The Parable of the Prodigal son

Luke 15 contains 3 parables:

1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep
2. The Parable of the Lost Coin
3. The Parable of the Lost Son
(also called The Prodigal son)


1. The Seeking Shepherd

2. The Seeking Woman

3. The Seeking Father


Review: What is the context of this parable?

What question / statement precipitated Jesus' answer, in the form of these 3 parables?

Unfortunately, the story of the Prodigal son is most often taught out of it's context. When was the last time you heard someone preach or teach on it, when they also explained the other 2 parables in Luke 15? Remember, Jesus Himself connects each parable to the one following.

Most, when they teach on the prodigal, place the emphasis on the son in the story, but is that actually where the passage places the emphasis? In the previous stories/parables, who has been the most active? The seeker of the lost sheep, the seeker of the lost coin and now in this section, the seeker of the prodigal son.

We'll find that in the 3rd parable, that the seeker still is at the center of the story that teaches a biblical truth.

v. 11, Then He said: "A certain man had two sons"

This is in keeping with the 3 general groups we've seen in the preceding parables. The Father, the son who wanders away, and the son who believes he's close to the father. Or the seeker, the thing lost and the thing that was not lost (also not restored).

v. 12, "And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood."

Verse 12, shows us the concern of the son, "give me my inheritance!" For what purpose? So the son could spend it on his fleshly desire. Why would a son, want to leave his father (in this culture)? He stopped loving the father, he stopped enjoying to receive from the father's goodness. The moment that men just want what God the Father can give us instead of having a relationship with the Father Himself, those men have headed down the wrong road spiritually. The Scribes and Pharisees had done just that. Religious people today do the same thing, they call out to God for God's GOODS , rather than calling out to God because they love Him and want a relationship with Him.

Let's see what happens. v. 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."

"far country" the son removed himself from the father's oversight and care. Though we are never out of the sight of our Heavenly Father.

the son sought his independence

the son sought to hide what he was going to do from his father

Both of these actions were a result of not wanting to be accountable and this is the problem with sinners in general. Men will convince themselves there is no God, they will also invent the god of their liking, or they will try and out run God's presence.

Just what did the son do? "wasted his possessions" or we could say, he wasted what the father had entrusted to him. Is this not what the Jews of Jesus' day had done with the OT truths about the coming Messiah? The problem with the Jewish leaders of the day is that they were not admitting that they had wasted what God had entrusted to them. The very fact that the Scribes and the Pharisees were not giving the good news of Messiah to the wicked sinners of their day is evidence of this truth.

waste here means "to scatter [throw away money]"

prodigal living is from 2 Greek words [not & safe living] could imply unsaved living or unsafe living.

Ps. 106:7-15, pictures Israel in the past * read and explain

Luke 15:14, "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want."

he had nothing left of the father's resources...

famine without money (helplessness)


Mankind has many wants, but it's only when they want God that they begin the journey towards Him. God the Father has the ability to send times of famine and difficulty in order to drive us back into His arms. Yet with all that, some are so hard hearted that they refuse to come to God for help (a reminder of the total depravity of man - Rom. 3:10.

v. 15, "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine." What kind of citizen would be a pig farmer? Certainly not a Jewish man, but rather a Gentile. This lost son had wasted what the father had given him and now, as a Jew, he was working for a Gentile pig farmer. For a Jewish man in Jesus time, it couldn't get much worse when it came to association with things that are unclean according to the Levitical laws.

A Jew feeding swine is degrading and unclean. The lost son is down low. He's forgotten his background and abandoned his up bringing. In the same way that the Jewish leaders had forgotten about the real truths about God the Father. They had abandoned the kind of faith that Abraham had (see John 8:36-59).

v. 16, "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything."

He's Far removed from his father, far removed from safety and provisions.

He's so low he's wanting to eat pig food. He's ready to satisfy himself with the dirtiest unclean things (this reminds us of the worldly ways of the depraved unsaved man.)

Notice, he removed himself from the father... then something happens...

v. 17, "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!"

He's a son of a wealthy Father, he has special privilege (as the Jews did as the chosen people). The servants of the fathers, who were not even family, were eating better than he was. Now we see a change of heart in the son. He recognizes his deep need and his lowly condition. This represents the man who sees his sinfulness and need for Christ.

v. 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."'

Here we see the admission of sin / understanding how unworthy you are.

Recall that the Pharisees and the scribes thought they were righteous, better than sinners. But the repenting son says, "I just want to serve you, make me a servant." Remember, the Jewish leaders focused on their HIGH position. They did not want to follow Jesus or serve the sinners. Yet Jesus pursued sinners and served them. The lost son becomes more like the Father than the older son who never was lost.

Now we see the heart of the seeking father, v. 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."

The son is just beginning his journey back, but he's still a distance from his home. The original Greek reveals to us that the Father was far from his home seeking the son. That means that the father was going out looking for the lost son. This is just like the Lord Jesus' ministry. This is the part of the Lord's ministry that the Scribes and Pharisees could not understand. The Scribes and the Pharisees did not understand Mercy and Love from God's perspective.

Matthew 23:23, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

Matthew 9:10, "And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Look at the Reaction of the father:

1. he saw from a far (he was looking)

2. he had compassion (before the son was back with him)

3. he ran to the son (the father made the first move)

4. he hugged and kissed his son (the father expresses his love)

It's so important to see that the father's love did not begin with the son's return (Rom. 5:8). The father never stopped loving his son, but the son had to return in order to receive the father's love.

In the next verse(21) we see the son confessing what he's already rehearsed in his heart in v. 18-19...

v. 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.'

Admission of sin is the first step towards having a True relationship with God. With out this admission the doors of relationship are closed. The true child of God (and the one about to become a child of God) will admit and proclaim the total dependency upon God for all their needs. The Scribes and the Pharisees are the complete opposite of someone who would admit need and sinfulness.

The Father's Joy

v. 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."

Was the son unworthy of the father's love? Yes!

Did the son sin against the father? Yes!

Here we see that the father loves the unworthy sinner.

Notice what the father gives the son in v. 22.

1. robe given - sonship / inheritance / restoration

2. ring given - (signet) authority / privilege of the father's possessions

3. sandals given - servants went barefoot / son has a privileged position

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.

As with the previous parables, there is rejoicing over the return of that which was lost, but now is found. Notice the calf is already fattened up. This shows the father was anticipating the son's return.

Notice what the father proclaims about the sons former condition:

1. Dead, now alive

2. Lost, now found

The father rejoices in the restoration of his son.

The 3rd parable flows right along with the previous 2 parables, showing that:

God does care about sinners

God does seek after sinners

God does rejoice when sinners are restored to fellowship

Other similarities: 1. one is Lost

2. one Seeks the lost (even though some still remain in assumed safety)

3. one and his/her friends rejoice over the return of the lost

next week we'll finish Luke 15: and see that the brother of the prodigal son actually represents the Scribes and the Pharisees and their attitude against Jesus and the sinners He sought after (next weeks lesson is below)...

The son who was not restored

Review Luke 15

3 Parables explaining one major theme concerning God's view and attitude towards sinners:

What are the 3 parables?

1. The Seeking Shepherd.... explain [ what happened, who was involved]

2. The Seeking Woman ... explain

3. The Seeking Father ...explain

How did the prodigal son change?

1. He realized his poverty

2. He realized his unworthiness

3. He was willing to take the lowest position, just to be restored to the Father's household.

Each parable involves 3 distinct groups: those not lost, those lost and the one seeking the lost.

What question / comment precipitated these parables?

Someone read Mk. 2:16-17, someone else read Lk. 15:2, finally read Mat. 9:10-13

Someone briefly explain the attitude of the Pharisees.

Now in the first 2 Parables (the Seeking Shepherd and the Seeking Woman, by analogy) Jesus only deals with God's view of a sinners worth and the Son of God's view of the sinners worth.

Now, at the close of Luke 15, beginning in v. 22, we see the younger son restored and the attitude and response of the older son, who was never lost, revealed. Jesus uses this older son to reveal the ungodly attitude of the Scribes and Pharisees towards sinners (which they of course were).

Someone read, Luke 15:22-24 * Rejoicing is the right attitude when sinners repent.

v. 25, "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing."

What's the first thing you notice about the celebration?

1. the oldest son was not invited by the father.

2. Why would the father choose not to include the older son?

The Father knew how he'd respond... no Joy in the return & restoration of a sinner. By analogy, the Scribes and the Pharisees were just like the older son, who saw no need to repent and no need to rejoice over lost sons that were now restored.

v. 26, "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant." This shows that the older son was out of the loop (by the Father's design, because the father did not call him) and by the older son's own choice, because he had no idea what the Father's heart was concerning the younger son.

Now the father tells the oldest son what was happening, v. 27, "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he (the Father) has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.'

Who planned and provided for this time of celebration? Obviously, it was the Father's privilege to Rejoice, but is the oldest son in agreement with the Father? No! It's so important to see here that the older son represents the Scribes and the Pharisees who were not rejoicing over the sinners that Jesus was restoring to spiritual fellowship. Scribes and the Pharisees are clearly described in v. 28, "But he was angry and would not go in."

What does this tell you about the older son?

He didn't agree with the Father!

He had no joy that his lost brother was now home, restored.

He refused to change his attitude about restoring the lost.

By implication, what is Jesus saying to the Scribes and Pharisees at this point? They're criticizing the God Who loves sinners and desires to restore them and show joy when they are saved.

The the next part of the parable is very interesting because the Story and the present reality are now running parallel to each other.

v. 29, "Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him." Jesus is pleading with the Scribes & Pharisees at this very moment. What would the Father plead in the parable and what was Jesus pleading to these religious leaders?

Rejoice with me over the sinner who repents, see the value, see my perspective.

The older son continues to react... 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;"

Think about the older son's statement "never transgressed". What real son could say that he's never disobeyed his father? None. Nor can the Scribes and Pharisees truthfully say that they are not sinners (though they did).

Notice the jealousy that follows... 29... "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."

What do we see? Notice "not my brother, but your son". This shows dissociation with the lost brother. The prodigal wasted the father's goods and the older son implies that he's always been faithful with the father's goods. This points to the Scribes and Pharisees and how they were so unfaithful with all that God had entrusted to them.

The older brother screams out, I'm worthy of this special treatment by the Father. In essence, he's saying the father has acted unjustly by giving to the prodigal and not giving to the older son. This portrays the Scribes and Pharisees attitude toward Jesus for spending time and eating with sinners. The story has come full circle and is back at the original question of the Scribes and Pharisees, which manifested the problem of these men.

Now the father will put the blame where it belongs. v.31, "And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours."

What do we already know about this older son?

1. he does not share the heart of the father. So how close could he be to the father?

2. he does not approve of what the father does... again.. disobedience and distance.

In v. 31, the Father tells the son, you have not taken advantage of your relationship with me. You're not sharing in the joy, you're not having a feast yourself, because you have not caused the father to have joy by your relationship with him. The older son, like the Scribes and Pharisees had taken for granted all that the Father had, but they had not asked for it.

Notice the prodigal:

1. Asked for inheritance and recognized that he wasted it...

2. Asked for a servants position,

3. Asked for forgiveness (Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,19, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son)

4. Saw the need for his father's provision (18, I will arise and go to my father)

The Father does not agree with the older son, the Father puts the blame for not being involved in the celebration, right on the older complaining son... v.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.' This truth is aimed right at the Scribes and Pharisees, because they complained about what Jesus was doing. They saw no purpose, no value in Jesus going after and spending time with common sinners of the day. The Scribes and the Pharisees were angry and jealous that Jesus would choose to go after sinners instead of seeking to spend time with the self-righteous Leaders of the day.

These 3 parables in Luke 15 brings us right back to the Scribes and Pharisees original question and comment in Mk. 2:16... "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"

Jesus seeks sinners because He sees the value of their souls, because He desires to have that relationship with them. These parables in Luke 15 emphasize the attitude of the soul winner and how important it is for those seeking after the lost to never give up and diligently seek them. Most importantly, these parables answer the self-righteous person's question as to why Jesus would go after the lowly sinners of this world. It is because He loves us and cares for us. Luke 15:32, sums up the Lord's answer nicely v.32, "It was right...for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found."

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