Summary: Chapter 15 of Luke is the start of a new discussion as Jesus makes his way into Jerusalem to fulfill his ultimate sacrificial mission. It begins with the Scribes and Pharisees grumbling because Jesus always allowed sinners to listen to him and eat with hi
This would be similar to having a pastor who spent most of his time trying to reach the lost while neglecting those in the congregation who are just sitting around trying to be Holy. Often the people who are just in church to be served are the ones who complain when they don’t get enough of the pastor’s attention because he is focused on leading the church to seek the lost and making disciples as commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission.
Should a pastor serve his congregation? Absolutely, but he should not spend the bulk of his time serving people who have no intention of doing the work of the Lord, but are just in church to receive and criticize. That is the setting of Luke 15 and he speaks three parables to make one point, so I think it’s an important point. The point is that the work of a Christian, and why Jesus came, was to spend the majority of their energy seeking the lost and bringing them to repentance, because there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over the ninety nine others who are righteous and have not strayed away from God’s commands, whoever that is.
That is what our parable of the prodigal son is about today as well. Many of you have probably heard many sermons on this parable usually focussed on the father and the prodigal, so I am going to try to present it from a slightly different perspective today, focussing on the older son who stayed at home with his father.
To set us up for application of this famous parable, I want us to look at the characters like this. The prodigal son represents unbelievers or perhaps those who have fallen away from the faith (I believe these are one in the same in that the one who falls away was probably never really a true converted Christian).
The dad obviously represents God/Jesus, and the oldest son represents the religious establishment of the day or in our case, long time believers in the church. So as we go through the story I think most of us should focus on the oldest son and take the application of this parable from him.
Jesus in this chapter is using this third parable to illustrate the point that God is more concerned with one person who is lost and destined for Hell, than the whole congregation of saved believers. Stop there for a minute. Does that bother you, or offend you? Does it bother you that God is more concerned with the lost than with you faithful believer? Or do you have that same attitude yourself? That we have what we need from God, and now we must focus on others getting it.
So the father agrees to divide his wealth between the two sons and both I. brothers receive from the Father. Now you might not know that in this division it was customary for the oldest son (the one who stays home here) to receive two thirds of the estate, a double portion, and the younger son’s share would be one third. This can be found in Deut. 21.
So right off the bat the older son who later complains, has already received twice as much as the one who he is jealous of later. And he wouldn’t have gotten it when the father died as was tradition, when dad already gives it to the younger son, he would have gotten his share at the same time. Basically two thirds of the estate was already his now. His dad would not have legally owned any of it anymore but remains the authority.
The youngest son leaves and goes wild with his inheritance, and to the Jews, losing the family’s property to Gentiles would be grounds for excommunication. He loses it all and can’t even get any pig slop to eat. He comes to his senses, notice nobody else has to point anything out to him, and look at his response when he comes to his father (this is real II. repentance) v. 18-19, 21…
Notice he acknowledges that his sin is against both heaven first and then his father. All sin is against God. He didn’t even get a chance to say what he had planned to say from verse 19, when he was going to ask to be taken on as a servant. That is the attitude of repentance, I acknowledge what I did, I am mortified by it, but it also has to go beyond that, because anyone can feel sorry about doing something wrong.
He realizes what he has done and what the consequences should be, but the key part of the attitude was his willingness to give up his rights as a son and become a servant. But the III. Father immediately forgives and says to the servants, not here’s another one to help you, but servants, we are going to treat this man as a king. Both the robe and the ring are symbols of authority, and the father is immediately affirming that this man is a son and an heir.