Here is the inverted parallelism for the second half of the parable:
A. He Stands Aloof - 25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves [young boy] and asked what was going on.
B. Your Brother – Peace (a feast) Anger - 27 He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.' 28Then he became angry and refused to go in.
C. Costly Love - His father came out and began to plead with him.
D. My Actions, My Pay - 29 But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.
D. His Actions, His Pay - 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!'
C. Costly Love - 31 Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
B. Your Brother – Safe (a feast) Joy! - 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"
A. The Missing Ending???? – [And the older son embraced his father and entered the house and was reconciled to his brother and to his father. And the father celebrated together with his two sons.]
Kenneth Bailey compares the two sons in his book Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15. On page 182 he writes:
- Each son at a critical point starts from the field
- Each makes a movement to return to the house but as a servant (the prodigal as a craftsman, the older son claiming to be a slave.)
- Each expects to be paid for services rendered. The prodigal anticipates becoming a misthos precisely because they are paid. The older son argues that he has worked and has not been adequately compensated – he has received no goat!
- Each insults the father and thus breaks the relationship with him on a very deep level. (The older son’s break with his father is more profound because the insult is public.)
- Each at some point tries to manipulate the father in order to serve his own interests.
- Each wants the money of the estate for his own pleasure. (The prodigal disposed of his portion and spent it in the far country. The older son expresses anger that he does not have the freedom to dispose of the goat herd as he pleases.)
- Each searches out and finds a primary community separate from the father and the family. (The prodigal does this in the far country. The older son speaks of “my friends” who are not present at the banquet. They are not part of the extended family and its friends and associates. The older son wants his own party with his friends somewhere else.)
- For each, the father makes a public costly demonstration of unexpected love.
- Each tries to break up the family by rejecting primary relationships within it.
- Both are equally welcome at the banquet.
Bailey goes on to quote an Arabic phrase that says “Each one of them is worse than the other.” One brother is the rebel and the other is the faithful obedient son but they have one thing in common: Neither understands the love of the father and both have wounded him deeply. Still, the father's love reaches out to them both.
What are we to make of this parable?