Summary: The younger son wanted blessing without relationship. So did the elder son. And so do we today.
This morning, we continue our journey through the parables of Christ. As we’ve noted before, a parable is a short story which is intended to teach or illustrate some spiritual truth. Parables are small but powerful, and this is demonstrated by their familiarity. Few of us, I imagine, could explain the structure of the Epistle to the Romans, or identify the main themes of the book of Hebrews. But everyone recognizes the story of the prodigal son, even people who have never set foot in a church. It’s only twenty-two verses long, yet it’s one of the best-known tales ever told. And there’s a reason for that. Like all of Jesus’ parables, it contains pure, condensed wisdom – about God, about ourselves, about life. It’s simple, and yet profound at the same time. It can’t be reduced to a slogan or a motto; you can’t capture its essence on a bumper sticker. It’s intended to stimulate thought, and reflection, and meditation.
And so, this morning, my goal is not to give you "the meaning" of the parable. My goal, rather, is to open it up; to unpack it; to highlight the main themes and examine the significance of its details. My hope is that you’ll be motivated as a result to use the parable as a tool for self-examination and self-assessment. Because the parables, like all of Jesus’ teachings, have a purpose. They are intended, not merely to deepen our understanding, but more importantly, to change our lives. To transform our thoughts, and attitudes, and motives, and behavior. To enable us to know God, and direct us in living lives honoring and pleasing to him. And so as we proceed, I encourage you to open yourself up to whatever God may wish to say to you this morning through this story. Will you do that? Good. All right. As we read in the gospel of Luke, chapter fifteen:
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ’Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
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. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. he longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
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! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 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 son said to him, ’Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ’Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ’Your brother has come,’ he replied, ’and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ’Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
’My son,’ the father said, ’you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’"