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“My Child, you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke15

In early 19th century, there was a man named Ryokan in Japan, who was a virtuous, intelligent Buddhist priest and Zen Master. Master Ryokan had a prodigal nephew, and Ryokan’s sister in-law often asked him to say something to her son. One day Ryokan dropped in to visit her home, and his nephew happened to be staying there.
Eventually, Ryokan stayed at her home for three nights, but he did not do any preaching to his nephew. The final day when Ryokan left their home he asked his nephew to help to tie his shoelace. The man accepted his uncle’s request and bent down and began to tie the shoelace. While tying the shoelace, the nephew felt something cold on his neck. He looked up to his uncle Ryokan, and found Ryokan with tears in his eyes. Master Ryokan stood up and left. From that day on the young man quit living his life in the fast lane.
That story reminded me of the father in the parable of Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 15 verses 11-32.
The father of the two sons and Master Ryokan have some things in common, which are hearts of deep compassion for their lost ones, and their behavior toward the lost ones are beyond the common sense of ordinary people.
However, the two stories give me very different impressions as well. The story of Master Ryokan concludes with a happy ending. Meanwhile the story Jesus tells us in Luke 15:11-32, known as the “The Prodigal Son,” or “The Lost Son,” is not a totally happy ending story, because there still remains the serious question of reconciliation between the father and the older son, and between the two brothers.
Actually, the parable is a three-person story; father, older son and younger son. And without a doubt, we act as each of them on different occasions. At one time we will be a merciful father. Every parent is at times the father of the unreturned prodigal, with nothing to do but keep his house open to hope. But at another time, we will be like a prodigal son, and still another time we will behave like the older brother.
Once someone asked why there is not a mother in this parable. Didn’t their mother take any roles in the family problem? That is a good question. My answer is: “As you notice, the character of this father is unlike a Jewish father’s character. The father in this parable has both fatherly and motherly characteristics perfectly. As a matter of fact, the father in the parable indicates God the Father, not the fathers here and there in our world.”
When we carefully reflect on our Christian lives, we easily find ourselves performing the role of the older brother. We have a very serious temptation as we think that we are faithful to the regulations of the church, reading the Bible diligently, praying day and night, participating in church activities earnestly, and so forth. And those who typify the older brother find it difficult to repent.
When I was a pastor in Japan some people once complained to me, “Why are you so generous to those who have not been attending the worship services, or making pledges of money to the church? Your way is not good for them. They will not reach conversion.” Together the brothers and their father serve to dramatize and clarify the situation in the Lukan communities which are struggling with the reconciliation of sinners. And the struggle is certainly ours in our time too.
How can we solve those problems? Can we find some clues in the parable?
“The older son said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.’” (Luke 15:29) I cannot condemn the older brother, rather I well understand his feelings, because that is my real figure as well. Thus, I assume that the older brother did not have good communication with his father and his younger brother in his ordinary life. He had not been open in his heart to his father in his daily life, so he could not share the father’s love for his younger brother with him.
Likewise, if we don’t have enough daily communication with our family members or church community, we will not be able to share the sorrows or hardships of the lost one with other family members or the members of the church. Indeed the Christian meal at home, or at the church, is consequently an earthly reflection of the heavenly and angelic joy which accompanies the return of the repentant sinner (15:7,10).
The greatest misery of the older brother was that he did not realize his father’s abundant love for him. And even now we may not realize the full extent of God’s grace. We are uncomfortable when the merciful God gives more happiness to the unbelievers than to our happiness. So God the Father tells us again and again through the Gospel, “My child, you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31)
Jesus did not talk about the final chapter of his parable. Luke did not make a composition of the ending of the parable. Rather they left us homework. Each of us have to create for ourselves an ending of this story.

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