Summary: When the prodigal returned he was given five very special gifts: they each symbolise what we have in Christ as believers.
THE PRODIGAL SON
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.
Jesus was responding to the criticisms of the spiritual leaders of Israel. He had been eating with sinners. He did not judge them, He loved them. The third parable He told is probably the most important of these kinds of parables as it tells us what we were and what we have become in Christ. It especially tells us what we have received in Him.
Jesus based His story on truth. To say a certain man and for the man not to exist would imply that he could not be certain. Perhaps there were similar well known stories and the people could identify with them.
It is obvious that this man is a nobleman who has property and riches. No boy would want to leave with his portion of nothing!
The splitting of the inheritance would be in line with Levitical Law. A man with six sons would divide his inheritance into seven parts. Each son would receive one part with the exception of the eldest who would get two. Even before the development of Levitical Law we see Jacob divide his inheritance into thirteen parts. Each son gets one part except for the son of his favourite wife, the one he had worked so hard to have. Joseph is given two parts, and from then on we see thirteen tribes of Israel each named after a son of Jacob except for Joseph’s which are Ephraim and Mannasseh.
The Jewish leaders hearing this statement from the boy would have been livid. This boy was guilty of gross sin. It was seen as one of the worst a Jew could commit. They even had a title for it: “Burying his parents before they were dead.” He was basically saying, “I wish you would drop dead! I can’t wait any longer I want your money now so that I can squander it.”
The Pharisees knew the ten commandments and they would never be heard to complain about their parents.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
They would have been so mad with him. This was the lowest of the low. Not only had he taken the father’s wealth, he had moved out of the land which the Lord had given. He would have been despised in their eyes: to them his sin was unforgivable. His sin was worthy of death.
He may enjoy the fruits of his father’s labour, but not for long as he was walking out of the blessing of God.
Riches can easily deceive. We want to be rich, but we have to check our motivation as to why we do. If it so that we can “eat, drink and be merry..” we are going to come unstuck. If it is so that we can help to establish His kingdom on the earth then we will do well.
And he divided unto them his living.
Imagine the father’s anguish as he took stock of all that he owned and began to share it between his two sons. Two parts for the eldest son and one part for the youngest. All of his possessions were separated.. Buildings, animals, servants, precious metals and jewellery, clothing and land. Some of it may have been sold in order to give the boy cash.
And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country,
The scene must have been fantastic. Here was a nobleman’s son leaving town with a third of his father’s possessions. This was not a Huckleberry Finn scenario with a boy leaving with a Nike Bag thrown over his shoulder. No, this young man had a caravan of wagons, animals and servants. He was strutting like a peacock, and thumbing his nose at his father.
And he went to a far country.
Actually a far country does not have to be very far away at all! It merely means being out from under the influence of the father.
You do not have to travel very far in any direction before you come across somebody who is away from the influence and authority of the Father.
I can remember two such incidents. I was once visiting a church pastor in Kings Cross, Central London. As I made my farewell I stepped out onto the stairs leading to the ground. There just a few feet from the pastor’s home was a man mainlining on heroin. When he saw me he quickly gathered up his belongings and hurried away apologizing. This man was geographically close to the Father; he was right by the pastor’s place. Yet he was in a far country when it came to his relationship with God.