Summary: Year C. Fourth Sunday in Lent Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32 March 25, 2001

Year C. Fourth Sunday in Lent Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

March 25, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Heavenly Father, thank you for loving all of us unconditionally. Amen.

Title: “Unconditional Love”

Jesus tells the story of a young man who repents of his sin, apologizes to his father, and is joyfully accepted back into his family, despite the objections of his older brother who resents his father’s mercy.

This is a parable in narrative form, sometimes called an “example parable.” It is set in the context of the two preceding parables, the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, that express the joy of one who finds something that was lost. While it has been called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” it is really a story about a father who had two sons. The spotlight is on the father. It is told by Jesus to answer the Pharisees’ complaint about his association with sinners. They are shown to be like the elder son in the story, resentful of God for being merciful. Jesus is showing that his love is like that of God. The story illustrates God’s attitude toward a sinner not only after repentance, but even before.

Verses one to three, set the stage for three parables about joy at finding what was lost. The Pharisees took offense at the way Jesus related to sinners who were supposed to be shunned. They felt their sin disqualified them from not only associating with God, but with them, the righteous, as well. They were quite sure they were right.

In verse eleven, “There was a man who had two sons,” this parable is similar in structure to others- that of the two debtors, the Pharisee and the toll-collector, the two sons, the wise and foolish virgins -wherein two types are contrasted with each other. Even though it is about two sons, it is the father’s attitude and behavior that is central to the story. The father, clearly symbolic of God’s unconditional love, is, in the story, a well-to-do Palestinian farmer.

In verse twelve, “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.” The younger son seems to be unmarried and about twenty years old or so. By law the eldest sin was entitled to two-thirds of his father’s estate with the remaining third to be divided among the other sons. In this case, there is only one younger son who would get the entire remaining one-third. The property could be given during the father’s lifetime, a rare case in which the son would have no further legal claim on the father’s goods. If the son sold the property, the buyer could not take possession until the father died.

In verse thirteen, “A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.” In Greek this phrase means he converted everything into cash.

In verse fifteen, “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.” To a Jew the pig was unclean and to be shunned. To land a job as a swineherd was the lowest of the low and an immoral occupation to boot.

In verse sixteen, “He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.” The pods on which the swine fed: The pods were the fruit of the carob tree, today often called St. John’s bread. The tree is found all over the Mediterranean area; its fruit was used for animal feed, though humans could and did eat it as well.

In verse seventeen, “But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!” Coming to his senses means he repented, changed his attitude, admitted wrong and resolved to set things right.

In verses eighteen and ninteen,facing facts, he rehearses his apology. He is sorry for what he has lost, but more for what he has done, sinning against God and his earthly father.

Verses twenty and twenty-one, the father, always on the lookout for his son, drops all formality and runs to kiss his son. The son does not get a chance to finish his rehearsed speech, so eager is his father to get on with the next step: a feast.

In verse twenty-two, The son is treated like an honored guest, a son returned from war, not a servant, not punished or demoted. He is treated better than he deserves and better than he expects or asks.

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