Hope, from an image. Not just an image, but a painting. Not just a painting, but a Rembrandt; Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son.
Rembrandt’s painting connects with a biblical passage, Luke 12. Here is my “Readers Digest” version, a short paraphrase that does not do the full story justice. So, accept my apology. A younger brother, working with his father and older brother in the field, complained to his father about the hard work, the boredom. He wanted to leave with all of his inheritance immediately. The father agreed, with great consternation. The younger brother left on his adventure, and it was not long before he blew his inheritance on drink and revelry. Hungry because he had no food, no money. He got a job at a pig farm, and saw that the pigs were getting fed better than he was. The younger brother then decided to go back home, humble himself before his father (he was truly humbled, broken, devastated) and apologize; he would take a job as a hired hand. At least he would not go hungry.
When the prodigal son came into view from where his father stood, the father ran to his son with unfathomable gratitude that his lost son was back. He instructed his servants to put together a feast. The (above) painting shows the younger son, the prodigal, in his ragged clothes, humbling himself before his father, expressing his sorrow for being a fool, and leaving home. The older son’s jealousy and anger with his younger brother. The older brother stands to the right in the painting, looking on, with jealous and angry with his younger brother.
Rembrandt painted The Return of the Prodigal Son about two years before his death, suggesting that Rembrandt identified with the Prodigal. Rembrandt died penniless, before his fame could catch up with him.
Other paintings resonate with the theme of The Return of the Prodigal Son, such as “Merry Company” by Gerrit van Honthorst (1623), showing the Prodigal squandering his inheritance.
I refer to hope, in this post, connected to Rembrandt’s painting, simply because the Prodigal found love, acceptance, and a place to belong.
Lastly, I cherish The Return of the Prodigal Son because I am a prodigal. The difference is that I never really returned home. I just made visits. Yet, my father always loved me; always accepted me; always welcomed me.
All of this comes with strange timing. Father’s day is coming up, and I consider that I could have been a better father for my son; as my father was to me. My father is 93, and he recently experienced a fairly serious turn for the worst in the last 48 hours. My brothers and I are hoping for the best. Hope is what we have. Hope emerges from different places, different people, different stories.