21. The Return of the Prodigal

Edward Knippers (1946- )
Oil on board
2006
32 x 24

The parable of The Return of the Prodigal Son cuts to the very heart of the Gospel as it tells of a loving
father longing for the return of a wayward child. The homecoming is the moment of rejoicing in the
household of the father by all but the older brother who is represented at the left in the painting. In this
short story, all of humanity and its relationship to God (the Father) are found in the simplest and most
profound terms. Knippers has portrayed the son returning with nothing, not even his clothes. He is literally
naked, as we are stripped before God, when he sees and receives us as we are, in need of his forgiveness.

Luke 15: 11-24
11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father,
give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. 13"Not long after that, the
younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in
wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he
began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to
his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no
one gave him anything. 17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men
have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to
him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your
son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still
a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his
arms around him and kissed him.

21"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to
be called your son. 22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on
him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a
feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they
began to celebrate.

 
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