Being a friend of god

:

Six Studies on Jesus’ Story of the Lost Son

By L en Tho m p so n

The works of art in this book are faithful photographic reproductions of original two dimensional works of art. The works of art themselves are in the public domain for the following reason: these images are in the public domain because their copyright has expired. This applies to those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus seventy years.

A portion of session two first appeared in Developing Your Spiritual Life. Permission to use this section is gratefully acknowledged.

Copyright © 2009, by Urban Center Publishers. Printed in Canada. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Urban Center, 11525 23 Ave, Edmonton, AB. T6J 4T3. Printed by Pagemaster in Canada. Layout by Eric Thompson.

Being a friend of god SeSSion #1:
A Di s a p p o i nt i ng Ad o l e s c e nt Star t
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” Luke 15: 11-16 NIV Stories engage us on many levels. Jesus’ account of the Prodigal follows two other stories about lost sheep and coins. The obvious point hits hard; accept the errant, rude, squanderer back into the family. Pharisees listening to the story excluded outcasts but the father in this story includes his errant son. Jesus invites the proud Jewish listener to wrap his arms around the repentant sinner like Esau did to his younger brother Jacob (their patriarch). But I can’t help but read the story on several different levels. I get the main point but other things hit me just as clearly. I invite you to consider the invitation of the father to both the older and the younger son to something greater than squabbling over a sizable inheritance; friendship. It’s the same invitation Jesus
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Becoming a Friend of God

offered His disciples – an invitation to deep adult friendship.1 Two sons; two totally different roads in adolescence but both deeply disappointed. To help the story flow a bit easier let’s call the elder son, Levi, and the younger, Yakob. Jesus opens with a focus on the younger son, who demands his share of his inheritance from his father. The Jewish audience understood Jesus’ verbal shorthand, but you and I need a bit more Hebrew background to understand the full implications of what is happening here. First let’s understand Yakob’s point of view. He’d worked these fields all his life, alongside his father, older Levi and the hired help but because he is the younger of the two sons, he will inherit only a third of the vast estate. It undoubtedly irks him deeply that the split isn’t equal. The system isn’t fair! His brother gets twice as much just because he arrived first in this world. He can’t do a thing about it. His disappointment chafes at him every day until he can’t bear it anymore. What options can he cash in? None, short of patricide! An eighteen year old can’t find the patience to wait at least another eighteen years, an eternity, just to get the short end of the deal. Maybe he could bear it if Levi treated him with a shred of dignity but no, he dished out constant reminders of his esteemed status. At one time maybe Yakob looked up or idolized big brother but constant disappointment hardenes his heart to the place where no Jewish younger son would stoop. He insults his father by asking for his inheritance! He may as well assault the old man, for his demand amounts to a rejection of his nation, his family and his father’s love. In between the lines you just know that things would have been different if not for his brother.

1

See John 15:14 4

Becoming a Friend of God

Though Jesus starts the story with Yakob’s troubles but the story really focuses on Levi’s reaction to his younger brother. I wonder what went on in Levi’s heart during the years Yakob spent in the far country. Levi’s words uttered after Yakob came home come from a bitter heart. We see through that window into his adolescent years. He never loved his brother. I doubt that the father passively ignored the rift between the two brothers even in their teen years but likely faced Levi with his attitude more than once. It didn’t help. Levi resented Yakob. Why? Because he didn’t accept the rules, the tradition, the way Jewish families had lived for generation upon generation. His rebel brother was a good-for-nothing and his father didn’t do much to yank him back into line. What respectable Jewish father would give away huge sums of money to a son who had just wished him dead? He should have thrown him out or taken him to the elders to be stoned but no, he financed the snarky kid’s rebellion. Levi’s disappointment with the father smouldered in his heart for years. Two sons, poles apart but polarized around their disappointment with their father. They end up hating each other. They end up breaking their father’s heart. They end up far from home; one in a Gentile country and the other in a far field. Both estranged. Tragic.

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Becoming a Friend of God

QueStionS: 1. Which son do you identify with and why?

2. What has your spiritual adolescence been like?

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Becoming a Friend of God

3. What disappointments eat at your soul?

4. How do you treat your brothers and sisters in Christ when you feel disappointed?

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Becoming a Friend of God

5. How do you treat the Father when you are disappointed?

6. What does the Father really want?

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