|The Prodigal Son (Jesus of Nazareth - the movie)|
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A fragment from the film "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977).
Although some people think God loves those who are good and hates those who are evil, Jesus is explaining that God loves everyone the same, good and evil. It is not God who rejects sinners, it is us who choose to be with God or to go away from Him, but even when we choose to reject God, He is always a loving father with His doors open for us, waiting for us to come back. So is in this life, and so is in the afterlife, it is us who choose our destiny. Heaven or hell, in this life or in the afterlife, is something we choose, not a place where God sends us.
The prodigal son broke up with his father by asking for his inheritance as if he had died, and went away.
Pigs were unclean animals. Jews were not even allowed to touch pigs. When the son took a job feeding pigs, even longing for their food to fill his belly, it reveals that he had fallen as low as he could possibly go.
When the son decides to go back to his father's house, it is not because he repents of what he's done, it is because he is poor and starving.
The other son, the "good" son who stayed with the father and worked for him, thinks it is really unfair that the father should rejoice and celebrate his brother's return and make him equal to him. In a situation like this, most of us would think like the "good" brother: this is not fair! Nevertheless, in this parable, this "good" son is criticized because he is jealous and is not happy about recovering his lost brother. Jesus' message was, and still is, subversive.
The point that Jesus was trying to make here is that of course God is just and merciful, but when justice and mercy collide, His love always prevails, so He is first of all merciful and his justice can never go against love.
This message was given to us 2000 years ago, but we still need to be reminded of it because we easily think of God as a judge who likes good people and condemns sinners, just as people 2000 years ago used to think. But against that idea we must remember this parable, or the parable of the lost sheep or many others, and Jesus' words (that did and do shock many) when he said:
"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." John 12:47
So God is not like a judge sending criminals to prison, He is the good shepherd (Luke 15:3-7 ) that looks after the lost sheep trying to rescue them from all danger. But He made us free to choose: you can either go back to the Father's house or stay starving with the pigs, and that decision God will respect, now and forever.
I'd like to tell you a story
Sit down! Sit down!
A certain man had two sons and one day the younger of these sons said to his father, Give me my share of your estate now. So his father divided his wealth between his two sons.
And a few days later, this younger son set off for a distant land, and there he squandered all the money he had on riotous living. Now, not long after this, a great famine swept over the land, and the boy began to starve. He persuaded a farmer to hire him to feed his pigs, but he was so hungry that even the husks he fed the swine began to look good to him. And still, nobody gave him anything.
Finally, the boy came to his senses. At home, even my father's servants had enough food, and to spare. And here I am starving to death. I will go home, and ask my father to hire me as one of his servants." And so, he set off.
Now he was still some distance from his home when his father saw him coming, and he was so filled with compassion, that he ran towards his son and embraced him and kissed him. The boy said, "Father! I have sinned against Heaven and you. I am not worthy to be called your son." But his father called for the servants and said, Bring me the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Put rings on his hands and shoes on his feet! Kill the fattest calf, we must celebrate with a feast. My son was dead and is alive again!
Now, the older brother at this time was working in the fields, and as he came back to the house, he heard the noise of music and dancing. He called for one of the servants and asked what was happening, and he was told. At this, the older brother became very angry and he refused to go into the house. The father came out, tried to plead with him, but he wouldn't listen. I have worked for you all this time, all these years, and never once have I disobeyed you! And in all that time, you've never even gave me so much as a goat so that I could have a feast with my friends. My younger brother comes back, having spent all your money on harlots and for him you kill the fattest calf!
Please, said the father. Please. Try to understand. You are always with me, everything I have is yours. But it is right to celebrate. Your brother was dead and is alive again. He was lost, and is found."
Forgive me master. I am... I'm just a stupid man.
This parable (story to teach some moral issue) talks about a son who abandons his father and goes away to spend his inheritance in a bad life. When he spent all his money he remembers home and his father, but he's afraid to come back for fear he will be rejected. In the end he comes back, but his father, who still loves him dearly, welcomes him with a party. His other brother, who stayed at home and worked in his father's fields, complains. He can't understand why his father seems more happy about his brother than about himself, but the reason is "Your brother was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found".
The parable is a metaphor of God's love for us. We are his children and he is our father. If we sin and go away from his love, he will still wait for us and he will forgive us and accept us back home if we decide to return to him.
But in this movie, this parable is also a lesson for Peter. Before this scene, Peter had been complaining about Matthew. Matthew was a "publican" (a tax collector) and people hated publicans because they collected money for Rome. Peter just couldn't accept Jesus had called Matthew to be one of his disciples because he was a big sinner. After listening to this story of the prodigal son, Peter understands and sees his mistake, that's why he says "Forgive me master, I am just a stupid man", and reconciles with Matthew.