The Prodigal Son

By Tom Quiner


James Farentino died on Tuesday.

The actor appeared in over a hundred roles in the movies, on television, and on stage.

I liked the characters he played. He was always compelling to watch on screen. There is a single role, though, that stood above all of his other performances. That was his riveting Emmy-nominated portrayal of Peter in the mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth.”

To me, “Jesus of Nazareth” is the best Jesus movie ever made. “The Gospel of John” is a close second.

I purchased both movies and watch one or the other during Holy Week each year.

The Prodigal Son scene in Jesus of Nazareth is simply a work of genius in the hands of Director, Franco Zeffirelli. Let me set the scene:

The reviled tax collector, Matthew, comes to hear Jesus speak. Peter goes ballistic and wants him thrown out of his house. Peter, like everyone in his day, despised the tax collector and his lowlife cronies.

Jesus rebukes Peter and lets Matthew stay and hear His message. Matthew is so taken by Jesus’ kindness and acceptance that he invites Him to come to his house that evening.

Jesus accepts.

Again, Peter is furious.

Jesus asks Peter to come, but Peter refuses and says he will never step foot in that man’s house.

That leads us to the tender drama in the video clip above. (To view the clip, simply click the play button and they’ll ask you to click a link to view it at YouTube.)

Jesus begins to tell his most beloved parable, The Prodigal Son. As the story unfolds, he turns and looks at Peter who stands in the doorway, since he refused to step foot in Matthew’s house.

And it hits Peter in a profound revelation: I am the older brother.

And it hits Matthew in a profound revelation: I am the younger brother.

Peter is shaken to the core and tentatively crosses the threshold of his enemy’s house. He stands before his Master and says, “I am such  a stupid man.”

And through the grace of God, Peter the Rock is reconciled with his “brother”, Matthew, the future disciple of Christ and the author of the first gospel.

I will never forget Mr. Farentino’s sensitive portrayal of this beloved disciple.

[The Prodigal Son is unceasingly relevant to our lives. Click here for another Quiner’s Diner reflection on Jesus’ most popular parable.]