Luke 15:11-32 New International Version
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The parable of the prodigal son is the most quoted, taught and loved of Jesus’ teaching stories. It represents the glorious love of our God.
The parable has three characters. The younger son, the father and the older son.
The younger son represents all of us, as sinners. Whether we have not yet accepted Christ as our Savior or those that may have backslidden and walked away from God.
The father represents our Heavenly Father, our God and creator of all things.
The older son represents the proud and self-righteous. Most likely Jesus is alluding to the Pharisees in the image of this older son.
The story is familiar to many. The younger son decides he wants the share of his future inheritance now.
He wants to set out on his own, doing what he wants, when he wants to do it. In this culture and time, this would have been seen as a show of ultimate disrespect toward his father. It would be treating him as if he were already dead, even though alive.
However, the youngest son did not care. He wanted his inheritance and did not care how it looked to anyone else. He was already lost at this point.
The father had no obligation to agree to his son’s request.
I can imagine the pain and hurt that he felt, knowing his son did not want to stay and help out; did not want to be in the company of his father and did not care what it looked like to outsiders.
The father could have let his discouragement and pain rule the day and say no to the son. He could have lashed out in anger, but he did not.
The father agreed and the youngest son received his inheritance.
I can imagine the many tears that fell from the father’s face.
A few days after receiving the inheritance, the son left for a distant country.
With a substantial amount of money, it would not be difficult to acquire new friends and live it up. The young son was going to eat, drink and be merry.
After a time of wild living, his money was gone. After he had spent everything, a famine hit the land.
When the money was gone, so were the friends. There was no one to come to his aid.
He was hungry, so he went to work for someone who sent him to the fields to feed the pigs. The son was so hungry he would have eaten what the pigs eat, but those he worked with would give him nothing.
He finally came to his senses and realized that his father had many hired servants who lacked nothing. They were not hungry, but he was starving to death.
So, he decided at that moment that he would return home telling his father that he had sinned against him, was no longer worthy to be called his son and beg him to make him a hired servant.
The most important lesson we learn from the son is that as a sinner none of us are worthy to be called a child of God.
The old testament tells us that “our righteousness is as filthy rags.”
Until we realize that we are not worthy, we cannot truly humble ourselves before God in repentance.
We must reach the same point that this young son reached.
We must realize that we are lost and without hope, unworthy to be called His son, as we approach our Father in repentance and belief. We are not worthy to be His child, but we are made righteous through the blood of Christ and we become a child of our God.
So, this young son got up; determined to go home to his father, not as a son but as a hired servant.
Now we come to the father.
If you are a parent, imagine the pain and suffering you would feel if one of your children did what this young son did. If they decided they were leaving and didn’t want anything to do with you again.
Every time the phone would ring, your heart would skip a beat.
As you mowed the yard, each time you came close to the road I imagine you would look both ways to see if someone was coming.
Each day you would hurry to the mailbox hoping for a letter.
When in town, you would look at the crowds, hoping to see a familiar face.
Your final thoughts before going to sleep would likely be about your child.
The father in this parable had the same emotions, anxieties and actions that you would have.
It is clear that the father watched the road every day, hoping to see his son.
Why? It would be quite a coincidence that just on the day the son returned home, the father saw him from a distance. No, I’m sure the father watched the road every day, as often as possible, looking for his son; hoping that his son would return home.
The parable tells us the father saw his son coming at a great distance.
He didn’t go in the house, sit down and wait. He didn’t start planning on what he would say to him. He didn’t stand frozen in surprise.
No, Jesus says the father ran to the son.
Think about the image and the emotion that the father must be feeling. He ran. At a time when the culture of the day considered it improper for an adult male to run, this father ran toward his son.
These two words are so important in understanding and knowing the magnitude of God’s love.
Jesus wanted us to understand this fully, as he portrayed the father as running toward his son, who was coming home.
Naturally, God doesn’t run in the physical sense, however when a person receives Christ as their Savior, God moves toward us as this human father ran toward the son.
God welcomes us as his children through the imputed righteousness of Jesus’ blood.
When the father reaches his young prodigal son, he hugged and kissed him.
The son said to him “father, I have sinned against heaven and you and I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.”
However, the father turned a deaf ear to these words and called to his servants to bring the best robe for his son. He also commanded them to put a ring on the son’s finger and sandals on his feet.
The son, who only asked to be received as a hired servant was getting a robe, ring and sandals, none of which the servants had.
Furthermore, the father said “bring the fattened calf and kill it; Let us eat and celebrate because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”
So, they began to celebrate.
Now we come to the final character in the parable; the older son.
He was out in the field working and as he approached the house, he heard what appeared to be a festive party. There was music and dancing.
Curious as to what the apparent joyous celebration was about, he called one of the servants and inquired as to what was going on. The servant told him “your brother has returned and your father has killed the fattened calf because his son returned safe and sound.”
Did the older son immediately run into the house to greet his brother, who had finally returned home?
Was he thankful for the safety of his brother?
Was he thankful to have his brother back home?
The answer to all three of these questions is “NO.”
He was immediately angry on hearing that the festivities were for the wandering brother of his. He was so angry that he wouldn’t even go into the house. Wouldn’t even welcome his brother home.
The father, obviously sensing that something was wrong, came outside to reason with the older son.
The older son would not be reasoned with.
He said to his father that he had worked for him his whole life, had never disobeyed in any way, but he had never received a festive party for himself and his friends.
Yet, he continued, when this wayward son comes home after going through his portion of the estate, living wildly, even with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him and gave him this welcoming feast.
Jesus closes the parable by telling us the father’s reply.
The father said “Son, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.”
Who do you think this older son represents?
If you answered the Pharisees, you are correct.
This older son represents the Pharisaic attitude that unfortunately infects many people today.
The prideful. The holier than thou group. The self-righteous who think they are better than most, definitely those who are not like them.
They are so proud that they are humble.
This parable teaches us much.
When we were without God, he longed for us to come to Him or return to Him.
Watching every day.
Drawing us through the Holy Spirit, he patiently waited and watched for us to return on that long lonely, dusty road.
God longs for everyone to become his child; a son or daughter of our heavenly Father.
When we do this, the parable teaches us there is a celebration in heaven. Our Father and the angels rejoice over a sinner who was lost, but now is found.
In order to truly and humbly bow before God in repentance and accept Jesus as our Savior, we must first realize we are unworthy.
Unworthy to be called His son, or daughter.
We must reach this point, just as the prodigal son reached it.
We who are unworthy and unrighteous are only made worthy and righteous in God’s sight through the blood of Jesus.
If there is any feeling that we are worthy or holy and righteous in our own right, we will come up empty.
Remember, our righteousness is as filthy rags. However, if we approach God humbly, as unworthy vessels asking Jesus into our lives, God will rejoice and our sins will be cast away as far as the east is from the west.
Let us praise God for this beautiful parable, which teaches us the extent of God’s love, mercy and grace.