Summary: The parable of the lost younger son in Luke 15:11-16 teaches us about the consequences of sin.
We are studying chapter 15 in The Gospel of Luke. It is a marvelous chapter as Jesus explained the good news of salvation in the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son. William Barclay says, “There is no chapter of the New Testament so well known and so dearly loved as the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. It has been called ‘the gospel in the gospel,’ as if it contained the very distilled essence of the good news which Jesus came to tell.”
Jesus preached the good news of salvation to all people. In Luke 15 Jesus implied that there are basically two kinds of people in this world: religious people and irreligious people. Religious people believe that God will accept them because of their good works; they are law-keepers. Irreligious people generally have no interest in God and the things of God; they are law-breakers.
Astonishingly, Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God and how to enter it resonated not with the religious people of his day but rather with the irreligious people. The religious people – the Pharisees and the scribes – were furious with Jesus that he would not only teach irreligious people about the way of salvation but that he would even eat with them. The attitude of the religious toward the irreligious was summed up in a later rabbinic saying, “Let not a man associate with the wicked, not even to bring him to the Law.”
Jesus taught that, in the words of D. A. Carson, “God rejoices over the recovery of a lost sinner, and therefore it is Jesus’ supreme desire to seek and save the lost (19:10).” The parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15 is the most beautiful illustration in all of Scripture about God’s joy over the recovery of lost sinners. Each time the lost object is found, there is a call to celebrate its recovery. And as Carson notes, “In just the same way, it is implied, the Pharisees should share in God’s rejoicing over the salvation of the outcasts.”
But, sadly, the Pharisees and the scribes – the religious people – do not rejoice over the salvation of the outcasts – the irreligious people. This three-part parable in Luke 15 is directed to religious people. We have already examined the part of the parable dealing with the lost sheep and the lost coin. Today, we will examine the third part of the parable, the lost son.
The third part of the parable is usually called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” John MacArthur says, “Charles Dickens (who could spin a fair yarn himself) famously called the parable of the prodigal son the greatest short story ever written.” The more I study the parable, the more amazed I am at its brilliance and beauty. However, the parable is really not about a “prodigal son.” It is about a gracious father and two sons. But, I will have no success in changing centuries of tradition!
I plan to divide the parable of the lost son into three parts. We shall examine the younger son, the father, and the older son in three successive sermons.