Posts Tagged “Prodigal Son”

In the Parable of the Lost Son, we’ve looked at the repentance of the prodigal son and the compassion and love of the father. That leaves the final character in the parable, the older son. I’ll start with the parable to refresh your memory of the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“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. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But 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 (NIV)

Of the three characters, I find the older son to have the saddest story, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. He has been the obedient son. He stayed home and worked for the father during the years that his younger brother squandered his inheritance. Obedience is a good thing. Unfortunately in this case, it’s squandered obedience. The older son had a wonderful opportunity to grow in his relationship with the father during that time, but it doesn’t appear that he did. He clearly didn’t absorb the nature of his father – he showed neither compassion, love or mercy when his younger brother returned home. He was not ready to forgive. In fact, upon learning that the party was to celebrate his brother’s homecoming, he refused to go into the house.

He lacked a servant’s heart, instead using the phrase “all these years I’ve been slaving for you” to describe his efforts. The word translated “slaving” literally means “in bondage to.” The younger brother was enslaved to sin during his years of riotous living. The older son was enslaved to sin of a different kind. He had become a slave to his sense of duty and his belief that it was his own efforts that would earn him his father’s inheritance. He served his father out of obedience, not out of love. He was obedient out of duty. He viewed himself as working for his inheritance. What a drudgery those years must have been!

But there’s an even sadder element to his story. Read again the words of the father:

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
Luke 15:31 (NIV)

“Everything I have is yours.” The son had at his disposal all that belonged to the father and he never availed himself of it. He didn’t even realize it was his.

Friends, our heavenly Father says the same thing to us “Everything I have is yours.” Notice the words “everything” and “all” and “all things” in the following verses:

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done…19And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6, 19 (NLT)

2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:32 (NIV)

“Everything I have is yours,” says the Father.

Remember, the parable is an illustration of spiritual principles. The younger son is a perfect picture of willful rebellion and then humble repentance. The father beautifully illustrates the loving and compassionate Father we have in heaven, ready to forgive and celebrate with us. Now we have the older son, who I’m afraid is very much like us sometimes. We so easily fall into the trap of serving the Lord out of duty.

Obedience is important in the Kingdom of God, but it must be obedience out of love for all the Father has done for us and gives us. Obedience out of duty creates in us the same attitude it created in the older son – bitter jealousy.

The Father’s message is “Everything I have is yours.” Let’s not live like slaves but as the son or daughter who has been given the Kingdom.

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Studying the Parable of the Lost Son, in my previous blog we focused on the namesake of the parable, the lost or prodigal son. He is only one of the three main characters in the story. Today I want to study the actions of the father. First, let me repeat the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“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. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But 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 (NIV)

It’s important to understand what it meant for the son to ask for his father for his inheritance. It was exceedingly hurtful and humiliating. Many fathers would respond in great anger at such a request. The son was saying “your money is more important to me than you.” The son was disgracing the family. I have no doubt that it was a very difficult thing for the father to hand over the son’s inheritance to him knowing that he would squander it. Yet he did that, perhaps also knowing that the son had to come to his own understanding about life and his father’s love for him.

Verse 20 tells us that while the son was still “a long way off”, his father saw him. I’m guessing that the father had an eye trained on the lane down which the son would return. That throughout his daily life he kept looking, watching and waiting. The father is a picture of our heavenly Father. I love knowing that he watches and waits for each sinner to return. That He hasn’t turned His back on them, but longs for them to return, just as this father longed for his lost son to return. God waits patiently, turned toward so that when we make the slightest move toward Him, He is there.

The lost son’s father was filled with compassion for his son. He wasn’t full of criticism. He wasn’t full of self-righteousness. He wasn’t ready to punish. He was filled with compassion. The son was undoubtedly dressed much differently from when he left. Having lost all his money and having been slopping pigs, his clothing would not have been the same as when he left with his inheritance. But it wasn’t only his clothing that had changed – his demeanor had changed at least as much. He was now defeated. And he was now repentant. And his father was filled with compassion. So much that he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. What a display of affection! What an act demonstrating his love and forgiveness.

And he didn’t stop there. Before the son even finished what I’m sure was his well-rehearsed speech, the father began to direct the servants to begin the celebration.

“Bring the best robe.” – The best robe most likely belonged to the father. He was effectively saying – welcome back, what’s mine is yours.

“Put a ring on his finger.” – The ring was a sign of the father’s authority and he was giving it to his repentant son.

“Put sandals on his feet.” – Servants were not given robes, rings and sandals. The father was making it clear that his son was part of the family.

“Bring the fattened calf. Let’s celebrate!” – The father was expressing his joy. His son was once lost, but now he is found. The father was mirroring the response of all of heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:7; see my blog Helping Others Find Faith – Bringing Joy to Heaven.)

Jesus, in telling the story, was teaching about the Father’s love. This is the love the Psalmist wrote about:

10He [God] does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve….13The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:10, 13 (NLT)

It is the love Paul wrote about and prayed for the Ephesians:

18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)

All of heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. God is watching for us to turn. He is waiting to run toward us and…

Put a robe around our shoulders – his robe of righteousness,

Put a ring on our finger – giving us His authority,

Put sandals on our feet – clothing us better than fields of lilies, and

Celebrate!

What a loving, gracious and forgiving Father we have!

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The Parable of the Lost Son, or the Prodigal Son as many call it, has three main characters: The father and his two sons. There are significant lessons that can be found when viewing the story from the perspective of each character. In this first blog we’ll look at the story through the eyes of the prodigal son. First, the story:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“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. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So 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.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“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. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But 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 (NIV)

The story begins with the words “Jesus continued.” This parable follows two other parables that make the same point – there is great rejoicing when a sinner repents.  I blogged about that in Helping Others Find Faith – Bringing Joy to Heaven.

The Parable of the Lost Son provides a visual, earthly picture of that same theme. The lost son is a perfect example of a rebellious, ungrateful, perhaps spoiled young man. He doesn’t want anything to do with hard work. He wants what is “rightfully” his, and he wants to do with it whatever he wants, with no consideration for others or his own future. I’m guessing many of us were in that same mindset to one degree or another at some point in our lives. It is the essence of our sin nature – it’s all about me. I want what I want and I want it now and I don’t want anyone (especially God) telling me what I can and can’t do with it.

So the father gave his son his inheritance and the son set off for a “distant land.” I’m reminded of Jonah who, in his desire to escape God’s will, ran as far away as he could (Jonah 1:3).

After squandering his inheritance, he found himself with no money, no place to live and nothing to eat. Jobs were scarce because the economy had crashed while the son was spending his money.

The Bible Exposition Commentary on the New Testament brings out this important point?

Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery (John 8:34); it promises success, but brings failure; it promises life, but “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The boy thought he would “find himself,” but he only lost himself! When God is left out of our lives, enjoyment becomes enslavement.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1

And that’s exactly what the lost son was experiencing. In his desperation, “He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.” (Luke 15:15, NLT) He’d gone from being the son of a man of means to living high on the hog (as they say in the south) to feeding the hogs. What a transition!

In the muck and mire of the hog pen (what a place to find a Jewish boy!), Scripture says the son “came to his senses.” The King James Version translates it as “he came to himself.” The lost son found himself – his true self. You see, we were not made for sin. We were made, created, to bring glory to our creator. We were made to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” according to the Westminster catechism. The lost son returned to the person he was created to be, recognized how far removed he had become from that person, and made a decision to return. He had been to the distant land and wanted to return home.

The definition of repent is “to change one’s mind.” That’s what the prodigal son did. He changed his mind. His selfish attitude became one of humility, as evidenced by his words and actions:

18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 (NIV)

The son had no expectation that his father would rejoice upon seeing him again. He had no expectation of a great welcome home party. He had only the humble request that he be allowed to work as a hired hand. He came to his senses and repented. He changed what he was doing and returned to his father. And there was great rejoicing.

Just as there is great rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents and turns to his or her heavenly Father.

Notice, though, that there would have been no party if the son hadn’t changed his behavior as well as his thinking. If he had simply acknowledged in the hog pen that his dad was right but he was still going to live his own life. True repentance requires a change in behavior as well as thinking. Do we sometimes fall after committing to that change. Yes. But it is in continually returning to the Father that we find our salvation.

What strikes me the most about the change in the son is the great humility required to return to the father and say “I was wrong. I’m not worthy to be your son. Will you hire me as a lowly servant?”

Lord, develop that attitude in my heart in a greater way. “I was wrong. (I am wrong.) I’m not worthy to be your daughter. Will you accept me as your lowly servant?”

Of course, our loving Father says “Yes. Child, come. And let’s celebrate together. Here, let me give you freedom (in the way of complete forgiveness) and then let me give you the Kingdom.”

Wow! What an exchange!

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