their homes, looking out to sea, wishing, longing, hoping for their husband?s return.
Witherington paints the helpful first century background that enables us to grasp the parable?s deeper meaning. When the prodigal asks his father for his share of the inheritance, he was wishing that his father were dead. When the father runs to the son, he shames himself (first century Jewish men never ran!). Witherington mentions that it is possible that the father ran so that he could meet the son on the outside of the village, before the townspeople could harass him for what he had done to his father.
When we understand these background issues, the Parable comes to life. God (the Father) goes to extraordinary lengths to show forgiveness to those who turn to them?even ?sinners? with a very shady past. The Father?with the intensity of the women in Gloucester Harbor waiting for their husbands?looks for those who are lost, longing to restore them….. God is ?a father who is prepared indeed, willing to go out to those who will even make a step in the right direction, and turn and be renewed and be restored.?
How can pondering our relationships to parents or children or spouses enliven this parable?