Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Parable of the Lost Sons

The story typically known as the Prodigal Son deserves its reputation as one of the greatest of Jesus’ parables. The parable follows the younger of a man’s two sons as he rejects his father, comes to ruin, and then returns to his father’s warm welcome. It then shifts focus to the older son, who is angry with the welcome given his brother and refuses to join the celebration. The father gets the last word, pleading with the older son to join the party because his brother “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

One of our regular class exercises is discussing possible names for the parables (the only named parables are in Matthew 13). This parable’s traditional name focuses on the younger son’s wastefulness (prodigal means wastefully extravagant) rather than his being lost (like the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin that precede it). I like the “The Lost Sons” since the parable is about two sons who are lost in different ways—just like the lost sinners Jesus welcomed and the Pharisees who complained about this.  The parable could also be named after the father—“The Loving Father” or even “The Prodigal Father” (since he is wastefully extravagant in his love).

Kyle Snodgrass, who calls the parable “The Compassionate Father and His Two Lost Sons,” says: “The parable is a narrative demonstration of the grace with which God reaches out to embrace sinful people. Jesus did not need to introduce the idea that God accepts sinners, but his message of the kingdom emphasized that he was restoring Israel, that end-time forgiveness was being offered now, and that this was the critical time for repentance. The God that Jesus represents and proclaims is precisely the forgiving and merciful God reflected in the parable” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 140).

lost-sons

Naomi’s drawing is a triptych showing  the younger son squandering his wealth in wild living (note the slot machine), the younger son coming to his senses, and his father welcoming him home while the older brother looks on in disgust.

More art

I found far more art related to the Prodigal Son than any other parable and organized it by which aspect of the parable it depicts. Artists who painted multiple scenes from the parable include James Jacques Joseph Tissot, whose The Prodigal Son in Modern Life consists of Departure, In Foreign Climes, The Return, and The Fatted Calf, and Steve Prince, whose series (eyekons) consists of The Prodigal Appetite: HallooThe Prodigal Journey: Exit Wounds, and The Prodigal Return: Your Past may be Stained,but your Future’s Untouched.

Sacred Art Meditations has a collection of Prodigal Son art. Images of Prodigal Son art from the Larry & Mary Gerbens Collection can be found online at eyekons and the Calvin College Center Art Gallery. I’ve linked to the images at eyekons because I can’t figure out how to link directly to art on the Calvin College page; however, bigger images can be found in Calvin’s slideshow.

Departure
In a Distant Land
Keeping Swine
Coming to His Senses
Approaching Home
The Loving Father
The Fatted Calf
The Other Brother
Multiple Scenes
Music

Our class sang the same three songs for our Lost Sheep/Lost Coin class and our Lost Son class. Two—“Shepherd, Do You Tramp the Hills” (SNT #39) and “It Was God Who Ran to Greet Him” (AJS #37)—refer to all three parables with four stanzas, one for each parable and the fourth to sum things up.

The other is “Far From Home We Run, Rebellious” (AJS #39/SNT #40/LUYH #122)—one of the few parables songs in Lift Up Your Hearts—which is about the Lost Son. The son puts the singers in the position the younger son. Here is the first stanza:

Far from home we run, rebellious,
seeking cities bright with dreams.
casting loose from love that claims us,
craving life that glitters, gleams.

The song covers the parable in five stanzas; the sixth replaces the celebratory feast with communion: “Bread and wine for celebration on the table now are spread…”

There are three other songs in our hymnals based on the three “lost” parables:  “A Shepherd with a Hundred Sheep” (AJS #35), “And Jesus Said” (AJS #36), and “Shepherd, Shepherd” (AJS #38). The other Lost Son song is “How Far Away Is Heaven” (AJS #40).

This is the fifth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the LeavenThe Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, and The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

The Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are part of a trilogy of parables in Luke 15 about God seeking the lost. Jesus told them in response to the criticism that he “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v. 2). In the parables the recovery of the lost sheep and the lost coin are occasions for celebration. Indeed, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).

According to Klyne Snodgrass, “What is revealed about the character of God is the value he places on even the least deserving and the care he extends to such people. God is not passive, waiting for people to approach him after they get their lives in order. He is a seeking God who takes initiative to bring people back, regardless of how ‘lost’ they are” (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, p. 109).

Therefore, “If God is a seeking, caring God, then his grace should characterize our self-perception and our treatment of other people. The awareness that God seeks us brings freedom and confidence to life. That his grace is to determine how we treat others should cause us to be caring and sensitive” (Snodgrass, p. 110).

lost-sheep-coin

Naomi’s drawing uses a maze to illustrate the search. The shepherd and the woman (with lantern) stand at the beginning of the maze, which leads to the sheep in one corner and the coin in another.

naomi-lost1

As usual, Naomi made the drawing during our class. However, she did stick around afterward to make the maze more difficult. Since Naomi takes the class’s feedback into account, sometimes she erases part of her drawing, as these two photos show.

naomi-lost2

More art

Additional depictions of the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin include art by the usual suspects: Dutch illustrator Jan Luyken (Parable of the Lost Sheep & Parable of the Lost Drachma), James Tissot (The Good Shepherd [c. 1890]) & The Lost Drachma [c. 1890]), and John Everett Millais (The Lost Sheep [1864] & The Lost Piece of Silver (1864]).

James B. Janknegt contributes The Good Chicken Farmer (2003) and The Lost Money (2003). 

Additional art on the Parable of the Lost Sheep:

(There is also plenty of additional art on the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd [see here for instance], which often gets combined with this parable. I’ve only included a few of these.)

Additional art on the Parable of the Lost Coin:

Music

We chose the same three songs to sing during our Lost Sheep/Lost Coin class and our Lost Son class. One was “Far From Home We Run, Rebellious” (AJS #39/SNT #40/LUYH #122)—one of the few parables songs in Lift Up Your Hearts—which is about the Lost Son. The other two refer to all three parables with four stanzas, one for each parable and the fourth to sum things up.

“Shepherd, Do You Tramp the Hills” (SNT #39) is written as a call and response between the questioner and the shepherd, woman and father. Here is the second stanza:

“Woman, do you scour the house, just to find one coin that’s lost?
Since you have the other nine, is it really worth the cost?”
“But that coin you count so small has for me a special worth.
When it’s found, the sight will fill all my house and heart with mirth!’

“It Was God Who Ran to Greet Him” (AJS #37) spells out the parables’ messages: “It was God who ran to greet him…”/“It was God who swept the kitchen…”/“It was God, who as a shepherd…” Finally, “It is God who runs to meet us, conscious of our every need; then, as we in turn help others, God rejoices in each deed.”

There are three other songs in our hymnals based on the Lost Sheep & Lost Coin (and Lost Son) parables: “A Shepherd with a Hundred Sheep” (AJS #35), “And Jesus Said” (AJS #36), and “Shepherd, Shepherd” (AJS #38). Both parables are mentioned in “Christ Came to Save Us from Ourselves” (AJS #32) and “Where Is the Kingdom” (AJS #1), our regular opening hymn. The Lost Coin also gets a stanza in “Go Worship at Emmanuel’s Feet” (AJS #2).

This is the fourth post in a series about the Parables of Jesus Sunday school class I co-taught at Trinity CRC in Ames. In each post, I make a few observations about the parable, share Naomi Friend’s original artwork she drew during our class, post links to other art about the parable, and share our favorite songs about the parable. Previous posts covered the Parable of the SowerThe Parables of the Mustard Seed & the Leaven, and The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.