A Walk through the Book of Luke
March 25, 2023
The Lost/Prodigal son
At times we all get a little lost in our lives. I’ve had friends who have gotten lost in drugs and alcohol. I’ve known people who have gotten themselves entranced by sexual sin. And still, others have gone into a deep depression because of the loss of a loved one, school grades, or divorce.
I’ve lost my direction in life many times. It wasn’t until I opened my heart to the Lord and asked Him for help that I was able to dig myself (with God’s help) out of the pit of depression.
The parable we’re about to dive into is known by several names. The Prodigal son, The Lost Son, and the parable of the two sons. I find these names interesting as I have always found the father to be the main character in this parable.
Sometimes, the best place to start is at the beginning. Let’s do just that by reading today’s parable. (Our story picks up immediately after yesterday’s parable of The Lost Coin.)
‘Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So, he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country, and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So, he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So, they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So, he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So, his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years, I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat, so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” Luke 15: 11-32
This parable moves from one of Jesus’ shortest parables to the longest in the New Testament.
One of the exciting things about this passage is that the father is actually the story’s main character, not the lost son. He actually illustrates the nature of God. The father is the one who gives his young son his inheritance early. It’s the father who is even more lavish than the lifestyle the young son had been living. When he sees his son, he doesn’t listen to his whole story; instead, the father calls for his servants to give his young son a robe, jewelry, and shoes and to throw a feast in honor of his return. He may have given his son a third of his wealth, but he is still a very wealthy man.
Then the father goes out to his oldest son and repeatedly asks him to come inside the house and celebrate his brother’s return. But, unfortunately, it seems the brother wants nothing to do with this party.
“The elder brother represents the Pharisees and all like them, and the parable is an appeal to them to change their mind about outcasts.” (New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, Luke 15, Pp. 1005)
This is a story of forgiveness of redemption and a jab at the pious religious leaders of the time (the older brother/Pharisees.)
Unfortunately, history tells us that most of the Pharisees did not repent of their ways.
The father allowed the son to use his free will to live the life he saw fit. Then, when the young son returned in humility, the father forgave him and threw a party for him.
It’s not unlike the story of the lost sheep:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
It’s the same for you and me. Although God’s Holy Spirit has a path for us to follow throughout our lives, we sometimes stray off that path or even leave it altogether. Yet, when we return to that path for forgiveness, all of heaven is overjoyed. Like the young son, we are forgiven when we mess up and repent of our ways. Jesus died for our sins; we are forgiven every time we mess up and repent of our transgressions. Jesus’ loving arms are always open and ready to welcome us back to the fold.