Prodigal Son and Israel’s Return from Exile

Tom Wright comments on the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15 with reference to the ‘return from exile’ backdrop (Luke for Everyone):

Inside this story there is another dimension which we shouldn’t miss. One of the great stories of Israel’s past was of course the Exodus, when Israel was brought out of Egypt and came home to the promised land. Many years later, after long rebellion, Israel was sent into exile in Babylon; and, though many of the exiles returned, most of Jesus’ contemporaries reckoned that they were still living in virtual exile, in evil and dark days, with pagans ruling over them. They were still waiting for God to produce a new Exodus, a liberation which would bring them out of their spiritual and social exile and restore their fortunes once and for all. For Jesus to tell a story about a wicked son, lost in a foreign land, who was welcomed back with a lavish party – this was bound to be heard as a reference to the hope of Israel. ‘This my son was dead, and is alive’; ever since Ezekiel 37 the idea of resurrection had been used as picture-language for the true return from exile. Yes, says Jesus, and it’s happening right here. When people repent and turn back to God – which, as we’ve seen, meant for Jesus that they responded positively to his gospel message – then and there the ‘return from exile’ is happening, whether or not it looks like what people expected. His answer to the Pharisees and other critics is simple: if God is fulfilling his promises before your very eyes, you can’t object if I throw a party to celebrate. It’s only right and proper.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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