Luke 15:11–12, 20–21, 22–24 comment (0)
May 1, 2014
By Catherine Lawrence
Related Scripture: Luke 15:11–12, 20–21, 22–24
Bible Studies for Life
Department of Religion, Samford University
Luke 15:11–12, 20–21, 22–24
This week’s lesson is drawn from the well-known parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32).
Jesus told this parable in the hearing of many tax collectors and sinners who had come to listen to Him (Luke 15:1). The Pharisees and scribes looked upon Jesus with contempt because He welcomed these tax collectors and sinners and even ate with them (Luke 15:2). In the estimation of the religious leaders, Jesus should not have associated Himself with people thought to be steeped in sin.
For the benefit of both the sinners and the religious leaders, Jesus told three parables: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (or prodigal son). Each parable emphasizes the great joy of one who found something that had been lost. Jesus used these parables to illustrate the character of God, who welcomes and rejoices over lost sinners who repent.
The parable of the lost son concerns a man who had two sons. The younger of the two sons asked his father for his share of the inheritance. Normally a son would not receive his inheritance until his father’s death, but in this case the father granted his son’s request to receive the inheritance in advance.
The younger son then left home, traveled to a distant country and proceeded to recklessly squander his entire inheritance (v. 13). Clearly the son had chosen to go his own way, and at least on this occasion, the father did not stand in his way.
After squandering his inheritance, the son hired himself out to do perhaps the most repulsive job a Jew could imagine: feed pigs. Yet he still could not make ends meet and therefore found himself without food to eat.
Eventually it dawned on the son that even his father’s hired servants had plenty of food to eat. He thus determined to return to his father, repent of having sinned against him and ask his father to hire him as a servant (vv. 18–19).
When the young man returned, he did indeed admit having sinned against his father, but the father’s response to his son’s return was extraordinary. That the father saw the son while he was still far off suggests that perhaps the father was watching for him, hoping for his return. The father was filled with compassion for his son; he ran to meet him — an action highly unusual for an older man — and kissed him. All of these actions indicate that the father eagerly offered a warm and tender welcome to his returned son. Even as the son acknowledged having sinned against his father, the father’s acceptance of his son did not waver.
The young man claimed he was no longer worthy to be called a son (v. 21). He knew his past was not pretty. And yet the father proceeded to honor him as one who was indeed worthy to be treated as a son. The return prompted a celebration, which included the killing of the fatted calf (i.e. an animal reserved for a very special occasion) and culminated with the father’s joyful declaration, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).
The most stunning truth of the parable lies in what it reveals about the character of God. We learn that, like the father in the parable, God the Father eagerly welcomes repentant sinners and rejoices over them. He does not reject those who repent; nor does He make it difficult for repentant sinners to reach Him.
In fact, the parables of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3–7) and the lost coin (Luke 15:8–10) suggest that God seeks out sinners. Thus despite all of our sin we have hope. Our hope lies in God, the One who joyously welcomes repentant sinners with open arms.