Friday, 9 March 2018

The Parable of the Unexpected Ending by Ros Bayes

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

I’ve just returned from a trip to India, staying in the home of some young ladies, teaching them  English and having the amazing privilege of sharing my testimony them. They asked me lots of questions about my home, and it’s been enlightening and refreshing to see my world through fresh eyes. For example, they couldn’t imagine streets where the drivers don’t honk their horns all the time, or where dozens of dogs don’t roam freely, making their home and even giving birth in the street. And their astonishment was highly amusing when I told them there are no monkeys in my country, other than in zoos. I hope I can keep that sense of surprise and wonder when I’m writing about things that are boringly familiar to me.

One of the highlights of my trip was telling the story of the prodigal son to three young ladies who had never heard it before. They listened intently to the story, and had clearly already determined in their mind how it would end, because when the father came running down the road their jaws literally dropped and they sat open mouthed. When he threw his arms around his son and ordered the best clothes and shoes, a ring and a no-expense-spared party, I saw the shock on their faces turn to delight, and they looked around at each other as though to share the wonder.

It gave me a real insight into how Jesus’ hearers must have reacted the first time that story was ever told. That this boy, who had effectively wished his father dead should be accepted unconditionally by a father who was apparently totally unoffendable must have been startling. And it reinforced in my own heart my sense of worship at the astounding love of God. I hope and pray that in my writing this will be the God I manage to convey to my readers. I wrote a poem in response to this experience (also published on my blog):

On hearing the story of the prodigal son for the very first time 

How astounding it must have been
to those first hearers of the story.
After he wished the years away,
wished his father gone and laid to rest,
his palms itching to grasp the lucre,
his mind reeling with the possibilities –
disposable means, available choices,
everything until now denied to him
in a world where every day was a fait accompli;
after he broke his mother’s heart
(why is she not mentioned in the story?
Was her grief too deep, too sacred for public sharing?)
After he squandered his children’s birthright,
and for what? Not so much as a mess of pottage;
after he dragged his family’s name
into the literal mire of pig dung;
everyone present knew how the story would end.
And even now, I can see the jaws dropping,
The eyes widening,
The slow, delighted upward curl
of the corners of the mouths
spreading quickly into exultant incredulity.
And me, as I read again Your pièce de résistance
I find myself agape too, at how wide of the mark
my picture of the Father has been,
at how insanely recklessly He loves,
how limitless is His capacity
to bear insult and still forgive.
If this had been the only speech you ever made
It would have told us everything we need to know.

Ros Bayes has 10 published and 4 self-published books, as well as some 3 dozen magazine articles. She is the mother of 3 daughters, one of whom has multiple complex disabilities, and she currently works for Through the Roof ( as their Training Resources Developer, and loves getting paid to write about disability all day. You can find her blog at and her author page at Follow her on Twitter: @rosbwriting.


  1. Beautiful poem and very moving. So true - it must have been an amazing experience for you to see people reacting to it in just the way Jesus's original hearers would have reacted. That story turns upside down everything negative about God that the Old Testament writers have conveyed to modern audiences - that has had such a toxic effect on outspoken Church-and-God-haters in today's world, like Dawkins and Philip Pullman.

  2. I love this Ros! Gave me goosebumps and enabled me to see it afresh through their eyes. Thank you!

  3. It really was a goosebumps experience. And brought home to me again how astonishing God's love really is.