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A CONTEXTUAL READING OF LUKE 15:11-31: How does God relate to marginalised people? Part 1

In my previous post, a friend jokingly commented that maybe i should be called the advocate for the marginalised. Interestingly, I believe that it is for this I am placed on the earth; to be the voice of those who have been silenced and who may not even be able to articulate their own disenfranchisement. My own experiences have made me very vocal on issues of human rights and social exclusion. I am aware that I may not be popular among moralists and fundamentalists but I have counted the cost and remain resolute in what I believe.

The following is the first part of a contextual reading of the parable we commonly call the "Prodigal Son". In this I hope that marginalised people will situate themselves and that those guilty of prejudice will find personal reconciliation with that which they claim to be protecting.

The Gospel according to St Luke consists of 24 chapters; the author of this gospel is Luke. The book is considered as the longest and the most thorough book of all the four Gospels. The area of focus is on chapter 15. This is further sub-divided into three parables namely the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son and his loving father. The main focus is on the parable of the lost son and his loving father which is taken from St Luke 15: 11-31.

The parable concerning the love of the Father, commonly called the story of the prodigal son, at times, has traditionally been read as an evangelistic passage.( Kaiser &Silva, 2007,164). Even though this parable is the longest of the three and is much more detailed than the others. This particular story is of interest because it reminds us that not only our earthly father loves and cares for us, but more so our Heavenly Father to the point where whenever we walk out of his will he is faithful and just to forgive us and accepts us just as we are and that he wants the best for us.
The researcher seeks to explore the purpose of the text, exegete the portion of chosen text, the meaning of it and try to get a better understanding of the parable and the intended meaning, and also to look at the various interpretations of scriptures and its relevance to us.

History/Background

Luke was a Gentile Physician, but interestingly he was also the author of The Book of Acts. Luke wrote these books in order to aid a new Christian named Theophilus. (Kaiser & Silva, 2007, 164) Luke presents a detailed historical account of Jesus’ life. He presents the records of what Jesus said and his acts, also God’s mercy towards the Gentiles. It was said to have been written (possible) at Caesarea or Rome in the period about A.D. 56 or 58. Though it was written to Theophilus mainly, it was intended for the Greeks and also to all Gentiles in general.
Paul is said to be the apostle and Luke the evangelist to the Gentiles. What is said to be the most predominant character of Luke’s gospel is the universality of it. The Sermon on the Mount, its epitome depicts that of a universal love unlike Matthew’s version. Racism was not evident by the mission of the seventy, whose number was distinctive of the Gentile world. In the book of Luke the selection of parables and miracles were peculiar in the selection to that of the other books.

The Book of Luke is very peculiar and it sets the tone for others, it is very unique in the sense that only Luke discloses the fact of the penitence of the dying thief, it speaks about the conversion of the chief publican, Zaccheaus, the parable of the lost sheep and the lost piece of money, and it relates to the pardon of the woman who was a sinner, and also the parable of the Prodigal son were all mentioned only in Luke.

Luke the evangelist conveys the Lords death as atonement for the sins of the entire world. Luke is the only author who stated that in dying he prayed for his murderers. St Luke is definitely the Gospel of the Redeemer, as the embodiment of Divine Love. It provides reassurance and optimism for all who are lost and are wavering. Luke being the physician that he is, it is said that all his words are medicine for a languishing soul (Doren 1981, xii, xiii).

Interestingly, it was Luke who recorded the genealogy of Jesus to include the women, gentile women even; some with even far less commendable past. It was Luke who recorded the parable of the good Samaritan. It was Luke who recorded the story of the rich man and Lazarus, of the Samaritan leper who returned to say thanks, of the persistent widow; and of Zaccheus. Luke used these and other stories because he wanted to show that the place of the Gentile (representative of spiritual/religious/moral degenerates) Christian in God’s Kingdom is based on the teaching of Jesus. Perhaps a contextual reading of the Gospel according to this gentile will help u understand further his purpose and intent in the stories he chooses to highlight; portraying Jesus as not simply the Jewish Messiah who has come to save the entire world but as One who is concerned about all human beings and every human condition; no matter where each person finds himself or herself at.

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