The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most famous parables or stories in all the Bible. More often than not this story is preached or taught on its own. But today as we study, let’s not forget what we learnt in the previous lesson about the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin.
- Remember, the lost sheep represented the person who knew he was lost and the lost coin represented those that were happily in their lost condition, unaware that they were heading for certain doom and destruction.
- The shepherd looking for the sheep represented Jesus, and the woman looking for the lost coin was the church. We need to do the work of Jesus our example – to seek and to save the lost. However, today we get a different perspective.
- Remember also that the reason Jesus gave these parables in succession was because the Pharisees and scribes were talking about Him, how He was eating with the publicans and sinners. And Jesus promptly replied saying that He didn’t come to save the righteous but to call sinners to repentance.
So now let’s have a look at this parable. This is by far the longest parable of the three. It takes up most of this chapter.
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
- What is the younger son asking for? He is asking for his inheritance!
- When do you normally receive inheritance from your parents? It’s when they die. But he’s asking for it whilst the father is still alive. So he is wishing for his father to die soon. At least that is what is implied.
- And moreover, he is the younger of two sons. Normally when we look at birth right in the Bible it goes to the oldest son, not the younger one. The oldest normally has the right to all of the fathers inheritance.
- So this younger son is off to a really bad start. Yet the father complies and gives him his portion.
What happens next?
- Luke 15:13
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
- So soon after receiving the inheritance the son leaves and goes off into a far country.
- He wastes his substances with riotous living. He uses up all the inheritance that the father has given to him.
- It must have been a few years of spending freely unless the father didn’t give him much. Either that or he must have really been loose with his money to have spent everything!
After all the money is spent, what happens to the son?
- Luke 15:14
And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
- A famine came up and he began to get desperate. Things got from bad to worse because food now is more scarce and probably more expensive. So whatever money he had left it would have dried up very quickly.
- Remember that this is a parable. What does a famine represent?
- Amos 8:11
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
- It represents a lack of hearing of the word of God.
- Amos 8:11
- So when we leave our heavenly Father’s presence and live riotously, we are neglecting the hearing of the word of God. We are not spending time in His word and in our personal devotions. We are not going to church.
- This boy is lost. He has left the church. It was intentional. He is like the lost sheep in the previous parable. He knew what he was doing and he left on purpose.
So when the famine comes, what does the boy do?
- Luke 15:15-16
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
- He joins himself to a citizen of that country. When famine arises of the word of God in our lives, we go and seek help from the people of the world.
- In order to survive he is willing to do whatever just to live. So he is sent to feed pigs, something that is an unclean animal to him that he doesn’t even eat.
- So it is at this point that he comes to his senses while he is sitting there looking at the pigs food and really desires to eat it because he is so hungry.
- He could have come to his senses earlier but often it is only when calamity strikes that we pause and think about our situation.
What realisation does the son come to and what spiritual state is this?
- Luke 15:17-19
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
- The son realises that it is better to be a servant of his father than to be in this current state of feeding pigs and wanting to eat pigs food.
- This is what we call conviction and repentance. And remember, God is the One that gives us this repentance.
- Only when he was at the lowest point in his life could God’s voice finally speak to him. When he was happy with spending his father’s money and living freely in abundance he had no thought for his father and how he had hurt him.
- It’s not enough to be convicted though. We must repent and be willing to retrace our steps from which we fall. The son was willing to go back to his father in desperation.
- The prodigal son represents us. But what does it take for us to come to our senses? What must we go through in order for us to wake up to our current lost situation?
- Losing money? Losing health? A break up?
- Do we realise our need?
- We can come to our senses earlier if only we would take time to pause and think about our present condition.
- This parable highlights what we have to go through internally for us to return to the Father in heaven.
- In Luke 15:18 he had a choice. He said he would arise and go back to his father.
- God will go to the ends of the world to save us but it is ultimately our choice if we want to be saved.
- We can see the differences between the first 2 parables in this chapter and this parable.
- Parable of the lost sheep – illustrates what the Father desires to do for us to save us. He will go to the ends of the earth to find us.
- Parable of the lost coin – illustrates what the church should do in saving and seeking the lost.
- Parable of the lost son – our part to play in confession and repentance to come back to the Father.
- The hardest part is to be convicted of our wrong and our need of Jesus.
So, in coming back to the father, what was the son willing to do?
- He was willing to just be one of the hired servants. At least he would have a bed to sleep, fresh clean clothes and food to eat.
- He’s not coming back with any pride or thought that he is the son and deserves the seat next to the father.
- When we realise our need, we are willing to humble ourselves and take the most humble path back no matter how humiliating it is.
- If he went home and the father really makes him a servant, would it be fair? Absolutely! He had already taken his inheritance, and so the father owed him nothing as a son. But we know that God is not like that.
So off he goes, making the long journey home. And as he comes over the hill or comes round the corner, the father sees him from a distance. How does the father react?
- Luke 15:20-24
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
- The father sees his son from afar off and runs to him. Why? Because he wants to protect him. The son had dishonoured the father and by right he could be stoned. He deserved to die!
- Then the father puts three things on his son. What are they?
- The best robe, a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.
- If we are to be restored back to the Father in heaven, we need to experience these three things.
What does the robe, ring and shoes represent?
- Isaiah 61:10
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
- It is Christ’s righteousness. It represents His perfect and spotless life.
- When Christ puts His righteousness of us, He is telling us that all our past life is forgiven, it is pardoned. He is restoring us into favour with Him.
- But don’t we need to confess in order to be forgiven?
- Absolutely! In Luke 15:21 the son started his confession speech. And the fact that the son is walking home to his father shows his repentance.
- Esther 8:8
Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.
- A ring is used to seal. What is God’s seal?
- 2 Corinthians 1:22
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
- Ephesians 1:13
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.
- Ephesians 4:30
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
- We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. So the ring represents the Holy Spirit.
- But the significance of the ring on the son was to show everyone else that the son was accepted by the father and that no one was to touch him.
- Just as the ring that Pharaoh gave to Joseph made him second in command (Genesis 41:41-42), the ring given to the son from the father was showing everyone the position that the father was giving to his son. He was restoring him back as his son.
- So the reception of the Holy Spirit into our lives is God’s way of telling everyone (and us) that we have been restored back to favour with God.
- How do we receive the Holy Spirit?
- Luke 11:13
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
- We must ask.
- Luke 11:13
- Ephesians 6:15
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
- The shoes represent the gospel.
- But why is this so important?
- Psalms 119:133
Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
- The bible (gospel) must be the book that will guide our steps from this point forward.
- It’s not enough just to simply be forgiven (justification), we must also make sure we don’t go back to our old life of sin (sanctification). The Holy Spirit and the Bible ensures that experience of true and permanent change.
This would seem like a fitting ending. The father now has his son home. All is well again and happiness and joy abound. However, the parable is not finished yet. Let’s read the rest of the verses in Luke 15.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
- It talks about the elder brother. He finds out the younger brother is back. Is he happy or angry? He is absolutely angry!
- He’s jealous as well. He’s wondering why the dad should throw a party for this boy who took his inheritance, spent it all, and now has come back worse than when he left! He never got a party like that before and he had been the faithful one, he had always been by the side of his dad.
More than one third of the verses are spent on talking about this final situation between the older son and his father. Why?
- Do you remember what the Pharisees and scribes said to Jesus at the beginning of this chapter?
- Why is Jesus eating with all these sinners? Why is He even hanging out with them?
- You see, in this parable of the prodigal son, that older son represents who? It represents the Pharisees and scribes who thought themselves apparently holy and righteous.
- Jesus was telling them that they should be the ones rejoicing over every sinner that repents. And in order for them to do that they should be eating and drinking with them!
- The older brother should have been thankful that his brother was back. That he was lost but now is found.
- But the Pharisees had forgotten their calling – to seek and save the lost!
This reveals a very interesting lesson.
- You see, we know that the older son represents the Pharisees and scribes. And we know that these people were not that righteous at all from all that the Bible talks about them. In fact they were trying to hide all their sins under their supposed cloak of righteousness – fasting and paying tithe, not even carrying their beds on the Sabbath and all the other strict and rigorous traditions. They were not harlots or tax collectors. They didn’t cheat people or lie.
- But under all this fake exterior they were just as lost as those whom they despised.
- You see, it is possible to have the heart of the prodigal son and yet never leave the church. We desire worldly things but we still go to church every week.
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking – How can I know if I am like that or not? How do I know if I am in church and possibly lost?
- Well it’s simple. Do you rejoice when you see sinners come to Christ? Are you excited about the church growing and excited about seeing people getting baptised?
- Actually, what is church to you? Is it just your social circle? Is it just a round of activity that you do each week? Or do you actually have purpose that God has called you to in the church that you belong to right now?
- All of heaven rejoices over one sinner that repents. How much more should we since we are in the midst of living in this sin sick world? We have front row seats to see people change right before our very eyes.
May God touch each of our hearts and lives today that He might give us true repentance, and true love. Love for God and love for all the people that are made in His image. This love cannot be forced. This love cannot be fabricated. Only as our hearts are set alight with the Holy Spirit, and with His word burning in our hearts, and only as we have experienced His forgiving grace can we understand what it means to have the love of Jesus burning in our hearts for those that are lost and sinners out there.