The Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32)
The parable of “The Prodigal Son”, Jesus reaches the apex in His response to the charge against Him by the Pharisees and scribes…
a. Their accusation? “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” – Lk 15:2
b. His response? Three parables in which He illustrates “The Father’s Yearning Love For The Lost”
1) “The Lost Sheep” – Lk 15:3-7
2) “The Lost Coin” – Lk 15:8-10
3) “The Prodigal Son” – Lk 15:11-32
The parable of “The Prodigal Son” has been called…
a. “The pearl and crown of all the parables” (Trench)
While it is commonly called “The Prodigal Son” (prodigal meaning “wasteful”)…
a. It can rightfully be called the parable of “The Loving Father” (Wiersbe)
b. For it reveals more about the love of the father than of the sinfulness of the younger son
The parable also reveals much about the heart of the unforgiving elder son, whose purpose in this parable is to rebuke those unwilling to reach out and receive the lost who repent
Let’s begin our study of this “pearl and crown of all the parables” by reading it in its entirety, and then examining its major features
11* ¶ And He said, “A man had two sons.
12* “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.
13* “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.
14* “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.
15* “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16* “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
17* “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!
18* ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’
20* “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21* “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22* “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;
23* and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;
24* for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25* “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.
26* “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.
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 became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.
29* “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;
30* but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
31* “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32* ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
The parable tells the story of:
1. The younger son asks his father to give him his portion of the inheritance due him
a. According to the Law of Moses, the eldest son received a double portion – cf. Deut. 21:17
b. Since there were two sons, the younger son would receive one-third
2. Like so many impatient young people today, the younger son…
a. Desired to be free from parental restraints
b. Desired to have his father’s inheritance “now”
3. The father grants him his request, and the younger son soon takes all that he has to a distant country
So he sets out for a life away from home:
1. With “prodigal” (wasteful, extravagant) living, he soon depletes his possessions
2. His poverty is complicated by a famine that strikes the country
3. In desperation, he hires himself to another to feed his pigs
a. This would be most degrading to a Jew, for pigs were considered unclean – cf. Lev 11:7
b. According to Hendriksen, there was a saying current among the Jews at that time: “May a curse come upon the man who cares for swine!”
c. With great hunger, he would have gladly eaten what was given to the pigs
He finally comes to his senses…
a. Recalling how well fed were his father’s hired servants
b. They had plenty, and here he was, perishing with hunger! — So to hunger and humiliation, there is now added homesickness
He resolves to return home…
a. To confess his sin against heaven (i.e., God’s will) and his father
b. To confess his unworthiness to be called his father’s son
c. To be made only like one of his father’s hired servants
When he returns home:
Warmly welcomed by his father – Lk 15:20-24
a. Carrying out his resolution, the prodigal son returns home
b. While still a great way away, the father sees him (had he been looking for his son?)
c. The father’s great love is immediately evident…
1) He has compassion
2) He runs to greet his son
3) He throws his arms around his son’s neck
4) He kisses him
d. The son quickly confesses his sin, and his unworthiness to be called a son
e. But before he can even say “Make me one of your hired servants”, the father joyfully calls upon his servants to…
1) Bring out the best robe and put it on him
2) Put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet
3) Kill the fatted calf in order to celebrate his return
— All of which serve to reinstate the son as a person of importance and authority
What this means to the father is touchingly summarized in these words…
1) “for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live”
2) “he was lost and has been found”
— Certainly any parent can relate to emotions expressed by this father!
But there is a problem with the elder brother:
a. The elder son, returning from the field, wonders what the celebration is about
b. When told by one of the servants, he angrily refuses to go in
c. The father comes out, and pleads with him…
1) The elder son’s complaints:
a) For many years he had served his father
b) He had never transgressed his father’s will
c) The father had never provided such a celebration for him
d) But when the son who squandered his father’s inheritance with harlots returns home, the fatted calf is killed for him!
— Isn’t it easy to sympathize with the elder son?
The father’s response:
a) Note first how tenderly the father treats THIS son (addressing him as “child” in the Greek)
b) He recognizes the elder son’s faithfulness (“you are always with me”)
c) He reassures the son that the remaining inheritance is his “all that I have is yours”
d) Yet the father maintains that it is right to celebrate… “your brother…” (note the contrast)
a-The elder son had called his brother, “this son of yours”
b-The father emphasizes the brotherly relation, “your brother”
…was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (repeating what was said to the servants in Lk 15:24)
Let’s make some practical applications:
1. The father symbolizes our heavenly Father
2. The prodigal son in coming home represents the penitent sinner
3. The elder brother reflected the attitude of the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes – vs. 2
Here is a key point:
1. Our heavenly Father loves His children
a. Even when they turn away from Him, His hearts yearns for them in love
b. But especially when they return with a penitent attitude
1) There is “joy in heaven” – Lk 15:7
2) There is “joy in the presence of the angels of God” – Lk 15:10
3) It was right to “make merry and be glad” – Lk 15:32
2. The faithful children of God need to understand the proper way to receive the erring child who returns to God
a. Not with any sibling jealousy, but with joyous celebration! – Lk 15:32
b. With a strong reaffirmation of love:
1) As illustrated by the father in the parable
2) As Paul instructed the Corinthians in 2 Co 2:6-8
1. “The Prodigal Son”, along with the two previous parables, was told by Jesus to teach these important lessons to the Pharisees and scribes
2. Yet while directed toward them, imagine how these parables comforted the hearts of those “tax collectors and sinners” who had drawn near to Jesus to hear Him! – Lk 15:1
a. Though considered unacceptable by the religious elite, they learned that they could be accepted by God!
b. That God was seeking for them, and would lovingly receive them if they would repent!
This the same message we must convey to those lost in sin, who are willing to draw near and listen to the gospel.