Summary: An expository study of the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Text: Luke 15:11-32


1. ILLUS: I preached a revival at Second Baptist Church of Ashland, KY some years ago. I went alone and I traveled by plane. I started in Tallahassee, FL, flew to Atlanta International and then to Huntington, WV. The airport in Huntington is a frightening one. They built it by scooping off the top of one of the Appalachian Mountains and then they built the airport on top of the mountain. On November 14, 1970, the Marshall University football team was returning from a game they played in North Carolina, and in drizzling rain, the plane was flown by pilots who had never before landed at the Huntington airport. And at 7:36 PM, the pilot believing he was coming in too high was actually flying far too low and the plane clipped trees and then flew into the side of the mountain, killing everyone on board instantly. The town nearly died with the victims of the crash. Nearly the entire Herd was aboard, nearly all coaches and many prominent people. Huntington lost so many of its sons that day, and still today there is somewhat of a dark cloud over Huntington. I have recorded albums there and I cannot explain it, but the town has never completely recovered from the decades old tragedy. They made a movie about it: “We are Marshall.” So great was the town’s loss, they have never recovered from the grief.

2. As the heart of a city was broken, so is the heart of God broken over the plight of lost sinners. Read vv 11-32

3. The parable we are studying today is unlike any other parable. It is the most intimate parable Jesus ever taught.

4. There are three parables in this chapter, all given at once by Jesus. Some say all three combined are simply three acts of one parable.

5. But there is a theological issue we must set straight first, or else we are going to miss the whole point of the story.

6. This parable has often been used by preachers and Bible teachers for a lesson about the backsliding Christian.

7. But, notice the context in vv 1-2. So what Jesus is about to say He says to the Pharisees who were judging Him for being in the company of sinners.

8. This is not a lesson about backsliding: It is a lesson on the broken heart of God seeking the lost!

9. Notice the two parables that come before this parable: vv 3-10

10. There is the lost sheep, the lost silver and the lost son.

11. The missing sheep

12. The misplaced silver

13. The miserable son

These all show the Triune Godhead at work in salvation. First, the Son is the good shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. John 10:27-28, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

ILLUS: The Middle Eastern imagery of sheep herding.

Then, there is the parable of the lost silver. This pictures the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. He works on the inside of the house, and sheds light into the heart in order to turn the lost sinner toward God.

Then the parable of the prodigal son is a picture of the Heavenly Father’s seeking heart.

14. The emphasis in this entire triplet is on the heart of the seeking God and the resounding joy in Heaven when a lost sinner is found.

15. Today we are going to look at this tender, touching and true picture of the heart of God toward sinners. Jesus is telling these lost religious teachers what the character of the Father is all about. We are going to see God’s heart for lost souls, and learn how we can see the lost through Jesus’ eyes. Notice three things from this Parable of the Father’s Heart toward Sinners:

I. The rebellion of a wayward son: vv 12-16

A. His selfish demand

1. vv 12, And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.

2. Here is a wealthy man with two sons. He has great riches of money, land, he owns slaves, and he has two sons.

3. This father is a picture of the Heavenly Father. Jesus is saying, This is what my Father is like.

4. Here is the cast of characters in the story:

a. The father represents the Heavenly Father. He is immensely wealthy, wise, righteous,

and forgiving.

b. The prodigal represents a lost and spiritually dead sinner. Some ask, “Then why is he called a son?” He is a son in the sense of election only. That is, God has infinite knowledge and knows who will be saved in the future, and those whom He foreknows are the elect. God has elected them to salvation because He foresees that they will put their faith in Jesus.

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