Usually called the Prodigal Son.
Who are the characters?
- Usually one is God, here the father represents God. One is all those who were lost and have become born again, the prodigal son. The other son is symbolic of the Pharisees. If you go back to verses 1-3 you see that the Pharisees are present. He first tells them of the lost sheep, then the lost coin and now the lost sons.
There are two common paths to live life portrayed in this parable: Carnality – My way and Morality – Religious way. (Pv 14:12) But there is a third path represented here.
v11. Two sons, both are lost. We usually forget the older brother when studying this parable.
v12. Think of the insult. Dad, I can’t wait for you to die, give me my inheritance now so I can leave! Mr. Carnality. Free will means God won’t get in our way.
v15. Pigs were detestable to a Jew. Sin always promises more than it gives and takes you further than you want it to go and leaves you in worse shape then when you began.
v19. Better to be a servant. How do you think the Pharisees want this to turn out right now? Justice. He should be punished for blowing it. Would you ever stop loving your children? No matter what wrongs they’ve done. Do we really want God’s justice? The prodigal son figures he can repay his bad deeds by working it off as a servant. He thinks that would be justice. Justice is getting what you deserve, he actually wanted mercy – not getting what you deserve.
v24. He actually receives grace – getting what you don’t deserve. There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. Religion requires works, Christ offers grace.
v28. Mr. Morality. He thinks the father owes him because of his righteousness. He doesn’t even know he’s lost. The father shows mercy on the older son too.
v29. He counted his works because he had no relationship with his father. He didn’t say; but I have loved you all these years.
v30. Your son, not my brother. Like when your child does wrong you say; dear, look at what your son did, instead of our son. He thought his brother should be punished. Self-righteous.
v31. He had been working all his life to try and earn what was freely his.
v32. As all are lost until they are born again. We are all longing for home, but neither carnality nor morality will lead us there. They are both dead ends.
What human beliefs are shattered?
- Religious people usually condemn Carnality, but applaud Morality. Both are lost.
- Neither wants nor loves God and only wants to please themselves, they are selfish.
- Mr. Morality is prideful, resentful, joyless and controlling. He can’t forgive because he is selfish and feels superior. He’s his own savior because he thinks God owes him. Worst, he’s unaware that he’s lost. (Rom 4:4-5) These types give God a bad name.
- Jesus is the way of salvation. Option #3 – His way.
- Jesus is God who runs to welcome and redeem the lost according to His grace. God puts His robe on us to cover our sin.
What divine wisdom is revealed?
- Should we be moral? God wants us to act morally as the result of salvation, not as a means to it. We act morally out of love for God, not obligation. (Jn 14:15)
- This parable sums up the entire Bible. It’s all about redemption. In the beginning we chose to be separated from God. In the end we can choose to be reconciled with God.
Can you stand for righteousness and truth, yet offer grace?
If Jesus visited your church would you actually let Him in?