Summary: The parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the most famous of all of the Lord’s parables. But are we truly understanding the full significance of this amazing message of love and mercy?
In the United States today, it is estimated that between one and two million teenagers run away from home every year. Of course, there are many different reasons why these children choose to leave their homes. Many are simply the products of very dysfunctional families, they leave seeking some sort of peace they are not able to find at home. Some are problemed children who are basically shown the door by their parents or caregivers, and still others are lured
away by rebellious peers.
In our childhood, it’s quite safe to say that most of us, at one time or another at least entertained the thought of running away from home. I remember one day when my daughter was six or seven years old, she threatened to pack her things and run away. It seemed that the many stringent rules of behavior that we so strictly enforced became much more than she could tolerate.....obviously, we were way out of touch with her very mature and very independent personality. So, on the grounds of these irreconcilable differences, she was ready to test the waters of total independence......at grandma’s house.
So, being the good parents that we are, we patiently listened to our little girl’s concerns and threats. And then we took her to her room where got down a suitcase and began to help her pack. As she looked at us with a most puzzled expression on her face, it didn’t take long before she was taking her stuff out faster than we could put it in. Thankfully, she didn’t have to actually run away from home in order to realize that there is no place like home-- that is if your home is a house filled with people who love you--especially people who love you unconditionally.
Did you ever run away from home or seriously consider it? Chances are that if you did, a large part of the reason was because you were tired of being under the oppressive yoke of your parents. Perhaps you thought that you knew much better than they as to what was best for your life. All of the chores, rules, curfews, telling you who you could hang out with, and the nagging about your schoolwork was probably more than you could bear. Maybe it seemed to you that your parents placed these rules and restrictions on you just because they liked to assert their authority, but it surely didn’t occur to you at that time that all these things were done out of love. Although granted, many times, out of necessity it had to be “tough love.”
This morning, we are going to look at what is probably the most famous parable of Jesus recorded in the scriptures. As we study this very profound parable together, I’ll ask that you pay very close attention because I can guarantee that you will be able to identify with at least one of the characters in this story. And if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, we will find ourselves at least slightly changed by the message interwoven in this parable of The Prodigal Son.
Most people, if asked to summarize this parable, would probably say that it is a story about a son who once had a good or right relationship with his father, but for some reason he ran away. But, after a while in the real world, he finally came to his senses and went back home to a father who welcomed him. And we tend to believe that this message is intended to encourage those Christians who once had a good relationship with the Lord but have, over the course of time, drifted away. If this is the extent of the lesson you have gleaned from this parable, I hope by the time you leave here today, you will carry with you much more than that.
Nearly all of the parables of Jesus consisted of two lessons; these lessons I like to refer to as the “there and then” and the “here and now”....... because many times these stories are applied to a particular group of people back then, but maybe they apply to a similar yet different group of people today. You see, the word of God is still living and active and is just as relevant for us now as it was for those who lived in the time it was first recorded.
Here is the parable in it’s entirety: Luke 15:11-32
“11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The 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. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He 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! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.