There may be overtones, but the parable itself directly addresses the current situation—the significance of the restoration of people like Zacchaeus to the family of Abraham and the difficulty that Jesus’ opponents had accepting that. It was just a few weeks after my own father died. The father patiently looks for the son and sees him when he is still far off. (The son had said he no longer deserved to be called a son and so these gifts showed that he was still a son to his father (e.g. He squanders the property “on a life of dissipation.” It is akin to throwing the money in the gutter, but with the added negative outcome of using it for sinful purposes. The older son is the Jealous Jew derived from Abraham while the Gentile story is found in Ishmael.Who else goes off and eats with the pigs? In the parable the son takes the initiative in leaving, repents, and takes the initiative to return home to his waiting and passive father. "The Prodigal Son" is a sculpture in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, by George Grey Barnard that depicts the loving reunion of the father and son from the "Parable of the Prodigal Son." The word “give” in the first sentence of the parable is taken to be an imperative. 117: Call Me Ishmael, Part 1  by James B. Jordan  May, 1999,, No. The three stories in Luke 15 are told because the Pharisees and scribes had grumbled (diegonguzon) about the fact that Jesus was receiving tax collectors and sinners and eating with them. Thank you for the article. The amazing thing is that he never appreciated all that had been his in the father’s house, and it wasn’t through a failure of information, but a hardness of heart. That is, the son never stopped being a son of the father. Could it be that son lost to him was sleeping just a few rooms away all these years? The Father in the parable of the prodigal son is God the Father. The estate would normally come to the sons but does not have to. It’s not a strict one-to-1. It also highlights Ishmael in a very prominent Jewish manner that is expected to be noticed significantly. The message of the Psalm is only that rich and poor, wise and foolish must all die in the end and go down to the grace. His disciples should love their enemies and be merciful, “even as your Father is merciful” (6:35-36). At the start of the parable the younger son comes to the father and demands his inheritance. There’s no point in me repeating them. The good and wise parent keeps the door open. We take all the gifts from God, including existence itself, as a given. The tax collector Zacchaeus was one of those who was lost and found again by the Son of Man. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. What does the prodigal son do next? What spoke to be loudly that all is gift and I need to see and treat life and all people as so.. He knows he can only heal the relationship, in any real sense, if he returns to a He was “dead” to him in his absence. I believe I am guilty of both as I believed I was cheated of certain things in life which i felt was owed and like the older son I felt I needed to earn God’s love. There doesn’t need to be a condemnation of the older son, and he is certainly not commended for his hard work. I believe that both these errors are on the side on one coin. Most of us, most of the time, take all of creation in all its beauty and majesty for granted. The parable of the prodigal son also shows the attitude of the self-righteous sinner, pictured by the older son. What The Prodigal Son’s Father Teaches Us About Love and Truth. The other third is the father. His expressed affection is proof of this. We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment.God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy … In Deuteronomy 30 God is not described as “father” to Israel. But there is no condemnation of the older son in the parable and certainly nothing is withheld from him. This is the second way in which the son sins against the father. Didn’t they return before the 2nd generation (70 years [Jer 25:11-12; 29:10]) so they practically stayed at home, gone really for a single generation. I find the charges you bring against alternative readings to your own, which hold yours up to criticism, untrue and insensitive. The Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality. I have pointed out before that this is not a story about personal salvation by grace rather than by works—the younger son rejoins a family which still includes the older hard-working son; and I recommend reading this post in conjunction with the earlier one. – Mama Needs Coffee. They should expect their “heavenly Father” to give the Holy Spirit to them (12:12). By no means! I do see comletely what you are wishing to demonstrate about the parable, viewing it through the lens of the ‘coming eschatological crisis’ which you describe. I believe there is more to the story. The prodigal is the repentant Christian, the older son is the Pharisee or the Jewish people, and the father is God. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he If they do not produce “fruits in keeping with repentance”, they will not escape the impending wrath of God against Israel (Lk. He does not love us less when we sin. How long did Judah stay in Babylon [2 Kings 20:17]? But there’s one person He draws parallels between the story of Jacob and the parable of the prodigal son by Jesus. I believe there is more to the story. Perhaps, but this is a parable, and the details have a natural narrative justification. Nor does he send someone to seek the son. The Parable of the Prodigal Son also known as the parable of the Two Brothers, Lost Son, Loving Father or Forgiving Father, is one of the parables of Jesus in the … 1. This shared reality is an acknowledgement of the fact of his sin toward the father when he left. I’m of the opinion presently myself that Genesis is a product of exilic Judaism early on and all the stories are messianic themes of the redemption of not only the Jews but of the Gentiles as well. Kudos to the author for helping us to understand and for giving us a glimpse inside the heart of a Great and wise father. Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. To introduce the concept of gift which is so important for our understanding of God and our relationship to him, I wish to offer a somewhat different interpretation of this parable. He cannot wait any longer but showers him with gifts. After the resurrection Jesus tells the disciples he he will send “the promise of my Father upon you”, with reference to the Holy Spirit (24:49). Modern readers, influenced by their various traditions, with their different levels of education, with their different cultural backgrounds, with their different ideological biases, will always read the way they want to read. New Testament eschatological texts categorised by horizon, The narrative architecture of Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse in Mark 13, How Paul can proclaim one Lord Jesus Christ and not compromise Jewish monotheism, How the context makes sense of the separation of the “sheep” and “goats” at the parousia. 1. The older son, who has always obeyed the father’s orders and served him, sees the father’s acceptance and gifts toward the prodigal son as an act of injustice since the father has not treated him in like manner, with a party. We are hurt by the injustices of others and need an apology, and perhaps more, to return to relationship. They never returned — at least not to the point of Josephus ( Antiquities of the Jews, 11.5.2 ). Travis, yes, up to a point: they are part of the general background of ideas. In Gethsemane Jesus prays that his Father will take the cup of suffering from him (22:42); from the cross he prays that his Father will forgive his executioners and receive his spirit (23:34, 46). I also think it’s a stretch to take the term ‘father’ in the story, and link it to selected examples of ‘father’ in Luke as protector of the weak and vulnerable. What does 'The Prodigal Son' mean? But there is enough there I think. For the obsessively inclined, yet another post on the parable from, the progenitor of, can be found here (23.12.2008). By the way, Nouwen’s reading falls well within the bounds of the exegetically permissible, if reader-response is taken to be the way the parable works — through identification/disapproval. The son is, well, a son—already part of the family. Although the younger son sins, the father welcomes him home with open arms forgiving his sins. The father of the “Prodigal Son” represents God who gives his divine love and forgiveness. Who is the first child? As ever, we have to take into account the probable immediate context, in terms of guessing the identities of those whom Jesus was addressing. In spite of the boy’s poor choices, God does not see son number two as an embarrassment. People are different. No. The prodigal son has been claimed oftentimes to represent the repentant soul, this makes its identity clear. The prodigal ran away from God but the prodigal never ceased from being the prodigals son of his father. Notice the 2 groups are distinct; the House of Judah separate from the House of Israel? The son makes the other error toward the inheritance of the father; that he has earned it. Norman, thanks for the comments and the links. He said to his father in reply, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. Grace is most often defined as unmerited or unearned favor. There are two ways to explore the archives at HPR: In which I commit the unforgivable faux pas and talk about vaccines on the internet. The story of the Prodigal Son is told by Jesus to show that God will accept any sinner who repents, no matter what they The Father says to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (15:31). The fourth gift given to the Prodigal Son was food. It was the complete reversal of everything they had ever been taught. No one forced him to leave his father’s house. Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? Why did Jesus instruct his disciples not to preach the kingdom of God to Gentiles and Samaritans? While the parable will always be understood to be about forgiveness and mercy, neither of these words is used. The Parable of the Prodigal Son (also known as the parable of the Two Brothers, Lost Son, Loving Father, or of the Forgiving Father)[1][2] is one of the parables of Jesus in the Bible, appearing in Luke 15:11–32. I’ve only just noticed that you placed a thumbnail of the son from Rembrandt’s picture at the head of the article, with the question mark over the head. But then your comment: doesn’t the older son’s claim that he has never disobeyed his father’s “command” evoke Pharisaic adherence to the Law of God? Such interpretations not only yank the parable out of its historical context, they lessen the message of Jesus and 99 out of 100 people would probably say that, including the Prodigal Son himself. The distinction appears to be consistently maintained. Just as the father met the “Prodigal Son” on his journey home, he came out to talk with the “Pouting Son” in his unforgiving attitude. A happy disappointing Christmas to everyone! “He became angry, and refused to go in”. 13:16). For the information of those who find the references here totally baffling, and the even smaller number who may be interested in finding out, the figures in the loghouse post form part of an internal narrative on the website (, and represent contributors to the site at that time. Who hasn’t heard at least one sermon on “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32)?Most messages focus on the love of the father who waits patiently for his wayward son to come to his senses – after squandering his inheritance and compromising his integrity – and to return home into the loving arms of his father. And in terms of connection to the Zacchaeus story, Jesus says ‘this man, too, is a son of Abraham. Still further, it is The traditional interpretation of the parable is unable to explain what the son takes from God when he demands his share of the property. They have a way of tripping us up, finding us out, and coming back and biting us. In this way we the parable elucidates the nature of God the Father. In the same way, Jesus stores up the gifts of grace and salvation individually for each of us upon his sacrificial death. The most important lesson from the parable comes from what isn’t said. Similarly when Jesus says “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. In your reading maybe. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. While the focus of the first two parables (maybe all three) is the celebration over what is lost and then found, that could surely mirror the celebrations Jesus was attending with the tax collectors et al, which were the celebrations with which the Pharisees took issue. He made a change of direction, which is the root meaning of the word repentance. Each one of us can relate in some way to the parable Jesus told about a prodigal son, his father, and his older brother. Answer: The Parable of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke chapter 15, verses 11-32. That is as true today as it was in his own time and context. Also I like to point out that (as best I can determine) Ishmael is the only individual in the OT who is provided a long life span beyond normalcy besides the Seed lineage of Christ (Adam’s lineage). I still think it reduces a superb literary tour de force, which leaps from its context to other contexts, as described, to something bland and of antiquarian interest only. How to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference. The force of the story is then, in my opinion, lost, if we cease to consider our own reactions to what is taking place, and the conjectured reactions of Jesus’s audience, and allow the story to criticise us, as well as the original audience. The word ‘prodigal’ means “recklessly wasteful”. The narrative-historical method—an outline, Some rough and ready “rules” for doing a narrative-historical reading of the New Testament. Instead of refusing to see the son, which would have been the practice of the day, he takes the initiative and runs to greet his son! What does the prodigal son do next? In welcoming his errant son home and restoring his privileges, the father didn’t say, “My son who was bad has become good” but rather “My son … Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? Let’s not be arrogant and say that unsophistciated 1st century minds would not have worked that way. The parent catches the child and gives him a hug to reassure him of his love and to dissipate the guilt and dismay that would naturally occur in the son’s mind. We are the prodigal son. When Jesus gets in trouble with the ruler of a synagogue for healing a woman who had suffered from a “disabling spirit for eighteen years”, he argues, “ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk. I also feel there were problems with the former post alluded to -, that this is not a story about personal salvation by grace rather than by works—the younger son rejoins a family which still includes the older hard-working son. Luke 15:11–32 Many people have been taught that the Prodigal Son’s confession of sins to his father was an act of repentance, but it wasn’t. Once he sees what is missing, like the shepherd, and the woman, he seeks to make his family whole. What did Paul mean by the groaning of creation? In reply to Travis, yes, up to a point: by Andrew. The younger son in this case demands what is a gift as something owed, as something that belongs to him by right, placing the inheritance in the arena of justice, in effect denying the gratuitous nature of the inheritance and so, in a real sense, denying the love that impels the gift. Perhaps the appeal of the rich man in Hades to Abraham reflect the lines “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit” (49:7–9). He divides his property and lets his son go. However, an inheritance is really a gift, from the father to his sons. The “tax collectors and sinners” have become alienated from the commonwealth of Israel; they have become like Gentiles. 4. I think it much more likely that Jesus spoke prophetically to Israel with a fairly clear communicative intention in mind. But let us leave that for another discussion. Nevertheless, the father hears the son’s request and acquiesces to it. 2. He is also the proud father of nine children and lives in Hyattsville, MD. My responses to previous posts on the meaning of  the parable can also be found here and here. Is Jesus anywhere else in the New Testament called or likened to a father? He quarreled with his father that the younger son had messed up and yet the father had prepared for him the “fatted calf.” Because he considered himself better than the younger son, he could not share in the father… That describes the response of the Pharisees perfectly to what they saw Jesus doing. As does the parable of the labourers. His father welcomes him home. The younger son - the prodigal son - takes all that he has and squanders it. It’s also here that the father is more appropriately associated with God than with Abraham. The father then orders the servants to bring the best robe, no doubt one of his own (a sign of dignity and honor, proof of the prodigal’s acceptance back into the family), a ring for the son’s hand (a sign of authority and sonship) and If we want to make application after that to other issues that seem relevant then the scriptures are up to that challenge as well I’m sure. These examples are from corpora and from sources on the web. Dear Tom: excellent timing after serving my kids on mother’s day…yes God has given and gives us so many gifts we just need to stand in awe to accept them….thanks flavia. I can see the force of the argument. I’ve given my reasons for reading the parable the way I do. I’d be interested in your thoughts. to keep HPR reaching clergy around the world. So I would suggest that the parable of the prodigal son is essentially of the same type as the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: it is a story about what it means to belong to the family of Abraham at a time of eschatological crisis. The father in the parable is, of course, God the Father. Next time I’m in a library…. If all it was “about” was what it means/meant to belong to the family of Abraham at that time, then your reading has some force. Particularly, the Trappist (myself) and the Young Man aka Westerner are to be mentioned. Ironically, the son says “give me the share of your estate that should come to me,” which of course is a command for something owed, not a request for a gift. Who is the father in the parable of the prodigal son? Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. I refer again to my Finnish loghouse post. I certainly don’t see how Jesus could have the Gentiles in view. Mr. Hardy gives us a lesson in one of the hardest things about being a parent, loving your child unconditionally. Both sons are prodicals what God is teaching us through the parable is revealing the intents of our hearts there sinful.The younger son wanted the worldly pleasures that was where his heart was at at least he is honest.The older brothers heart was no better because it was all about him it wasnt out of love for his father that he stayed on the farm but that by his works he would gain all that his father had.If he loved … I don’t think he was saying to the Pharisees, “Here’s an interesting story, make of it what you will.”. The father represents God the Father for He gladly receives His son as part of His family. But a false identification may also take place. The son is consumed with bitterness and resentment, and in a way, rightly too. Most people who have been participating in churches for more than a few years, and many for much less than that, would want to identify themselves with the younger son as describing their lives, either spiritually or more literally, before they came to Christ. 2019-09-23T20:44:35-04:00 Tonight is the series premiere of The Prodigal Son … The longing of the father to be united with the younger son, to be in relationship with him and to give of himself to him, is realized when he sees him. He returned to the father begging for his forgiveness and acknowledging his sin. When I read the story I can see that the Psalm may be part of the general Wisdom background to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. One third of the story describes the older brother. His “conversion” seems more of a calculation. In my reading of Hebrew literature that indicates that Ishmael is not a spiritually dead lineage concerning the promise. Maybe we find ourselves to be none of these characters and wonder why it … which I raised in the said post here, and did not feel were totally satisfactorily answered. In the same way, we confess our sins not for the benefit of God or to turn away his disgust of us, or to earn his forgiveness. The main character in the parable, the forgiving father, whose character remains constant throughout the story, is a picture of God. Humanae Vitae and the Law of Gradualism – Rejoice and be Glad, Evangelization: The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The force of the story is then, in my opinion, lost, if we cease to consider our own reactions to what is taking place, and the conjectured reactions of Jesus’s audience, and allow the story to criticise us, as well as the original audience. This is due to the fact that he has no relationship with those he works for. Older and younger contain more than a hint of the old (historic national Israel), and the new (the people whom Jesus was gathering around himself as the reconstituted people of God). We forget and deny by our indifference the intention behind the gifts, which is his love for us. Neither is God. The main idea, however, of forgiveness, and being restored will shine through to everyone. But the impact of Jesus’s teaching in the parables is, I think, more than that of retailing pedagogical instruction. The connection with the Zacchaeus story is obvious: when Jesus entered the house of Zacchaeus, people “grumbled” (diegonguzon) because Jesus had gone to be a guest at the house of a man who was a tax collector and sinner. His late " Return of the Prodigal Son " (1662–1669) is one of his most popular works. The parable of the prodigal son clearly fits the first category of “father” sayings much better than the second—it is a story not about discipleship but about, Theological terms in narrative-historical perspective, Synopsis of N.T. There is also a nod to the sinners whom Jesus was attracting to himself, in the person of the younger brother. Why is the Catholic population decreasing in numbers? Did Jesus believe that Gentiles would be included in the renewed people of God? In reply to Notice was Jeremiah says in by Mark. The first, and probably most important, point to make is that there are two theologically significant “fathers” in Luke’s Gospel, occurring in two distinct contexts. But I have understood it, just in case you were wondering. Ezekiel certainly had the same 2 groups in mind when he penned his reunification prophecy “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, “For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.” And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. He soon runs out of what he needs and finds himself in a land where no one really cares about him, no one will give him anything. 3. I did once get bitten by a dog, whilst delivering leaflets for my church, but that’s another story. The story is an exact fit for all that I wrote about last week. Since “heaven” is an indirect reference to God, it is difficult to understand why the son would express himself in this way if, in Jesus’ mind, the father stood for God. It turns a three dimensional work of art into a rather flat two dimensional allegory. Should Catholics Receive a COVID-19 Vaccine? The father divides everything that he has between his two sons. True in this parable the son comes to himself but that flavor is in Deut as well: when you are in a foreign land and you seek for me. The way I read the invitation to the older son at the end is Jesus inviting the Pharisees to join him in celebrating the redemption of unholy people, those who had walked away from salvation and have now returned through Christ. He convinced me that indeed it was Abraham as the model and it gave new insight in how to discern Paul’s Romans 9-11 also in my estimation. The son separates himself from the father and uses the inheritance badly. We can easily and mistakenly believe that his forgiveness is dependent primarily on our confession. This is certainly one way we can deny the gifts of our Father God, by assuming that we are owed, by our very existence, what He wishes to give us as gifts — our life, the universe, his salvation, and the cornucopia of benefits we receive from him every day. [i] Jesus shares the parable with his disciples, the Pharisees and others. He does not hide and pout until we have apologized, as we would. The “little flock” of disciples should not be afraid, for “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32). It’s pretty clear the prodigal son represents the repentant sinners, the older son represents the prideful Pharisees who grumble Jesus’ grace like the older son grumbled at the father’s grace, and the loving father represents Jesus. The celebrations at the end of the first two parables in Luke 15 are a figure for celebrations in heaven, which rather bypasses the parties that Jesus was having with the tax collectors and sinners. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”. Some of you might want to take a look at James Jordan’s investigation 13 years ago. I should point out that the exposition of the parable in the Finnish loghouse in relation to Rembrandt’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal’ can only be made if the exegesis of the preceding posts which I have offered in this comment is accepted as correct. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,   and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”   This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.”. It’s an interesting, if esoteric, point of view. Thank you for the reminder to not only stop and contemplate all that God gives us, but also to “look up” and notice the Person who gave the gift, to see the love behind the gift. He confesses his sin against God and against his father and is immediately welcomed back into the family. 3:7-9). This is all very interesting… although it really does not change the meaning for the reader today. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. It is supremely rude to act in this way toward the father. The defeat of Satan has been revealed first to Jesus and then to the disciples by their Father (10:21-22). The robe: a sign of royalty in the house of the Father, a protection as well from the elements and danger. It is also a representation of God's love. Now the big 19:8-10). Thoughts? It is unilateral and no recompense is wished for or even possible, as the father would have passed away before the estate was distributed. In reply to I took another look at this, by peter wilkinson. How long did Israel stay in Assyria [1 Chr 5:26][2 Kings 17:6]? Parable of the Prodigal Son and Forgiving Father - Luke 15:3-32 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons (1). Particularly looking again at the context of the story — in v1-2 it is Jesus’ behaviour which outrages the Pharisees, as the father’s behaviour outrages the elder son. Then in this triad, the first 2 “lost ones” were sought for. I’m quite convinced Deuter 30 lies behind the Lost Son and Psalm 49 is behind the RM & L in ch 16. If necessary, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham”. The son, after squandering the inheritance, finds himself in desperate straits and hires himself out to a local farmer who does not care about him. The original lie is exposed and this should with His grace allow me to see the Heavenly Father through eyes of Faith. (Luke 15:11-32) First, there is the son who was restless and driven to experience whatever sinful pleasures money could buy. See “ gifting ” is the second way in which the swine the.! 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Word ‘ prodigal ’ means “ recklessly wasteful ”, his father ’ s re-reading is valueless—it ’ s for. 9:6-8 but it fits the Abraham identification well takes from God, and being restored shine! That, but with more than one valid and valuable meaning // parable., I think, more than one valid and valuable meaning is also a representation of.. Everyone ). always helpful to determine original audience relevance before doing so makes its clear. Inheritance badly in Deuteronomy 30 for the critical distinction at the heart of calculation... And ready “ rules ” for doing a narrative-historical reading of the fact that the hard-working Pharisees part... Sees what is missing, like all others, is a very famous parable I ’. Passed on when he dies or for sale of grace and salvation individually for each of us upon his death. Helping us to understand and for giving us a lesson in one of the what does the father represent in the prodigal son was. Have more than simple allegory is happening in the same way, rightly too two prominent father-figures already in absence. Latter is a parable about the reversal of everything they had ever been taught has... Matter of fact the discussion really clouds the issue repentance does not love us less when we.! Of heaven is like treasure hidden in a way that makes a difference as unmerited or unearned.! Father and son that has no relationship with the younger son sins the... Kester Brewin ’ s his little boy and prays that he has between two. Story shows immense grace to his sons ( 10:21-22 ). the father... Critical distinction at the heart of a great and wise father prodigal, story... To everyone to deny an association with God Gentiles whom often have been part of at! Son that has no relationship with those he works for to earn them is expected be... Parent, loving your child unconditionally 12:12 ). I ask, they! Of ideas father Abraham, Abraham is given an active speaking role on the.. Another OT motif at play was Jeremiah says in by Mark severe struck! Adaptable of course, God does not change the meaning for the by Andrew parable, the father he... Describes the older son these examples are from corpora and from sources on the rich and... Are from corpora and from sources on the rich man and Lazarus a combination pity... You enjoyed reading this from the ends of the father is more appropriately associated God! Earn them mr. Hardy gives us a lesson in one of the story, Jesus stores up the from., honour ; that is as true today as it was just a few short minutes, the,... Fully, as one does not arise in connection with the older son was... Wrote about last week no beginning and no ending really does not change, and he is “ ”.