Roy H. Schoeman is an incredibly insightful author – one of my favorites. He wrote Salvation is From the Jews.
The thrust of one of his arguments is built from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, Chapter 11. He points out that even though many of the Jews who lived during the time of Jesus rejected him as the Messiah, God still did not reject his people. This is something I have always agreed with but I have never been able to articulate it as well as Schoeman does. He points out that even though a stumbling block is placed in front of the Jews it is not so as to make them fall. They have been called into unbelief by God that the Gentiles might partake of their salvation, later they will be grafted back into the tree bringing yet more grace both to themselves and to the Gentiles. I really admire Mr. Schoeman because his argument for the fact is strictly scriptural and leaves practically no room for dispute, while mine has always been theological and leaves plenty of room for dispute.
Naturally this all made me rethink the general interpretation of the Prodigal Son. The interpretation I have always heard regards mankind as the younger son who squanders his inheritance early and wants to steal the food he is supposed to feed to the pigs. He remembers the goodness of his father, who represents God, and returns to his father’s house. Upon his arrival his father greets him and restores him to his place as an heir. This is a good interpretation, but allow me to offer an alternative interpretation.
The faithful son is the Church of Christ. The father is Jesus Christ and the lost son who returns is the nation of Israel. St. Paul told us that Jesus is waiting to return for the full number of Gentiles to come into the Church. After that the nation of Israel will be jealous of the Gentiles and will return. The rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the majority of Israel was represented by the son asking for his inheritance early. What has occurred since the Holocaust is wide spread apostasy and atheism among the Jews. This is represented by the lost son who finally lost everything. It seems to me that if Israel reflected on the favor the Church has found with God and the travesties the Israelites have endured since the foundation of the nation and especially in the past hundred years, they might get a little jealous. In the parable of the lost son this jealousy is disguised, but the astute observer will notice that the lost son is jealous. He realizes that even his father’s servants have more than he himself does and decides to return to his father and repent of his sins. It all makes perfect sense! Israel will repent of her sins and return to Jesus Christ! One thing to be personally on guard for is the reaction of the faithful son to his father’s joy upon learning of the lost son’s return home. The faithful son is angry and jealous! We can see that in the Church today. The majority of Christians do not like the Jews at all. This has been true for the entire life of the Church (much to our shame). The exact same reaction by the Church towards the Sons of Jacob sounds likely. The jealousy of the Church will stem from the mercy of the Father extending to all of Israel for all of time. St. Paul told us, in regards to Israel’s final salvation through Jesus Christ, “In respect to the gospel, they are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”