The Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

By Robin Spengler. BTh. Hons.

 

Scriptures: Lk 15:11-32, Lk 15:1-2, Ro 1:21, Jn 3:20, Jer 2:13, Jn 8:34, 1 Chron 16:34, Ac 26:20b, (ESV).

 

It may be said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning and with this in mind we look at this parable.

 

Luke 15:11-32 (ESV) – 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[a] 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.’”

Context

Luke 15:1-2 (ESV) – 1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

 

The context is in answer to the Pharisees and Scribes grumbling. This is followed by the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and then The Prodigal Son

 

The Characters

Father = God
Younger Son = Tax collectors and sinners
Older Son = self-righteous scribes and Pharisees

 

Main Point

God’s heart for the lost.

A parable normally has only one main point and in this case, considering the context, we view the main point as “The heart of God for the lost”.

This then becomes the central theme of our interpretation of the parable.

 

Applications

Our Inward desire to Rebel.
Beware the Pharisee.
The loving heart of God.

 

Although there is normally only one main point to a parable there may be many applications.

In this case we will be looking at 3 applications.

 

Our Inward desire to Rebel

This application forms the body of the parable.

The youngest son’s actions are viewed as allegorical and we will addressing them as such.

 

The younger son is more interested in his own desires than loving his Father.

 

Luke 15:1-2 ESV –  12And 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.

 

His selfish desires took precedence over his love for his father.

Paul, in writing to the church in Rome says.

 

Romans 1:21 ESV – For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

He was deceived.

We need to examine out innermost desires, “Is my first desire to honour God, or does it lie elsewhere?

 

He takes his inheritance and goes to a FAR-OFF country.

Luke 15:13a ESV –   13a Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, …

 

John 3:20 ESV – 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

 

We all have an innate desire to run from God. This is sin working in us repelling the light.

The problem is that the further we get from God the more we hate the light. We try and try but we can’t turn to the light.

 

He wasted his inheritance on prodigal living.

 

Luke 15:13b ESV – …and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

 

The prophet Jeremiah said “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13 ESV).

 

This son thought that wild living would give him the satisfaction he was looking for. He chooses this lifestyle in preference to the love and security his father had given him. He would soon discover that these wells he had dug did not hold water. He could not find satisfaction in his wild living.

 

We all have a desire for self-gratification. This could manifest in many different forms and will continue until God intervenes.

 

His actions result in him losing everything.

 

Luke 15:14 ESV – 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

 

He soon discovered that his prodigal living was not giving what he was looking for and finds himself feeding the pigs of a gentile. He was so hungry that he longed to be fed with the pods given to the pigs. He was desperate.

 

John 8:34 ESV – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

He is now in Satan’s grip, empty and desperate.

 

5. He remembers his fathers goodness.

 

Luke 15:17 ESV – 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!

 

This is a turning point in the story. God has brought him to a point of repentance. He longs to return to his father’s house.

 

1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV – Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

 

6. His repentance is genuine.

Luke 15:18-19 ESV –   18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”

 

Paul in his defence before King Agrippa says of his ministry, “That they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20b).

The younger son is willing to give up his rights as his father’s son. He realizes that he has no right to claim a blessing. He has nothing to offer except a life of service. He is prepared to fall at his father’s feet and plead forgiveness and mercy.

 

Beware the pharisee

He is critical.
He is self-righteous.
He is unable to forgive.

 

This is the second of three applications in the parable.

Although there is much that can be said about Phariseeism, this is not our emphasis in the parable.

The parable is however given in response to the grumbling of the Scribes and Pharisees and one cannot overlooked it.

We will therefore look at some examples of Phariseeism in the older brother.

 

Beware the Pharisee – He is Critical

 

Luke 15:30 ESV –  30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!

 

This is typical of a Pharisee; he is always trying to find fault in others. He is blind to his own faults and cannot see another point of view. This can become habitual and is very damaging.

Beware the Pharisee He is self-righteous.

 

Luke 15:29 ESV –  29But 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.

Because of his narcissistic attitude and his inability to introspect he is fixed in his views.

Religion becomes a means of defending his views. He will always be looking for an argument.

Beware the Pharisee – He is unable to forgive.

 

Luke 15:28 ESV – 28But he was angry and refused to go in.

 

Acceding defeat is the last thing that enters his mind. He will always look for retaliation in some form.

He isolates himself and is lonely.

The loving heart of God.

We now come to the main point of the parable, God’s heart for the lost.

 

Luke 15:20 ESV –  20And 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.

 

This is such a beautiful example of the heart of God towards lost sinners. Jesus had previously spoken of a lost coin and a lost sheep. God is always seeking out the lost!

 

“While he was still a long way off”, illustrates this.
“Ran towards”, illustrates God transcending all boundaries in order to reach the lost.
“Kissed him”. The father is overwhelmed by his love for his lost son.

 

Luke 15:22 ESV – 22But 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.

 

“Best robe” Indicates dignity and honour, proof of the son’s acceptance back into the family
“Ring on his hand” a sign of authority and sonship.
“Sandals on his feet” Indicates that he is a son not a servant.

 

Luke 15:23-24 ESV – 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Note, The fatted calf. This was no ordinary party! It was a celebration!

I would like to end with a quote by John Piper the well-known theologian and Bible teacher.

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. – John Piper

End 😘