Did Jesus storytell to shock his audience?

Perhaps Jesus hoped that encountering an unexpected twist — something that caused us to gasp in surprise — would lead us on a fresh approach to life? His first century listeners were likely astounded by the telling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but are we?

Jesus frequently taught with a genre called a parable. His parable storytelling employed examples from everyday life – farming, feasts, and families. Jesus used parables to teach a lesson that had a hidden message. Theologian Barclay tells us that a parable was “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning” [1].

The “earthly” part: your typical messy family with teenagers who want their own way. So what is the “heavenly meaning” behind our current Rotation story? What is Jesus hoping that we hear?

Not surprisingly, to extract this unrevealed explanation requires contemplation! So dig right in! Gather your family around and discuss. Reflecting on this parable will likely challenge your thoughts about how God works; the nature of God’s grace!

A sign with a fist says I want it now!When we hear the story of the Prodigal Son, does any portion of it bring you to a complete stop?

Does it bother you that the youngest son asks his father for his share of the estate? (After all, it was as if he were saying: “I wish you were dead so I could have my money.”)

We’ve heard it expressed from our kids (and even from adults?): I want it now!

Jesus’ first listeners were likely waiting for the father to put this nervy son in his place. But surprisingly, the father generously divides his property between his two sons! What is happening here?

Does it bother you that this son then leaves home and goes out and spends lavishly and earns the title: Prodigal Son? (A prodigal being a word most frequently associated with reckless and wasteful spending.) He has sinned big time, with underlying transgressions: broken relationships and alienation from his home community (because you can be sure that the whole town heard about his choices).

Does the father try to stop him? Nope.

And when he sees the light and comes back home (with his tail between his legs) does the father lecture with “I told you so!”?

Prodigal Son banner

No! The father runs to greet his wayward son! He throws a welcome home party! He shows love and compassion rather than judgment and condemnation!

Ah, here comes a hint of the hidden lesson of this parable – allegory is at work — This father represents God!

Is this how God works?

Yep. This surprising story twist helps us see that regardless of the offense, there is always forgiveness and grace from God! Pretty shocking isn’t it?

a blue line

Discuss this story at the family dinner table, or wherever your family is gathered. (In the car?) Start off with reading our story in Luke 15:11-32.)

Ask these questions:

  • What did you think of the way the father reacted when his son came home?
  • Were you surprised? Did you expect him to say “I told you so,” and scold his son for what he did?
  • The son had intended to work his way back into his father’s favor; how does that plan work out?
  • The father doesn’t allow his son to pay him back. No maneuvering or bargaining on the part of the son was required. It’s as if the father is handing him a do-over. Does it surprise you to think that God acts the same way towards us?
  • How do you suppose we can receive this sort of forgiveness from God? (simply by confessing and asking for forgiveness)
  • What shall we do in response to such extravagant love?


a blue line

[1] Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Mark.


Photo credits:
I want it now! by Denise Krebs, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Prodigal Son banner © 2005-2015, SparkleBox Teacher Resources Limited; used with permission.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.