Introduction: this is a modern parable to help our Gentile Christian friends imagine the Church from a Jewish believer’s perspective.
There was a young man who had been living in the same house for a while. He had decorated it to his taste and even changed the purposes of some of the rooms, using them as they weren’t originally designed. He loved his home and was very appreciative of it. He often entertained people in it and was very hospitable to strangers.
One day, a man a number of years older than him came to the house, but he didn’t knock. He opened the door and came in; not even wiping his feet or taking off his shoes. The young man approached the older one and inquired what would cause him to just walk into the house. The older man replied and said “do you not know me? I am your brother and this is our house”.
“Yeah, I heard it was our house” said the younger “because our father left me some paperwork to that effect, but I figured you weren’t returning or maybe even that you were dead.”
The older man replied “I’m tired from my travels through distant lands and glad to be home. Our father gave me this land a long time ago, before he built the house for us on it, but he’d planned from the beginning for us to live together in it someday.”
“What are you talking about “the land” is yours?” replied the younger man. “If the house is both of ours then the land is too”.
“Did our father tell you that?”
“Well, not exactly. I too was a wanderer before and was born from ‘away’. When I came from the lands of the aliens and strangers on our father’s invitation, when I asked he gave me a key and said that all he had belonged to me. I didn’t even think that there were things he gave you before I came or was even invited, and if there were I figured they weren’t relevant. I left your things in the house for a while but eventually I just packed them up and put them in the basement. It was all stuff from a long, long time ago that had no meaning to me and besides, it was all over the house. Your customs being born here are different than mine, because I was born ‘away’. When I moved into the house, I just assumed that land was mine, too. All your things are downstairs in several boxes. Like I said, I didn’t think you were going to come for them”. Pausing for a moment the younger man thought, as if remembering something. “Maybe that’s what was meant by that old story about the shopkeeper that brings out treasures, both new and old. ”
The older brother smiled and said “I understand this is a lot to take in at once. Of course everything our father didn’t give to me previously is for both of us to be shared equally. Our father is wise, and figuring this would probably come up, so he gave me a copy of the paperwork and said he left you the exact same copy. In it, are all the details about the land he bequeathed to me and to my children and theirs forever and that my descendants would never be wiped out. You have no need of the land anyway, but it serves a purpose.” Then the older brother added “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to get my things and put them back in my room”.
“Yeah, sure. Which one is your room?”
“That one at the end of the hall on the right”. It had a gold colour mezuzah on the door.
“Oh yeah, about that. I took the mezuzah off when I remodelled the room”.
“What do you mean ‘remodeled the room’?”
“Yeah, it’s not a bedroom anymore but a place for me to hang out with my friends and it’s also a guest room. I love having people come and stay with me and making them feel at home. Our father told me that was reason he build the house.”
“Yes, you’re right about that. He built the house as a place that the alien and stranger could come and become family with us, as well as a place that those of my family that have been away for a long time could come and become family with us, too. Our father sent word to them with instructions so they could find their way here and he gave keys to all those who asked.
“There are ‘other members’ of your family are coming too?”, said the younger brother.
“How many exactly are coming?”
The older brother replied “I’m not sure. Our father sent out invitations and keys were given to any who received our father’s invitation to come live in his house.
“Where are we going to put them all? I mean, I realize now that you and me are supposed to share the house which is fine, and obviously your room is still ‘your room’ and the things our father gave you before I was born are still yours; I ‘get that’…even though I thought they were mine. But now you say others are coming too?”
“There are rooms in this house that you don’t even know about. Our father knew that of all the people he invited; that some of the aliens and strangers would come and some of my descendants would come and he planned for all of that”.
The older brother paused, wondering if he should tell his younger brother the whole story and if now was a good time. He thought for a bit and then slowly continued, “To be honest with you, I was very disobedient and our father sent me away. The land was overrun with foreigners and the house was trashed. After a very long time, I saw the error of my ways and came back and asked our father’s forgiveness. He was very gracious and forgave me, but I didn’t learn. I did the same thing a few years later and again, our father sent me away. Again the land was overrun. Once more, I saw the error of my ways and asked our father’s forgiveness and again he was so gracious and forgave me. Then, while I was living in the house, he told me what he planned from the beginning and I would not hear of it. I was angry. Then everything he said would happened came to pass exactly as he said and I raged at him. Once again I was sent away, this time to the furthest reaches of the earth. The original house was destroyed. But our father build a new one in its place; one made without hands and the one he spoke about a long, long time ago. He put my things in it, knowing someday I would return”.
The older brother stopped and looked in the eyes of his younger brother. “Then he sent word to me about you, I think he was hoping to make me jealous, but I wouldn’t come. My treasure was elsewhere and I really didn’t want to see him and could care less about you. I stayed in the distant lands even though he had prepared a place for me. Then one day our father sent for me and said he was calling me and my descendants back. He reminded me of things he said a long time ago that told about all of what was happening now. Some of my descendants began to make their way back here. They’ve been camping on the land, but don’t have keys to be able to enter the house, at least not yet. Yes, my brother, the house is both of ours and we are joint and equal inheritors of it; just like our father told us in the paperwork he left both of us.”
He paused and waiting for his younger brother to process what he just said. Then he added “you know, I didn’t just come for my things. I am moving back in. Our father gave you copies of the paperwork, have you ever read through them?”
“Yes”, the younger one replied, “but only parts and I didn’t interpret it literally because much of it was based on you actually coming back and I really didn’t think that was going to happen. It was so difficult to take literally because unless you and the promises he made to you and your descendants actually happened, none of it made sense. So I looked at that paperwork in terms of what it meant for me, given you probably weren’t returning. For all I knew you could be dead and so I made some assumptions that made sense of the paperwork.”
The older brother paused and thought and replied “I understand. I didn’t think I was going to come back either”. Then he added quietly, “You know, our father could have given the land away because I broke my word with him time and time again. I was such an unfaithful son. But he reminded me so many few times that the land wasn’t based on my faithfulness but his. Did you realize that in all the paperwork said a few times that nothing would happen that he didn’t speak of and have written down beforehand? Nothing. And nowhere in any of the paperwork did he ever say that the land would be given to anyone else, even though strangers would trample it. It was like those stones in the river, reminding all of my generations and yours that he is faithful. You know, everything our father said happened, just as he said”. Then he sat down and tears filled his eyes. “And the key-maker. Oh, the key-maker! I didn’t realize until recently that our father spoke of the key-maker right from the beginning, because I couldn’t see it”.
The younger son also sat down and repeated along with his brother “oh, the key-maker”. “I can barely understand how he was willing to do what he did”.
The older brother looked at the younger and said “you do know that it was the key-maker was the one that built this house. He was the one that made it possible for us to live here together; me reconciled to our father from my rebellion and sin and you brought from far-away lands and adopted by him to be his heir, my brother and my equal.”. There was a long silence as both thought about the key-maker and the day they will see him again.
The older brother was the first to break the long silence. “From what I’ve read on my long journey back, there is a far more glorious land for both of us than the physical one he left my descendants, along with his promise that my descendants would always exist. It’s a land that will pale in comparison. It’s not a physical land like this one and no one will have to till it or work it. The key-maker himself will come and live with us and all of those that were invited and follow his ways can come. There won’t be any more disobedience or death and no more wandering.”
Both said together “I can hardly wait!”
They laughed and embraced as tears streamed down their faces.
Then turning to his brother, the younger one said “Welcome home brother, let me get your things”.