The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most powerful parables Jesus tells in the bible and is a favorite among many, myself included. Surprisingly, I haven’t read any re-tellings of this story, so I was excited to have the chance to read The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning & Greg Garrett. Not only is it Manning’s last work, but it’s an easy read with a beautiful story line.
From the inspirational author of The Ragamuffin Gospel comes a powerful contemporary retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jack Chisholm is “the people’s pastor.” He leads a devoted and growing megachurch, has several best-selling books, and a memorable slogan, “We have got to do better.” Jack knows how to preach, and he understands how to chastise people into performing. What he doesn’t know is anything about grace. This year, when it comes time for the Christmas sermon, the congregation at Grace Cathedral will look to the pulpit, and Jack will not be there. Of course, they will have seen plenty of him already—on the news. After an evening of debauchery that leads to an affair with his beautiful assistant, Jack Chisholm finds himself deserted with chilling swiftness. The church elders remove him from his own pulpit. His publisher withholds the royalties from his books. Worst of all, his wife disappears with their eight-year-old daughter. But just as Jack is hitting bottom, hopeless and penniless, drinking his way to oblivion, who should appear but his long-estranged father, imploring his prodigal son: “Come home.”
A true companion piece to The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Prodigal illustrates the power of grace through the story of a broken man who finally saw Jesus not because he preached his greatest sermon or wrote his most powerful book, but because he failed miserably. Jack Chisholm lost everything—his church, his family, his respect, and his old way of believing—but he found grace. It’s the same grace that Brennan Manning devoted his life to sharing: profound in nature and coming from a God who loves us just as we are, and not as we should be.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was the sense of hope the reader is left with. Everything doesn’t wrap up (and some of the things that do aren’t what you’d expect, i.e. wrapped up neatly with a sparkly bow), but this makes it all the more real. A story people can relate too.
Even as you read through Jack’s life rebuilding and consequences of his actions, there’s glimpses of hope for what will come and how you’re never too far away to return home.
What are some of your favorite retellings? Have you read any Prodigal Son stories?