If there is a parable that is famous, this is the one! The prodigal son has much in it to speak on, and if we are lucky, I will be able to get my thoughts out in one post, but that is highly unlikely!
But lets get at it, and read the passage.
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
It is important to understand the original audience to understand a bit better the intent of the message. This second parable is no exception. Lets read the first three verses to ensure we know who is hearing this story for the very first time!
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:3 So he told them this parable:
As we pointed out in the last post, we have tax collectors and sinners drawing near to Him! But look – them Pharisees and Scribes are lurking about, checking out this preacher, protecting the nation from heresy and false prophets. What heros!
When did the Lord give this parable?
This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out the following download.
Where did the Lord teach the parable?
During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, and finally in Jerusalem.
Why did the Lord give this message?
This final parable continues with the theme mentioned previously, that is of reckless love for the sought and rejoicing with neighbors when the lost is found.
What was the message for the original audience?
This message speaks of the reckless love of the Father in seeking out both the prodigal and the elder son. Remember who the audience is in this telling of the story, in that the tax collectors and sinners are coming to see the Messiah, along with the guardians of the nation of Israel, the ones who are “working God’s field”!
Sinners and Tax Collectors
It is obvious that sinners and tax collectors were attracted to the Messiah, and that this story speaks of their return to God the Father, of God’s reckless love to reach His lost and rejected people. It is a story of rejection by the younger son, and of an ever patient Father who waits for the son to come to his senses, humble himself and return to the One who loves him.
The Pharisees were working in the field, “faithful” sons, (which is so graceful of the Lord describe them such!) The Father spoke of the elder son as being with Him always, and that all that was His is the elder sons.
But the issue is the green eyed monster – jealousy.
The elder son wanted to live a sinful life, especially when he mentions prostitutes and wanton living. Sure he stayed behind, but reluctantly! It seems he did not work the farm out of love and devotion to the Father, but out of a sense of duty, or obligation. Seems like a bit of a soulless type of fella, one that didn’t experience joy or love, happiness or friendships. Yes – I am stretching the parable and making some assumptions, but I think somewhat justified. Notice that not once did he consider the pain the younger son experienced, the lostness and fears, the isolation and poverty his own brother must have went through. Kind of a soulless man, living in the grip of jealousy!
The Father is definitely not your typical Jewish farmer. Of course, there were some in the nation of Israel, in their faithful following of the God of Israel, that leaned into this self sacrificial love, but to go as far as the Father in this story was beyond belief. To be insulted by the younger son by demanding (note that the son didn’t ask politely – just “give me”), and to comply to the sons command, it is just too much! What utter weakness, and granting of such freedom, even to the point of allowing a destructive behavior to be followed by the son.
What type of father is this?
A Father who is self sacrificial, who loves his son in the long term, not the short term, a father who realizes a young heart needs to be hungry before it is satisfied. This father realized the younger son was determined to go, and forcing him to stay may keep him physically on the farm, but in spirit, the son was gone already.
As a matter of fact, it turns out both sons had left the father, but only one had the nerve to “grab the dough”, leave his father and go to a foreign land!
What is the message for us today?
Sinners and Tax Collectors
Do you remember finding out about the reckless love of the Father? I will not duplicate my testimony here, since it is available for my reader to access here. Suffice to say, the abounding love that I began to understand as a condemned man of 21, the intense grace that the Father provided to a sinner such as I, was more than I could have imagined.
If you have not experienced the love of God and the release from the guilt and dominion of sin, reach out to the Savior. Admit your sin to Him, repent of the enemy attitude toward Him, and join the body of believers you will meet as you walk with Him.
The prodigal “came to his senses” and decided to return to his father. Humility and repentance! He was willing to return to the father in a beggars position. He had to experience hunger and deprivation before he “came to his senses”. Is that necessary for you? Will you need to be humbled by your own decisions and the work of death they produce in your life? So unnecessary!
“Come to your senses”, humble yourself, repent of your sin, and trust the Savior for eternal life in the here and now?
Are you a religious man or woman? Keeping all the rules and ensuring each day’s duties are performed for the god you have created in your mind, or through your upbringing? Is it a burden that is continually bearing down on you? Sure you have a reputation of “working on the farm,” of keeping some law and resisting every vice (at least in appearance)?
Give it up, repent of your self sufficiency, and join the family of God. You need to realize that His sacrifice was as much for you as the “sinner” out there. He has given all in order that you can have joy and contentment, peace and an assurance of everlasting love.
This father that Jesus speaks of is the One who patiently waits. He is the One who supplies what many may consider a destructive freedom to His creation. A freedom that many may argue against and find some way to limit, in order to protect God’s wisdom and holiness.
Yet the Father is the One who is represented, nay identified in the Son, the One who is the Master, yet serves, the Savior who freely forgives, yet was condemned, the King who is sovereign, yet provides freedom to His creation, the Source of all life, and yet was crucified as a common thief or insurgent.
The love of God the Father is beyond description.
I am reminded of an old hymn that describes the impossibility of defining the love of God. Years back, a lady who had just lost her husband to cancer (the week before), sang this song in chapel. It moved me then, and thinking of her reminds me of the beautiful God we have in our Father.
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
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