The Prodigal Son
As we ended the previous post, we saw that the Pharisees were unable to see why God shows favor to sinners. Jesus teaching how sinners are a thing of value to God and worthy of being counted, of being found and restored. Telling a story where a rebellious son longs to distance himself from a Father’s authority. And a patient Father willing to grant the son his distance so he might ultimately preserve the relationship.
Now we continue with our parable of the prodigal son –
Luke 15:13-16 *
13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then 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 gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
The son gathers his property together, squanders it, and then finds himself in ever-increasing desperation, trying to work his way out of his predicament. Today many Christians find themselves in a similar predicament. The son began to rely on himself rather than on the Father. But the son made poor decisions when left to run his own life, according to his own desires. And then when his own resources ran out the unexpected occurs. At times we become as the son did. Self-reliant, thinking we have life under control. But in truth, when we walk away from our heavenly Father, we lose the one resource we can always depend on. And life can spiral down very quickly and unexpected dilemmas occur in our life. In the case of the son, the famine occurs. The abundance of food disappears.
This prodigal son who has become a slave to some master and yet, despite his hard work, he was not finding satisfaction. He’s cleaving to someone he believes can give him what he needs. He’s doing everything he can in his power to make up for his mistakes and to correct for his errors. Yet, he still cannot seem to earn enough to make good. He can’t get ahead and he is still hungry. He cannot find the kind of peace and fulfillment he needs, despite his hard work. He’s absolutely desperate and without alternatives and seemingly without hope.
This is the state of sinful men in the world. Men work their whole lives to work their way out of a fear of death and the desperation that sin creates. They long for an inner peace or satisfaction in life. But in our own work, we only fall farther behind, because the wages of sin is death. Work just isn’t the answer to our problem.
The answer is grace and in this moment of desperation, something remarkable happened–
17 “But when he came to himself (senses,conscious), he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
He came to his senses we’re told. Greek “heautou” – conscious as in he became conscious. Just as Romans 2:4 tells us that the kindness of God leads us to repentance
4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
As it was here,that the Father’s kindness is on the mind of the young man as he comes to hi senses.Just as Paul explains our entry into faith by grace.
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,
The Prodigal Son continue –
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still 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 to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘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 fatted calf here 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.
Upon the son’s return, the father went to an extreme to shield the son from public humiliation and scorn. He ran to meet him. The Father protected his son against the shame by taking the shame upon himself. Just as Christ did the same for lost sinners the world over. And so the son returns, and the Father welcomes him. The Father also places on the son symbols of son-ship, for a son who has been restored. A robe, a ring, and sandals. The son has regained his entire claim to son-ship with the Father. And what did the son do to earn it? Nothing of course. He’s done nothing more than had a change in conscious, made a decision to repent. And returned to the Father and expressed the repentance. And the Father accepted him joyfully.
So the Father is ready to celebrate. He throws a party and the celebration is the same celebration Jesus taught in the earlier parables. The joy of a repentant sinner. A son restored, but that’s only the first half of the story. Like we said, this is a story of two sons, not one.
So now Jesus turns His attention to the other son who hasn’t been discussed since the opening verses of the parable.
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 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”
The older son is in the field. This is interesting since we already know that this is a wealthy family with plenty of hired servants. As the sole remaining son, the older boy had little reason to invest his time working in the field. They would have servants over other servants. It gives a picture of a son working overtime to please his Father. Going overboard to show his faithfulness and his willingness to work hard to earn his Father’s favor. There would have been little other reason for him to be in the field. And he’s so far from the house and so far from the events of the family, that he has to ask a servant to bring him up to date on the family news. He doesn’t seem to have a very close relationship with the Father. He asks what’s going on in my Father’ house. And when he learns that his Father has shown grace and mercy and loving-kindness to his wayward son, he becomes angry.
In some ways it’s an understandable reaction to us. We might share in his anger at seeing someone receiving favor when they don’t deserve it. Until we remember that we would want the same grace if the roles were reversed. But the older son couldn’t understand that concept, because the older son didn’t need grace. He had earned his Father’s praise, he thought. The son is so upset, he refuses to join the celebration. He won’t go into the Father’s house. He stays away pouting over the situation. He demands that the Father come to him. And the father graciously comes near to hear his complaint. And the older son says, I have served you for years. I have paid careful attention to all your commands, yet I have never received any celebration for my effort. You never prepared me a goat much less a calf. But you celebrate with a man who used your wealth to buy prostitutes. Did you notice some of the important details in that conversation? The son wants a celebration for his effort and had there been a celebration, he wanted the Father to host the party but the celebration would have been with his friends, not with the Father himself. In other words, He needed the Father to do things for him because he had earned them.
But there was no love, no shared joy, merely privilege earned. Even the way he addressed the Father in the moment was “Look!” You don’t speak to the Father that way. You say Father, I am here. Or speak, Father. Something respectful. And now he was angry because someone less deserving was receiving the Father’s love. Then the Father asks the older son, why are you complaining? Why do you feel shortchanged? You always had access to all that I had. You could have received all that I could give you. You only had to come to me in love. You can’t earn that love.But when the lost come to their senses, we have to celebrate.
Finally, to apply this parable to the world once again, do you see the connections? Both these sons were sinners and in rebellion to the Father. One was overt, obvious and unabashed. The other was the hypocrite, the one who was determined to earn the favor he desired. One was brought low and brought to his senses. The other remained indifferent.and unrepentant. One returned to the Father with a new heart and a new desire to serve. The other remained steadfastly proud and separated from the Father, demanding the Father come to him. One is restored to son-ship though deserving of judgment. The other remains outside the family celebration though expecting to be rewarded for diligent service.
Jesus teaches this parable to illustrate not only what God will celebrate in the lost being found. But Jesus is also explaining why the Pharisees are not receiving Jesus’s message. Why Jesus has turned His back on them and left them on the outside looking in. And why the poor, destitute sinners and tax collectors – the ones who did have ears to hear – bring joy to heaven,
We can see the reason Luke includes Chapter 15 (The Prodigal Son) in his gospel for us. To explain how and why Jesus turns His back on the religious establishment. And why He found a receptive audience with the lowest in society. And having answered so clearly the basis for the Pharisee’s rejection of Jesus.
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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