Summary: In this parable Jesus is comparing the younger son to the tax collectors and sinners who came to Jesus. The elder son represented the Pharisees and religious rulers who continually found fault with the teachings of Jesus.
A Parable of Two Sons
Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
“Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisaical teachers of religious law complain that Jesus was associating with such despicable people – even eating with them.” Luke 15:1-2
The Pharisees and religious teachers believed a person was guilty of having a similar character as the people he associated with.
Outcast and low life people felt comfortable around Jesus. The authentic and vibrant love of Jesus attracted people despised by society. The common person saw the contrast in the compassion of Jesus and the judgmental attitude of the religious leaders.
In Luke 15 Jesus gave three stories, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son, illustrating his mission to seek and to save lost people and not the religious.
This morning I want to comment on the parable of the prodigal son. The parable is divided into two parts. The fist part is about the younger son and the second part is about the older son. The younger son represented the tax collectors and sinners who came to Jesus. The elder son represented the Pharisees and religious rulers who continually found fault with the teachings of Jesus.
I. The Prodigal Son – younger brother
From the context of this story we know the prodigal’s father was wealthy and part of the upper class of his day. He was a man of prestige and great influence.
The father was very generous and gave his younger son his part of the family inheritance. The younger son was saying, “It’s my life and my money.” The fact was he was going to live off his father’s wealth. He was not spending his own money he was wasting his father’s money. The rebellious son took his money and spent it all in living on the wild side. After he had spent all and was desperate he found a job. The job he took was the lowest of the low of all jobs for a Jew, caring for pigs.
Jolene Horn, writing in Today’s Christian Woman’s magazine, relates the story of the time she read to her daughter the parable of the Prodigal Son. Before putting her daughter to bed she read how the young son had taken his inheritance and left home. Finally, when he couldn’t even eat as well as pigs, he went home to his father, who welcomed him. When Jolene Horn finished reading the story, she asked her daughter what she had learned from the story. The daughter answered: “Never leave home without your credit card!”
The young son’s search for freedom quickly turned to bondage and destitution. His hitting bottom became his salvation. “When he came to his senses…” Luke 15:17 The rebellious son finally reached a teachable moment. He stopped blaming others for his situation. He accepted his responsibility for his problem.
“He came to his senses…” He realized he didn’t have to continue to eat with pigs. He could become a hired hand and servant for his father and eat better and have a warm bunk bed to sleep on at night. The young son turned around, he humbled himself and returned to his father.
Turning from sinful living and turning to God is what the Bible calls repentance. The younger son said he would confess his sin to God and to his father and face the consequences.
Have you ever experienced a crisis and experienced a “wake up call?” I’ve mentioned before that when I was 15 I give my life to the Lord. Jesus forgave my sins. But, when I got with old friends I compromised and wavered in my faith. That summer I was back in Gypsum doing some work on different farms while my mother was attend summer college in Emporia, KS. On one Sunday afternoon I was riding back to Gypsum from Salina when a car broadsided the car I was in and spun our car around. I was riding on the passenger side of the front seat and was thrown out of the car. I was knocked out and lying in a ditch. When I came to my first thought was, “God if you take care of me I’ll stop being a phony Christian and live for you with all my heart.” It took a jolt to jar me to my senses. It was a wake up call and I responded with a new commitment to Jesus.
Remember Jesus is telling this parable to communicate truth to religious leaders and Pharisees. Jesus was telling the religious rulers that God is seeking for people like the Prodigal who will come to their senses and turn to the Lord.
The religious leaders would especially not like the way Jesus portrayed the father. They believed the father was wrong in welcoming his wayward son back home.