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  • Writer's pictureDeborah

Loving the Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32 The Message

Romans 3:23 ESV

A Story of Love Series

The parable of the Lost Son is often called the parable of the ‘prodigal’ son who was wasteful and extravagant.

It’s a story Jesus told about a father and his two sons. The story is filled with depth and has multiple layers of meaning.

It was the third story of redemption Jesus shared with the crowd. The three tales of redemption, the lost sheep, the lost coins, and the lost son followed a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees about ‘sinners’.

In Luke 15:11-32 we read, “Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to feel it. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corn-cobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a prize-winning heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’ The older brother stomped off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’ His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

That day as Jesus taught He was giving His followers (and the Pharisees) a story about God’s love and forgiveness. He IS telling us God is merciful and always forgives; there are no limits to God’s grace. Jesus was giving His followers examples of the character and nature of God. Unlike the Hebrew Pharisees, who expected God’s love as a result of their loyalty and hard work, He was teaching a message that was ‘unheard of’. This was a message of limitless grace and mercy. The Pharisees would have found this message shocking!

As we look at the story of the lost son from the perspective of love, we see a Father who loves his son so much that he is willing to accept his son back into the family and give him his rightful place as a loved son. In the story we see the father embrace his son to the point where he lavishes him with a party! The father is so glad that his son has returned, he doesn’t even mention the son’s previous behavior.

The father loves and welcomes home the one who was lost.

Upon his return, the youngest son expects to live like a servant in his father’s house. He fully expects he will need to fight to earn his father’s respect, even as a servant. He does not expect to be immediately forgiven. He knows he was wrong and is willing to accept his punishment and disciplinary judgment.

Some scholars believe when the youngest son initially left home it meant he wanted to be forever free from his father. In other words, when he left he thought his past life was dead to him. Other scholars believe the son was sprouting his wings when he left and he wasn’t thinking about how much it would hurt his father. What do you think?

Even though the younger son wasn’t thinking he would return, when he hit bottom he went running home. That seems to be more in line with a young son who hadn’t quite thought things through.

In the end when he did return home, he never expected that he would be received in love. He did not believe grace was possible. It seems like because his father received him with love and grace, he was overcome with love for his father!

Upon his return, the older son was angry that the younger son was received back into the family in love.

Here we need to remember the structure of a 1st Century Hebrew family. One of the responsibilities of the older son would have been to protect and unify the family. Instead he refused to help his younger brother. By shirking his duty as elder son, he exhibited characteristics that were immature and selfish. The older brother believed he had earned his place in the family.

He did not receive his brother back into the family. He did not offer love and forgiveness. By refusing to forgive his younger brother, he exposed his hidden sins. Without naming them, Jesus was comparing the behavior of the older son to that of the Pharisees. They believed they had earned their way to God. Jesus wanted them to understand grace and forgiveness as God sees love and forgiveness.

Still, the father loved his older son and reminded him he had always been loved.

The father knew his older son needed as much forgiveness as his younger son.

The truth is found in Romans 3:23, ”All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We cannot compare our sins and say the sin of another is worse than our sins.

What we can do is turn to God and receive His grace and mercy!

Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Receive Mercy

Open your hands and receive God’s abundant mercy.

In God, Deborah receiving mercy


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