The parable of The Compassionate Father consists of two inverted Parallelisms. The first is about the younger son and contains eight stanzas. The second is about the older son and contains seven stanzas.
I you are not familiar with this type of presentation, note that “A.” below is answered by the next “A.,” “B.” by the next “B.” and son on. Here are the first eight stanzas as named by Kenneth E. Bailey:
11Then Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons.
A. DEATH 12 The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them.
B. ALL IS LOST 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.
C. REJECTION 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.
D. THE PROBLEM? 17 But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!
D. THE SOLUTION? 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands."
C. ACCEPTANCE 20 But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
B. ALL IS RESTORED 21 Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe -- the best one -- and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
A. RESSURECTION 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!' And they began to celebrate.
These eight stanzas leave us with the relationship between the father and youngest son reconciled. It is this part of the story that most of us identify with. I think most often people identify with the prodigal son in this story and long for the love the father shows him.
But Jesus’ story is not complete. The youngest son has returned but the oldest son is not yet home from working in the fields that day. There are problems yet to be resolved. Technically the father no longer owns the estate. The father has the right to make use of whatever he needs for his own needs but the older son owns the estate.
How will the older son respond to the lavish grace the father has bestowed on the younger son?