Chapter 16 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 18
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
THE THREE PARABLES OF THE GOSPEL: OF THE RECOVERY OF
OF THE LOST SHEEP, THE LOST DRACHM, THE LOST SON.
(St. Luke 15.)
A SIMPLE perusal of the three Parables, grouped together in the
fifteenth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, will convince us of their connection.
Although they treat of 'repentance,' we can scarcely call them 'The Parables of
Repentance;' for, except in the last of them, the aspect of repentance is
subordinate to that of restoration, which is the moral effect of repentance.
They are rather peculiarly Gospel-Parables 'of the recovery of the lost:' in
the first instance, through the unwearied labour; in the second, through the
anxious care, of the owner; and in the third Parable, through the never-ceasing
love of the Father.
Properly to understand these Parables, the circumstance which
elicited them must be kept in view. As Jesus preached the Gospel of God's call,
not to those who had, as they imagined, prepared themselves for the Kingdom by
study and good works, but as that to a door open, and a welcome free to all,
'all the publicans and sinners were [constantly] drawing near to Him.' It has
formerly been shown,1
that the Jewish teaching concerning repentance was quite other than, nay,
contrary to, that of Christ. Theirs was not a Gospel to the lost: they had
nothing to say to sinners. They called upon them to 'do penitence,' and then
Divine Mercy, or rather Justice, would have its reward for the penitent.
Christ's Gospel was to the lost as such. It told them of forgiveness, of what
the Saviour was doing, and the Father purposed and felt for them; and that, not
in the future and as reward of their penitence, but now in the immediate
present. From what we know of the Pharisees, we can scarcely wonder that 'they
were murmuring at Him, saying, This man receiveth "sinners," and eateth with
them.' Whether or not Christ had on this, as on other occasions,2
joined at a meal with such persons - which, of course, in the eyes of the
Pharisees would have been a great aggravation to His offence - their charge was
so far true, that 'this One,' in contrariety to the principles and practice of
Rabbinism, 'received sinners' as such, and consorted with them. Nay, there was
even more than they charged Him with: He not only received them when they
sought Him, but He sought them, so as to bring them to Him; not, indeed, that
they might remain 'sinners,' but that, by seeking and finding them, they might
be restored to the Kingdom, and there might be joy in heaven over them. And so
these are truly Gospel-Parables, although presenting only some aspects of it.
1. See Book III. ch. xvii.
2. St. Matt. ix. 10, 11.
Besides their subject-matter, these three Parables have some
other points in common. Two things are here of chief interest. They all proceed
on the view that the work of the Father and of Christ, as regards 'the Kingdom,'
is the same; that Christ was doing the work of the Father, and that they who
know Christ know the Father also. That work was the restoration of the lost;
Christ had come to do it, and it was the longing of the Father to welcome the
lost home again. Further, and this is only second in importance, the lost was
still God's property; and he who had wandered farthest was a child of the
Father, and considered as such. And, although this may, in a wider sense, imply
the general propriety of Christ in all men, and the universal Fatherhood of
God, yet, remembering that this Parable was spoken to Jews, we, to whom these
Parables now come, can scarcely be wrong in thinking, as we read them, with
special thankfulness of our Christian privileges, as by Baptism numbered among
the sheep of His Flock, the treasure of His Possession, and the children of His
3. The only other alternative would seem, if one were to narrow the underlying ideas in a strictly Predestinarian sense. But this seems not only incompatible with the third Parable, where all turns on personal resolve, but runs contrary to
the whole spirit of these Parables, which is not of the exclusion of any, but of the widest inclusion.
In other particulars there are, however, differences, all the
more marked that they are so finely shaded. These concern the lost,
their restoration, and its results.
1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. - At the outset we
remark that this Parable and the next, that of the Lost Drachm, are
intended as an answer to the Pharisees. Hence they are addressed to them: 'What
man of you?'4
'or what woman?'5
just as His late rebuke to them on the subject of their Sabbath-cavils had been
couched: 'Which of you shall have a son or an ox fallen into a well?'6
Not so the last Parable, of the Lost Son, in which He passed from
defence, or rather explanation, of His conduct, to its higher reason, showing
that He was doing the work of the Father. Hence, while the element of
comparison (with that which had not been lost) appears in most detailed form in
the first Parable, it is generalised in the second, and wholly omitted in the third.
4. St. Luke xv. 4.
5. ver. 8.
6. St. Luke xiv. 5.
Other differences have to be marked in the Parables themselves.
In the first Parable (that of the Lost Sheep) the main interest centres
in the lost; in the second (that of the Lost Drachm), in the search;
in the third, in the restoration. And although in the third Parable the
Pharisees are not addressed, there is the highest personal application to them
in the words which the Father speaks to the elder son - an application, not so
much of warning, as of loving correction and entreaty, and which seems to
imply, what otherwise these Parables convey, that at least these Pharisees had
'murmured,' not so much from bitter hostility to Christ, as from spiritual
ignorance and misunderstanding.
Again, these Parables, and especially that of the Lost Sheep,
are evidently connected with the preceding series, that 'of warnings.' The last
of these showed how the poor, the blind, lame, and maimed, nay, even the
wanderers on the world's highway, were to be the guests at the heavenly Feast.
And this, not only in the future, and after long and laborious preparation, but
now, through the agency of the Saviour. As previously stated, Rabbinism placed
acceptance at the end of repentance, and made it its wages. And this, because
it knew not, nor felt the power of sin, nor yet the free grace of God. The
Gospel places acceptance at the beginning of repentance, and as the free gift
of God's love. And this, because it not only knows the power of sin, but points
to a Saviour, provided of God.
The Lost Sheep is only one among a hundred: not a very
great loss. Yet which among us would not, even from the common motives of
ownership, leave the ninety-and-nine, and go after it, all the more that it has
strayed into the wilderness? And, to take these Pharisees on their own ground,7
should not the Christ have done likewise to the straying and almost lost sheep
of His own flock? Nay, quite generally and to all time, is this not the very
work of the 'Good Shepherd,' and may we not, each of us, thus draw from it
precious comfort? As we think of it, we remember that it is natural for the
foolish sheep so to wander and stray. And we think not only of those sheep
which Jewish pride and superciliousness had left to go astray, but of our own
natural tendency to wander. And we recall the saying of St. Peter, which, no
doubt, looked back upon this Parable: 'Ye were as sheep going astray; but are
now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.'8
It is not difficult in imagination to follow the Parabolic picture: how in its
folly and ignorance the sheep strayed further and further, and at last was lost
in solitude and among stony places; how the shepherd followed and found it,
weary and footsore; and then with tender care lifted it on his shoulder, and
carried it home, gladsome that he had found the lost. And not only this, but
when, after long absence, he returned home with his found sheep, that now
nestled close to its Saviour, he called together his friends, and bade them
rejoice with him over the erst lost and now found treasure.
7. There is to some extent a Rabbinic parallel Parable (Ber. R. 86, ed. Warsh. p. 154 b,
about the middle), where one who is driving twelve animals laden with wine, leaves the eleven and follows the twelfth into the shop of a Gentile, for fear
that the wine which it bears might be mixed there.
8. 1 Pet. ii.25.
It needs not, and would only diminish the pathos of this
exquisite Parable, were we to attempt interpreting its details. They apply
wherever and to whatever they can be applied. Of these three things we think:
of the lost sheep; of the Good Shepherd, seeking, finding, bearing,
rejoicing; and of the sympathy of all who are truly friends -
like-minded with Him. These, then, are the emblems of heavenly things. In
heaven - oh, how different the feeling from that of Pharisaism! View 'the
flock' as do the Pharisees, and divide them into those who need and who need
not repentance, the 'sinners' and the 'righteous,' as regards man's application
of the Law - does not this Parable teach us that in heaven there shall be joy
over the 'sinner that repenteth' more than over the 'ninety-and-nine'
'righteous,' which 'have not need of repentance'? And to mark the terrible
contrast between the teaching of Christ and that of the Pharisees; to mark
also, how directly from heaven must have been the message of Jesus, and how
poor sinners must have felt it such, we put down in all its nakedness the
message which Pharisaism brought to the lost. Christ said to them: 'There is
joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.' Pharisaism said - and we quote
here literally - 'There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish
from the world.'9
9. Siphr�, ed. Friedmann, p. 37 a, line 13 from top.
2. In proceeding to the second Parable, that of the Lost
Drachm, we must keep in mind that in the first the danger of being lost
arose from the natural tendency of the sheep to wander.10
In the second Parable it is no longer our natural tendency to which our loss is
attributable. The drachm (about 7 �d. of our money) has been lost, as
the woman, its owner, was using or counting her money. The loss is the more
sensible, as it is one out of only ten, which constitute the owner's property.
But it is still in the house - not like the sheep that had gone astray -
only covered by the dust that is continually accumulating from the work and
accidents around. And so it is more and more likely to be buried under it, or swept
into chinks and corners, and less and less likely to be found as time passes.
But the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and seeks diligently, till
she has found it. And then she calleth together those around, and bids them
rejoice with her over the finding of the lost part of her possessions. And so
there is joy in the presence of the Angels over one sinner that repenteth. The
comparison with others that need not such is now dropped, because, whereas
formerly the sheep had strayed - though from the frowardness of its nature -
here the money had simply been lost, fallen among the dust that accumulates -
practically, was no longer money, or of use; became covered, hidden, and was in
danger of being for ever out of sight, not serviceable, as it was intended to
be and might have been.
10. In St. Matt. xviii. 12-14, the same Parable is used, but with different application - not as here to the loss, but to what men might deem the smallness
of the loss, with special reference to the command in ver. 10 (ver. 11 in the text of our A.V. is spurious).
We repeat, the interest of this Parable centres in the search,
and the loss is caused, not by natural tendency, but by surrounding
circumstances, which cover up the bright silver, hide it, and render it useless
as regards its purpose, and lost to its owner.
3. If it has already appeared that the two first Parables are
not merely a repetition, in different form, of the same thought, but represent
two different aspects and causes of the 'being lost' - the essential difference
between them appears even more clearly in the third Parable, that of the
Lost Son. Before indicating it in detail, we may mark the similarity in
form, and the contrast in spirit, of analogous Rabbinic Parables. The
thoughtful reader will have noted this even in the Jewish parallel to the first
Parable,11 where the
reason of the man following the straying animal is Pharisaic fear and distrust,
lest the Jewish wine which it carried should become mingled with that of the
Gentiles. Perhaps, however, this is a more apt parallel, when the Midrash12
relates how, when Moses fed the sheep of Jethro in the wilderness, and a kid
had gone astray, he went after it, and found it drinking at a spring. As he
thought it might be weary, he laid it on his shoulder and brought it back, when
God said that, because he had shown pity on the sheep of a man, He would give
him His own sheep, Israel, to feed.13
As a parallel to the second Parable, this may be quoted as similar in form,
though very different in spirit, when a Rabbi notes,14
that, if a man had lost a Sela (drachm) or anything else of value in his
house, he would light ever so many lights (twrn hmk qyldm twlytp hmk) till he had found what
provides for only one hour in this world. How much more, then, should he
search, as for hidden treasures, for the words of the Law, on which depends the
life of this and of the world to come!15
And in regard to the high place which Christ assigned to the repenting sinner,
we may note that, according to the leading Rabbis, the penitents would stand
nearer to God than the 'perfectly righteous' (Myqydc Myrwmg), since, in Is. lvii.
19, peace was first bidden to those who had been afar off, and then only to
those near. This opinion was, however, not shared by all, and one Rabbi
that, while all the prophets had only prophesied with reference to penitents
(this had been the sole object of their mission), yet, as regarded the
'perfectly righteous,' 'eye hath not seen' O God, beside Thee, what 'He hath
prepared' for them.17
Lastly, it may, perhaps, be noted, that the expression 'there is joy before
Him' (htyh wynpl hxm#) is not uncommon in Jewish writings with reference to events
which take place on earth.
11. See Note on p. 255 of this chapter.
12. on Ex. iii. 1.
13. Shem. R. 2, ed. Warsh, p. 7 b, about the middle.
14. on Prov. ii. 4.
15. Midr. on Cant. i. 1, ed. Warsh p. 3 a, about the middle.
16. Ber. 34 b about the middle.
17. Is. lxiv. 4.
To complete these notes, it may be added that, besides
illustrations, to which reference will be made in the sequel, Rabbinic
tradition supplies a parallel to at least part of the third Parable, that of
the Lost Son. It tells us that, while prayer may sometimes find the gate of
access closed, it is never shut against repentance, and it introduces a Parable
in which a king sends a tutor after his son, who, in his wickedness, had left
the palace, with this message: 'Return, my son!' to which the latter replied:
'With what face can I return? I am ashamed!' On which the father sends this
message: 'My son, is there a son who is ashamed to return to his father - and
shalt thou not return to thy father? Thou shalt return.' So, continues the
Midrash, had God sent Jeremiah after Israel in the hour of their sin with the
call to return,18
and the comforting reminder that it was to their Father.19
18. Jer. iii. 12.
19. Debar. R. 2, on Deut. iii. 25, which, in general, contains several references to repentance, ed. Warsh. p. 7 b, about the middle.
In the Parable of 'the Lost Son,' the main interest
centres in his restoration. It is not now to the innate tendency of his
nature, nor yet to the work and dust in the house that the loss is
attributable, but to the personal, free choice of the individual. He does not
stray; he does not fall aside - he wilfully departs, and under aggravated
circumstances. It is the younger of two sons of a father, who is equally loving
to both, and kind even to his hired servants, whose home, moreover, is one not
only of sufficiency, but of superabundance and wealth. The demand which he
makes for the 'portion of property falling' to him is founded on the Jewish Law
Presumably, the father had only these two sons. The eldest would receive two portions,
the younger the third of all movable property. The father could not have
disinherited the younger son, although, if there had been several younger sons,
he might have divided the property falling to them as he wished, provided he
expressed only his disposition, and did not add that such or such of the
children were to have a less share or none at all. On the other hand, a man
might, during his lifetime, dispose of all his property by gift, as he chose,
to the disadvantage, or even the total loss, of the first-born, or of any other
children; nay, he might give all to strangers.21
In such cases, as, indeed, in regard to all such dispositions, greater latitude
was allowed if the donor was regarded as dangerously ill, than if he was in
good health. In the latter case a legal formality of actual seizure required to
be gone through. With reference to the two eventualities just mentioned - that
of diminishing or taking away the portion of younger children, and the right of
gift - the Talmud speaks of Testaments,22
which bear the name Diyatiqi, as in the New Testament.23
These dispositions might be made either in writing or orally. But if the share
of younger children was to be diminished or taken away, the disposition must be
made by a person presumably near death (Shekhibh mera). But no one in
good health (Bari) could diminish (except by gift) the legal portion of
a younger son.24
20. See ch. xvi. Note 1.
21. But in regard to such disinheriting of children, even if they were bad, it was said, that the Spirit of Wisdom did not rest on them who made such disposition
(Baba B. viii. 5).
22. It may be interesting here to quote, in connection with the interpretation of Heb.
vii. 18, viii. 7-13, this Rabbinic principle: 'A testament makes void a
[previous] testament,' Jer. Baba B. 16 b, below.
23. Baba B. viii. 6; Moed K. iii. 3.
24. The present Jewish Law of Inheritance is fully given in Fassel, Mos. Rabb. Civil-Recht, vol. i. pp. 274-412.
It thus appears that the younger son was, by law, fully
entitled to his share of the possessions, although, of course, he had no right
to claim it during the lifetime of his father. That he did so, might have been
due to the feeling that, after all, he must make his own way in the world; to
dislike of the order and discipline of his home; to estrangement from his elder
brother; or, most likely, to a desire for liberty and enjoyment, with the
latent belief that he would succeed well enough if left to himself. At any
rate, his conduct, whatever his motives, was most heartless as regarded his
father, and sinful as before God. Such a disposition could not prosper. The
father had yielded to his demand, and, to be as free as possible from control
and restraint, the younger son had gone into a far country. There the natural
sequences soon appeared, and his property was wasted in riotous living. Regarding
the demand for his inheritance as only a secondary trait in the Parable,
designed, on the one hand, more forcibly to bring out the guilt of the son,
and, on the other, the goodness, and afterwards the forgiveness, of the Father,
we can scarcely doubt that by the younger son we are to understand those
'publicans and sinners' against whose reception by, and fellowship with, Christ
the Pharisees had murmured.
The next scene in the history is misunderstood when the
objection is raised, that the young man's misery is there represented as the
result of Providential circumstances rather than of his own misdoing. To begin
with, he would not have been driven to such straits in the famine, if he had
not wasted his substance with riotous living. Again, the main object is to
show, that absolute liberty and indulgence of sinful desires and passions ended
in anything but happiness. The Providence of God had an important part in this.
Far more frequently are folly and sin punished in the ordinary course of Providence
than by special judgments. Indeed, it is contrary to the teaching of Christ,25
and it would lead to an unmoral view of life, to regard such direct
interpositions as necessary, or to substitute them for the ordinary government
of God. Similarly, for our awakening also we are frequently indebted to what is
called the Providence, but what is really the manifold working together of the
grace, of God. And so we find special meaning in the occurrence of this famine.
That, in his want, 'he clave26
(ekollhqh) to one of the
citizens of that country,' seems to indicate that the man had been unwilling to
engage the dissipated young stranger, and only yielded to his desperate
importunity. This also explains how he employed him in the lowest menial
service, that of feeding swine. To a Jew, there was more than degradation in
this, since the keeping of swine (although perhaps the ownership rather than
the feeding) was prohibited to Israelites under a curse.2728
And even in this demeaning service he was so evil entreated, that for very
hunger he would fain have 'filled his belly with the carob-pods that the swine
did eat.' But here the same harshness, which had sent him to such employment,
met him on the part of all the people of that country: 'and no man gave unto
him,' even sufficient of such food. What perhaps gives additional meaning to
this description is the Jewish saying: 'When Israel is reduced to the
carob-tree, they become repentant.'2930
25. St. Luke xiii. 2, 3.
26. More literally, 'was glued.' The LXX. translate thus the Hebrew qbd, 'to cleave.'
27. Baba K. 82 b, and the reference to it in the Midrash on Eccles. viii. 1.
28. This prohibition is connected by tradition with Maccabean times.
29. Vayyik. R. 35 ed. Warsh., pp. 53 b, 54 a.
30. The fruit of the carob-tree is regarded in Jewish and heathen literature as the
poorest, and, indeed, only fit for animals. See Wetstein ad loc.
According to Jewish ideas, it took seventy years before the carob-tree bore fruit (Bekhor. 8 a). It is at least doubtful whether the tree is mentioned in the Old Testament (the )kb of 2 Sam. v. 23, 24). In the Mishnah it is frequently referred to (Peah i. 5; Shabb. xxiv. 2; Baba B. ii. 7). Its fruit seems to have been the food of ascetics, such as Chanina b. Dosa, &c. (Ber. 17 b), and Simeon b. Jochai (Shabb. 33 b), even as
it had been that of John the Baptist. Its leaves seem on occasions to have been used as writing-material (Tos. Gitt. 2).
It was this pressure of extreme want which first showed to the
younger son the contrast between the country and the circumstances to which his
sin had brought him, and the plentiful provision of the home he had left, and
the kindness which provided bread enough and to spare for even the hired
servants. There was only a step between what he said, 'having come into
himself,' and his resolve to return, though its felt difficulty seems implied
in the expression: 'I will arise.' Nor would he go back with the hope of being
reinstated in his position as son, seeing he had already received, and wasted
in sin, his portion of the patrimony. All he sought was to be made as one of
the hired servants. And, alike from true feeling, and to show that this was all
his pretence, he would preface his request by the confession, that he had sinned
'against heaven' - a frequent Hebraism for 'against God'31
- and in the sight of his father, and hence could no longer lay claim to the
name of son. The provision of the son he had, as stated, already spent, the
name he no longer deserved. This favour only would he seek, to be as a hired
servant in his father's house, instead of in that terrible, strange land of
famine and harshness.
31. Other terms were also substituted (such as 'Might,' 'Mercy,' &c.) - with the view
of avoiding needless mention of the Deity.
But the result was far other than he could have expected. When
we read that, 'while he was yet afar off, his father saw him,' we must
evidently understand it in the sense, that his father had been always on the
outlook for him, an impression which is strengthened by the later command to
the servants to 'bring the calf, the fatted one,'32
as if it had been specially fattened against his return. As he now saw him, 'he
was moved with compassion, and he ran, and he fell on his neck, and covered him
Such a reception rendered the purposed request, to be made as one of the hired
servants, impossible - and its spurious insertion in the text of some important
affords sad evidence of the want of spiritual tact and insight of early
copyists. The father's love had anticipated his confession, and rendered its
self-spoken sentence of condemnation impossible. 'Perfect love casteth out
fear,' and the hard thoughts concerning himself and his deserts on the part of
the returning sinner were banished by the love of the father. And so he only
made confession of his sin and wrong - not now as preface to the request to be
taken in as a servant, but as the outgoing of a humbled, grateful, truly
penitent heart. Him whom want had humbled, thought had brought to himself, and
mingled need and hope led a suppliant servant - the love of a father, which
anticipated his confession, and did not even speak the words of pardon,
conquered, and so morally begat him a second time as his son. Here it deserves
special notice, as marking the absolute contrast between the teaching of Christ
and Rabbinism, that we have in one of the oldest Rabbinic works35
a Parable exactly the reverse of this, when the son of a friend is redeemed
from bondage, not as a son, but to be a slave, that so obedience might be
demanded of him. The inference drawn is, that the obedience of the redeemed is
not that of filial love of pardoned, but the enforcement of the claim of a
master. How otherwise in the Parable and teaching of Christ!
32. St. Luke xv. 23.
33. Or 'kissed him much,' katefilhsen auton.
34. ver. 21. See marg. of R. V.
35. Siphr�, ed. Friedm. p. 35 a.
But even so the story of love has not come to an end. They have
reached the house. And now the father would not only restore the son, but
convey to him the evidence of it, and he would do so before, and by the
servants. The three tokens of wealth and position are to be furnished him.
'Quickly' the servants are to bring forth the 'stola,' the upper garment of the
higher classes, and that 'the first' - the best, and this instead of the
tattered, coarse raiment of the foreign swineherd. Similarly, the finger-ring
for his hand, and the sandals for his unshod feet, would indicate the son of
the house. And to mark this still further, the servants were not only to bring
these articles, but themselves to 'put them on' the son, so as thereby to own
his mastership. And yet further, the calf, 'the fatted one' for this very
occasion, was to be killed, and there was to be a joyous feast, for 'this' his
son 'was dead, and is come to life again; was lost, and is found.'36
36. Thus the text correctly. As it seems to me, the words do not, in the first place, point to a moral change. Dogmatically, the inference is no doubt correct, but,
as Goebel remarks, they would scarcely have, in that sense, been
addressed to the servants.
Thus far for the reception of 'publicans and sinners,' and all
in every time whom it may concern. Now for the other aspect of the history.
While this was going on, so continues the Parable, the elder brother was still
in the field. On his return home, he inquired of a servant the reason of the
festivities which he heard within the house. Informed that his younger brother
had come, and the calf long prepared against a feast had been killed, because
his father had recovered him 'safe and sound,' he was angry, would not go in,
and even refused the request to that effect of the father, who had come out for
the purpose. The harsh words of reproach with which he set forth his own
apparent wrongs could have only one meaning: his father had never rewarded him
for his services. On the other hand, as soon as 'this' his 'son' - whom he will
not even call his brother - had come back, notwithstanding all his disservice,
he had made a feast of joy!
But in this very thing lay the error of the elder son, and - to
apply it - the fatal mistake of Pharisaism. The elder son regarded all as of
merit and reward, as work and return. But it is not so. We mark, first, that
the same tenderness which had welcomed the returning son, now met the elder
brother. He spoke to the angry man, not in the language of merited reproof, but
addressed him lovingly as 'son,' and reasoned with him. And then, when he had
shown him his wrong, he would fain recall him to better feeling by telling him
of the other as his 'brother.'37
But the main point is this. There can be here no question of desert. So long as
the son is in His Father's house He gives in His great goodness to His child
all that is the Father's. But this poor lost one - still a son and a brother -
he has not got any reward, only been taken back again by a Father's love, when
he had come back to Him in the deep misery of his felt need. This son, or
rather, as the other should view him, this 'brother,' had been dead, and was
come to life again; lost, and was found. And over this 'it was meet to make
merry and be glad,' not to murmur. Such murmuring came from thoughts of work
and pay - wrong in themselves, and foreign to the proper idea of Father and
son; such joy, from a Father's heart. The elder brother's were the thoughts of
a servant:38 of
service and return; the younger brother's was the welcome of a son in the mercy
and everlasting love of a Father. And this to us, and to all time!
37. St. Luke xv. 32.
38. It may be worth mentioning a somewhat similar parable in Bemidb. R. 15 (ed. Warsh. p. 62 b, near beginning). Reference is made to the fact, that, according
to Numb. vii., all the twelve tribes brought gifts, except Levi. Upon that
follows in Numb. viii. the consecration of the Levites to the service of the Lord. The Midrash likens it to a feast which a king had made for all the people, but to which he does not bid his special friend. And while the latter seems to fear that this exclusion may imply disfavour, the king has a special feast for his friend only, and shows him that while the common meal was for all, the special feast is for those he specially loves.
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