Summary: In the story of the Prodigal Son we learn lessons for the prodigals and for the "faithful sons."
Looking for What’s Lost, Part II
Continuing our study of Luke, we find ourselves in Chapter 15. I want to invite you to be turning there. We previously looked at the first part of this chapter. Jesus was being criticized by some of the Jewish leaders because he was eating and drinking with “sinners,” with tax collectors and other “bad” people that the Pharisees would have nothing to do with.
Jesus responded by telling three parables. We saw before the first two of these parables: the parable of the shepherd and his sheep and the parable of the woman and her coins. Today we will look at what is possibly the most famous of Jesus’ parables: The Prodigal Son.
But first, a test! (I hope you studied)
Where does the term “prodigal son” come from? It doesn’t appear in the text. Where did we get this name?
a. The King James Version
b. The original Greek text
c. The Latin Vulgate Bible
The answer, of course, is C. This ancient translation of the Scriptures was the first to use the term “prodigal” to describe the son in this story. Which leads us to our second question:
“Prodigal” describes the son because it means...
The answer is B. The son was first called prodigal because of the way he wasted his father’s money. Now, in modern English, prodigal has come to mean one who runs away. But that’s because of this story.
This has been called the “greatest short story of all times.” Let’s take some time to look at it in detail.
Luke 15:11 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.
Being that there were two sons, according to Jewish law, the older would have received two thirds of the property and the younger one third. It was not unheard of for the father to give the inheritance away during his lifetime, but it was certainly insulting for the youngest son to ask for it. It’s like saying, “Your only worth to me is what you can give me.” And look what the son does...
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.
He took everything. This was not: “I’ll go make my fortune and return.” This was “Thanks for everything... I’m outta here!”
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.
It’s interesting that God doesn’t always have to directly intervene in our lives for us to feel the consequences of our sin. That famine affected everyone, yet the younger son was hit especially hard because of the way that he had squandered his money.
The pig was considered to be an unclean animal to the Jews, unclean in that it defiled the person that touched it. It was forbidden for Jews to herd pigs. The younger son had sunk about as far as he could go.
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.’
The boy decides to humble himself and return to his father. Yet he does not even ask to be a slave, for a slave in that time was considered to be part of the household and would in some ways be a burden to his owner. The boy asks to work for daily wages, not asking for any obligation on his father’s part.
20 So 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.
The image that this gives is that the father was waiting and hoping and praying that his son would return. He sees him while still far away and RUNS to meet him. There is no attitude of “Well, look who came crawling back!” The father is overjoyed at his son’s return.