Focus Text: Luke 15.11-16
Perhaps no parable is more often referenced than the story of the Prodigal son. In fact, it is so well know that several idioms in the English language have arisen from this significant biblical illustration. We speak to someone returning after a long absence and say, “Well, did the Prodigal finally decide to come home?” Or, when someone is down on their luck, we might say they have been “…eating with the pigs.” Or, if someone throws an elaborate party or celebration on a particular occasion, we might say they went all out and “…killed the fatted calf.” All of these expressions come from this one parable. Today’s message and the next four in this series will focus on this parable especially as it relates to the question of how God treats sinners.
The context of the parable is still directly connected to the charge of the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus, the charge that “…This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15.2). So the parable of the Prodigal directly addresses this charge and implicitly teaches significant lessons about how God treats sinners. The setting of everything that happens in the parable is framed by the focus verses, and we quote: “Then He [Jesus] said: ‘A certain man had two sons. 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. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.’” (Luke 15.11-16).
In the parable, even the most casual reader understands that the father represents God. Further, it is seen that the younger son is a sinner; a slightly more astute reader might also recognize that the older son represents a particular class of sinners, and that in spite of his claims and protests to the contrary. Be that as it may, the younger of the two sons is the first character upon whom we focus our attention. The text says that he chose to leave his father’s house and strike out on his own shortly after the father gave him his share of the family inheritance. It was this decision that soon led to his downfall, and in the spiritual parallel, it was this decision that led the saint to become a sinner. Not long after leaving his father’s house, he began to live an extravagant lifestyle and spend his money unwisely [the meaning of prodigal].
The parallel is striking. God, the Father, knows best! We, like the younger son, may challenge His wisdom from time to time, and He is patient enough to allow us to do that. He will even permit us the freedom of choice to leave Him while continuing to shower us with His many blessings (rain, sunshine, good health, a sound mind, etc., etc.). Nonetheless, whether we ever come to our selves of not, we are away from Him and in mortal danger. In the case of the younger son, his departure from the Father soon led him to the equivalent of a lost condition.
As conscious sinners, we set aside the fact that Father knows best and establish our own agenda.
1. What does prodigal mean? What would a prodigal son be?
2. What motivated the younger brother to request his inheritance in advance of the time he would ordinarily have received it?
3. Why didn’t the father refuse his younger son’s request? Do you think he had an opinion of what would be best?
4. What is represented by the son being in a far country, broke, hungry, and totally desperate?
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