Summary: What did Jesus teach about God’s forgiveness in the parable of the prodigal? That it is lavish, and that it is for US!


Luke 15: 11-32

1. Illus. of my friend Paul

• Teaches counseling at seminary, also maintains a small private practice on the side.

• “Other than for marital troubles, the number one reason people come to see me is unresolved guilt. Most of the time they don’t know it, but what they are looking for forgiveness.”

2. One of the greatest needs in the human heart is the need to be forgiven. Are you carrying around a load of guilt on your shoulders today? Maybe you’ve been carrying it so long that most of the time you forget its there, but then something happens and that weight settles on your shoulders anew. Maybe you have feelings of despair, dirtiness, or personal unworthiness because of this guilt. If this is you, listen today. I want to tell you what Jesus said about being forgiven.

3. This is a simple three-point parable. There are three scenes, with one of the three major characters being center stage in each scene.

• Scene one is in vss 11-20a. The central character is the prodigal, and he looks an awful lot like the tax collectors and sinners in 15:1.

• Scene two is in vss 20b-24. The central character is the father, and he looks an awful lot like our loving heavenly Father.

• Scene three is in vss 25-32. The central character is the older brother, and he looks an awful lot like the legalistic, proud scribes and Pharisees of 15:2.

4. In our text, Jesus told his listeners that God wanted to fully and completely forgive every sinner.

5. Today: God’s forgiveness is available to every person who wants it!

6. What do the characters in this parable teach us about God’s forgiveness?


1. See vss 12-16. Look at this boy: he is a rebel to the bone. What caused him to wind up down in the hog-pen, needing his daddies forgiveness? His rebelliousness!

2. He says in effect, “Daddy, I’m tired of doing things your way. I want to be in charge of my own life, I want to do things my way. Give me my inheritance in advance, and I’m going over to the far country.”

3. That prodigal is a picture of all of us, because in our hearts we are all rebels. Isaiah 53:7 describes us this way: “ All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone into his own way…” Isaiah is talking about the way that sometimes sheep are stubborn, and want to go their own way instead of following the shepherd. He tells us that we are all that way. There is something in me that makes me want my own way!

4. Illus. of zoo in Houston Texas

• Man in charge of alligator’s read article about alligator being killed by digesting a coin thrown into water in the alligator pit. Had never had anyone throw a coin in the water, but he put up a sign that read, “Do not throw money.”

• Within a week, over a hundred dollars worth of coins had been thrown into the alligator pit. As soon as he took down the sign, the coin tossing stopped!

• Why? Because we are rebels!

5. Nowhere is this rebellious nature more clearly seen than in our relationship with God. “I know you said ‘thou shalt not…’ but I think I shall! I don’t want your will to be done, I want my will to be done.”

6. That rebellious nature guarantees that sooner or later we will all wind up in the hog-pen of sin. We need forgiveness because of our rebellious nature.


1. See vss 17-24.

2. When this prodigal realized what a terrible mistake he had made, he determined to do something about it. “I’m getting up, I’m going back to my father’s house, and I’m going to make this right.”

3. He realized that he had shamed, embarrassed, and hurt his father. He had really forfeited all the privileges of sonship. He determines that if he can’t be his son, he will at least be his servant.

4. What was the father’s response? He ran out to meet him, and he commanded that :

• Bring out the best robe and put it on him- a status symbol, the finest thing in the house

• Put a ring on his hand- a signet ring bearing the seal of the family, used to seal all official documents and transactions. Since the wrong use of this ring could ruin you financially, you only gave it to someone you totally trusted.

• Sandals on his feet- slaves went barefoot, but sons wore sandals.

• Kill the fatted calf- a calf being prepared for slaughter on a special occasion when important guests were present.

5. What is Jesus teaching in all this? That if we are willing to turn from our sin and come to God for forgiveness, He not only forgives, He lavishly forgives!

6. Illus. of Maria and runaway daughter Christina (see attached)

• “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Come home.”

• That’s the same lavish forgiveness the Father offers. It doesn’t matter what we have done, or what we have become, the Father offers us, not a grudging absolution from our sins, but rather a full and lavish forgiveness.

7. See I John 1:9 Confession = our part. Forgive = God’s part.

8. If you are dirty and weary with sin, bring it to God and experience His lavish forgiveness!


1. See vss 25-32, especially vs 29. This older brother is a picture of the Pharisees. His self-righteous attitude blinded him to his own jealousy, bitterness, and lying, just like the self-righteousness of the Pharisees blinded them to their sinfulness.

2. These Pharisees would never experience God’s forgiveness because, like the elder brother, they thought they had nothing to be forgiven of.

3. See Luke 18: 9-14


1. What does Jesus teach us about being forgiven? That just as surely as water runs down a hill, humanity runs toward sin and rebellion. But no matter what we have done, our loving Father will give us lavish forgiveness if we will return to Him. The only people who can’t be forgiven are the self-righteous who think they have nothing to be forgiven of.

2. Illus. of Pilgrims Progress

• Main character with huge rock on back

• Comes to cross, contemplates it, rock rolls off his back and he is free.

• Why not bring your weight to the cross, experience the forgiveness of God?