Rembrandt van Rijn was a brilliant painter who, among other subjects in his career, captured biblical scenes with magnificent clarity. His painting, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” portrays the return of the wayward son to his father based upon Jesus’s parable in Luke 15.
The painting captures that life had been hard for this young man, as Rembrandt presents him with a missing shoe, and with the remaining shoe in tatters. His clothes and hair are disheveled, and his body emaciated and spent. It had been a mad race leaving him empty, exhausted, and ashamed.
We know from Luke 15 that this son had demanded his inheritance from his father, and in so doing was communicating that he wished his father was dead. The father yielded to the request, and subsequently this brazen rebel squandered it all on wasteful living.
The parable fast forwards us to this son who had spent all his money and was now starving in a pig pen far from home. The turning point in this rebel’s life is found in Luke 15:17 where the text says in an economy of words, “he came to his senses.” As he reflected on the good nature of his father, he acknowledged to himself that his behavior was indeed crazy.
This is a very helpful commentary on sin and rebellion. In short, it is insanity. The narrative of the Bible underscores that rebels never live “happily-ever-after” if they carry on in their rebellion. From the earliest pages of the Scripture, the Lord God of heaven expresses hatred toward rebellion and pledges to judge it. We also learn that this God who abhors sin is also a Father who forgives and restores those who come to Him with their brokenness and failure. God is the ultimate rebel lover, but we must come on His terms.
One of the memorable rock anthems of the 1970’s was from Kansas entitled, “Carry on My Wayward Son.” The song speaks eloquently of the pride, confusion, and lostness of a prodigal in search of truth and meaning. (more…)