The Prodigal Son.
February 18th, 2002
Received by H.
On the following day, Jesus said goodbye to Zebedee, thanking him for his hospitality. He left, taking with him his new disciples. He suggested Peter and Andrew return to Kpar Nahum in their boat, while he would return by foot in the company of James, John, Simon and Philip. And so they did. Peter and Andrew were not very happy with this decision, because they suspected that Jesus would give some first lessons to the others, but reluctantly they consented.
The distance between Bethsaida and Kpar Nahum was not long, only a few miles. The four disciples, who had hoped to receive deep instructions, were disappointed. Jesus talked with them, but he did not give any explanations, he only smiled uncannily, until they arrived at the place where the river Jordan pours its water into Lake Tiberias. Crossing the tributary, they arrived at the shanty where the tax collector used to bail up the passers-by. He used to stay in the shack together with some armed men, not exactly soldiers, but people he had hired to give him security. However this time, for some reason, he was alone. And when he saw Jesus’ companions, he turned pale from terror. Yes, he knew these radicals, the Zebedee brothers and the others, and he really feared for his life.
Jesus told them to stay behind, while he approached the tax collector. He smiled to him and everybody could feel the wave of love that the Master radiated. “Follow me!” he said to Matthew, and the collector, to everyone’s surprise, obeyed him. He left his shanty like he was in a state of hypnosis and joined the group.
The four did not know what to do. What was this? A test? Should they protest or keep silent? How was it possible that the Master cared about such garbage? Didn’t he know who Matthew was? Didn’t he know that he fraternized with the hateful foreigners, with the nobility that had moved away from the people, that he was a leech that stole the last denarius they had gained with their hands’ work? Did he not know this?
When Jesus resumed the walk, they lagged a little behind, discussing the matter in low voices. Finally, they resolved to keep silent and to wait for what would come.
Matthew has already commented to you what had happened, that he was a very unhappy person, enjoying money but lacking peace and friends. And in fact, Jesus’ presence had hypnotized him. Frequently in life, we face the decision of following the footprints of others, or choosing another direction, about which we know deep inside that this is the correct way. However, we always think: What will the others say? Won’t it be dangerous? And so, we continue with the crowd, allowing an opportunity to pass, and trying to find our way and our realization in the goals that others propose to us. Eventually, that situation becomes ever more difficult. Dissatisfaction finds its expression in several ways: In resignation, in aggression, in hate against those who dared to choose another direction, in scorn of oneself, etc. And it sometimes triggers a cry from our chest: Please, help me! Nevertheless, when the help comes, we often do not accept it, because our fear is very strong. All along our path, we have nurtured and caressed it. And now the fear is a monster that is capable of dominating what is left of our courage and enthusiasm.
These are the situations of extreme anguish, when our cry brings us help. In Matthew’s case, he had the good luck that it was the Master in person who came to help him. However, somebody always comes. Perhaps you don’t see them, but you can feel them. This somebody offers help, and he gives you energy. He is a catalyst, so to say, diminishing the initial energy necessary to start a reaction. He helps you to overcome your internal resistance, your fear. And Jesus certainly was a first class catalyst.
You also know that Matthew invited Jesus and the disciples to a farewell party, his leaving party from his job, and that Matthew’s partners were also present there, or rather, his employees, because he was the boss.
It was a cheerful and happy party, and Peter and Andrew were also there. Cheerful and happy for some, because their boss was saying good-bye, leaving free the way for one of them to be the new chief collector, with the opportunity of filling his pockets with many coins from bribes, and for the others, because now Jesus did give them a first lesson:
He had come with a glorious message of Love and of Forgiveness. He explained to them that God waited for each of them with open arms, as a loving father does. And for the very first time they had the opportunity to listen to one of the Master’s parables:
There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that comes to me.” So he divided his wealth between them. Not long afterwards the younger son got everything together and traveled to a distant country, where he wasted his money in debauchery and excess.
At last, when he had spent everything, there came a terrible famine throughout that country, and he began to feel the pinch of want. So he went and hired himself out to one of the inhabitants of that country, who sent him to his farm to tend swine; and he longed to make a hearty meal of the pods the swine were eating, but no one gave him any. But in assessing his situation he said, “How many of my own father’s hired men have more bread than they want, while I here am dying of hunger! I will rise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you: I no longer deserve to be called a son of yours: treat me as one of your hired men.” So he rose and came to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and pitied him, and ran and threw his arms round his neck and kissed him tenderly. “Father,” cried the son, “I have sinned against Heaven and before you: no longer do I deserve to be called a son of yours.” But the father said to his servants, “Fetch a good coat quickly - the best one - and put it on him; and bring a ring for his finger and shoes for his feet. Fetch the fat calf and kill it, and let us feast and enjoy ourselves; for my son here was dead and has come to life again: he was lost and has been found.” And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was out on the farm; and when he returned and came near home, he heard music and dancing. Then he called one of the servants to him and asked what all this meant. “Your brother has come,” he replied; “and your father has had the fat calf killed, because he has got him home safe and sound.” Then he was angry and would not go in. But his father came out and entreated him. “All these years,” replied the son, “I have been slaving for you, and I have never at any time disobeyed any of your orders, and yet you have never given me so much as a kid for me to enjoy myself with my friends; but now that this son of yours is come who has wasted your property amongst his bad women, you have killed the fat calf for him.” “You my dear son,” said the father, “are always with me, and all that is mine is also yours. We are bound to make merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has come back to life, he was lost and has been found.”
And the four revolutionaries wondered, who was the lost son, who had come back to life, they or Matthew? And Peter and Andrew were happy, enjoying the glare of fame, because they had “discovered” the Messiah. And Matthew meditated on coincidence. This same morning he had heard the old woman as she yelled in the streets, telling everybody how she had been cured and rescued from death by the selfsame Messiah. And he had headed reluctantly to his tax post, thinking of that Messiah. What would he bring? A war? Destruction? Be that as it may, it surely meant the end of his career. And he turned sad and irritated. And just when he was meditating without coming to any solution, he saw how these four hotheads approached, people he feared like the plague, and with them, this tall man, with those eyes....
This is a good moment for stopping our account. The lesson Jesus gave on that occasion go far beyond what the disciples had grasped. Think it over.
God bless you,
Your brother in the spirit,
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013