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.
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: . . . 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 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. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.