March 16, 2011 § 1 Comment
Unlike Luke, who tells three parables of a lost son, a lost sheep, and a lost coin (Luke 15), Matthew only tells the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14). We know the son in the parable of the lost son (in Luke 15) is called a prodigal son. But it is really a parable of a waiting father. And if we understand the meaning of prodigal to be much more than merely lost, it is really a story of a prodigal father. According to various dictionaries, to be prodigal is to be wasteful, rashly extravagant, giving in abundance, lavish, profuse, very generous, munificent, unsparing. The son may have been that in all the wrong ways, but the father is that in his love and mercy. In Matthew 18:10-14 it comes in the form of prodigal shepherds. The parable of a sheep owner who left ninety-nine sheep behind to go look for the one that wandered off is ultimately a reference to how God is: “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (18:14). But it started off as a command from Jesus to his disciples (against the background of the preceding story where He reminded them that they need to be like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven – Matthew 18:1-9): “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones” (18:10). We live in a culture where only the big ones count. The majority rules. The dominant culture sweep us away. To be a prodigal shepherd means to go against the streams of power with an intense focus on those who are marginalized and left behind.