There is simply no way I can write everything out to be pulled from this passage. This is so deep and so full that all I can do is attempt to hit some main points and give you multiple resources for you to hear and see different nuggets in each. I apologize for the extreme delay in adding this. I kept learning new things and then started multiple posts, which needed to be transferred and just came back to this recently. I can’t get everything here, but it’s a start.
Prodigal Son – Social Media retelling
“11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
- Two sons. We have moved from 1/100 sheep (1%) to 1/10 coins (10%) to ½ (50%). These sons are his family line. They are the ones meant to carry on the family name, family business, family land, and family values. We are not merely talking about money, dowries, or something to maintain a lifestyle. We’re talking about children who are precious to parents.
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
- “GIVE ME” – This is not simply an instruction but a demand. A child is ordering his father, the provider, to relinquish something not due to him – at least, not now. The eldest child would receive a double portion, so the younger child received 1/3 of the father’s possessions. This demand is not only outrageous for a child to dictate what a parent should do, but it also shows contempt for the parent. The only time a child would receive what should be his inheritance is at the parent’s death. This son just basically told his father that the father is dead to him. Instead of reprimanding his ungrateful child who has acted so disgracefully, he complies. He gives both of his sons their portions. This is disrespectful on so many levels and yet shows how sinners can be. People want all that God can give them to just shower them with blessings and benefits but want nothing to do with Him. He is not concerned about how being deprived of 1/3 of all that he owns will affect the father and household, how his absence will crush his father, what kind of open shame and disgrace he will bring, etc. No, he’s concerned about himself and himself only.
13 And not many days after
– The son could hardly wait to leave. He put his desires together quickly.
the younger son gathered all together,
– “all” Everything that he could claim, he took. It was clear he had no intention of returning.
and took his journey into a far country,
– He not only left home, he left everything associated with home. He didn’t go to the other side of town where he could be reached or even where his lifestyle and beliefs are common with the citizens. He went to another country – outside of his family, his traditions, and his God.
and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
– He did not make wise decisions. It’s likely that this spending took a long period of time – maybe years. We know what it means to waste, but typically, something kicks in as we start running out. However, I wonder if the lifestyle he was living had to do with the fact that he couldn’t manage his spending. I have to think that this son learned something about work, money management, and responsibility living with this father, so I believe the lifestyle he chose to pursue affected his ability to realize there would come an end to all the “fun.” (Sin is pleasurable for a season.)
- Riotous – the Blue Letter Bible defines it as “dissolutely, profligately.” Since those are not words I use in everyday life, I looked them up in dictionary.com.
“indifferent to moral restraints; given to immoral or improper conduct; licentious; dissipated.”
- The son gave no cares whatsoever about what was righteous living and right in the eyes of God. He turned completely from what he knew to be proper, threw cares to the world, and indulged himself in reckless actions. If he could imagine it, it probably happened.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
- God has a way of making sure He has our attention. A “mighty” famine occurred as soon as everything this young man had was gone. Whatever he’d taken had been traded or spent because “all” was gone, and he began to suffer.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country;
- Instead of returning to his father and seeking help, he attaches himself to a person of that area. This is his feeble attempt to make his own way. If we’re honest, we may turn back for help at this point or prior, but it may take “hitting rock bottom” for some of us to “get it” and return to God. This is a picture of someone trying to save himself.
and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
- For a Jewish person, this was the lowest of the low points. This might be comparable to harvesting roaches and cleaning their carcasses and droppings. Swine/pigs were considered unclean and abominable, yet it appears that this was all that he could do. Remember, there was a famine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks (pods) that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
- Not corn. “Husks.” When I saw this, I wondered if he was considering fighting the pigs for it but wouldn’t eat because they were pigs. However, he’s already passed the point of being concerned about clean/unclean since he’s done everything he was big and bad enough to do with his life choices. I don’t think he didn’t want to eat. I think he couldn’t eat either because the leftovers were inedible or because there was nothing left after the pigs ate them. He is literally longing for the garbage to satisfy his hunger. The pigs are eating better than he is.
- …and NO MAN gave unto him. Money has run out. Friends have run out. Food has run out, and not one person in this country is giving him a single thing. Notice that it doesn’t say “the countrymen had nothing to offer him.” You give when you have something available. These people chose to withhold from him. The son is actually hurting and dying of starvation, and no one offers him a single thing. It makes me wonder what benefit the son believed he was getting by attaching himself to someone who gave him a job cleaning after pigs. What was his pay that he was dreaming of eating pig slop? Was his pay slop if he could beat the pigs to it?
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
- When the sense finally returned to him…when he had time to make an intelligent decision, he thought about his father’s workers who eat to fullness and have food to spare while he’s…literally…starving to death. Sometimes it takes reaching the lowest point, being on your last leg, having no one else around to influence your thoughts, and all but buried to realize you’re doing it wrong and are not in control as you once thought. It takes some people to reach the edge of despair before they will realize their absolute need of God.
18 I will arise and go to my father, (come to the Father) and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, (repentance)
- This is the point of his conversion.
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
- He has realized how he has sinned and disgraced his father. He basically walked out on his family and disowned him. His behavior was worthy of death at that time, so his father would have been short one son. He is planning on requesting to come back as help.
20 And he arose, and came to his father.
- I just want to note that in this case, a man (son) that is fully aware of his actions is returning. This is not the father going to show the son love in hopes that love would conquer all and somehow persuade him to do the right thing. There are times that the only way a person will come to true repentance and have a true change to heart, which would change his behavior, is after he has all but destroyed himself. Sometimes, we actually hinder this process because we think we’re helping by intervening and not allowing people to experience consequences. What if the son had been fed when the famine hit or if the money kept flowing or if his new crowd had been there for him? He probably would have stayed away longer, might not have ever felt repentance, or might have returned when it was too late to restore a relationship. Sometimes, we have to discern if our help is not actually help but a crutch for a person to continue to rebel.
But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
- The first person to see and then recognize him was the father. The father saw and had “compassion.” He was moved into action. His reaction shows us how much he wanted his son back. Can you imagine your child being gone for, possibly, years with no information of whether your child was alive or dead? The father was moved to action and ran/raced to the son. This is not characteristic of a father. He would have had to tie up his clothes (to expose his legs – considered shameful) or hold them as he ran.
- Notice that the son has said nothing at this point. All he has done is return. The father is running with open arms to a son that all but told him to drop dead. The father is unconcerned about his position or what others will think of him. All he sees is his son.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
- Just as he had rehearsed except he didn’t ask to be made a servant. I wonder if it was because he wasn’t sure how to react except to say that he wasn’t worthy of sonship. I wonder if it was because “make me” was considered a demand and that during the walk he had planned on leaving his father’s property after repenting to the father. Maybe he was waiting to hear his father’s response. Maybe the father interrupted him.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
- But – can be a very beautiful conjunction; the opposite of what we expected is going to happen
- The robe, ring/signet, and shoes represented his restored sonship – not just reconciled to the father but in a place of authority.
robe – outer garment not usually worn by ordinary individuals usually reserved for nobility and person of special status or special distinction such as purity or righteousness (ex. believers will be given white robes in Heaven) – link
ring – indicated authority (signet/seal), honor, favor – link
sandals – “Going barefoot was a sign of poverty and reproach.” – link
- This is the picture of pure and perfect forgiveness – a level we don’t have but can strive to reach. This is what it looks like when the Bible says, “12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” – Psalm 103:12 He will forget our sins for His own sake. The son come to the father in a repentant state. He humbled himself and confessed that he was in the wrong, and the father embraced him as if he had done no wrong. There was no silent treatment, no stares, no guilt speech, no punishment – just forgiveness.
- Now, this is not to say that we can go and do whatever and then come back as if there are no consequences. Forgiveness does not erase the situations. God can forget our sins, but we aren’t equipped to forget yet. One of the benefits is that it should keep us from repeating past mistakes. What it doesn’t do is replace the income, possessions, etc. squandered. It doesn’t erase the memories of the people who know what the son did. It doesn’t replace any scars, bad memories, problems the son encountered while he was out. It doesn’t erase the pain that may come during a conversation about something that occurred while he was out that the son missed like the birth or death of a family member or friend. Forgiveness doesn’t undo the damage caused. It means we’ll continue from here and heal. The longer a person stays away from where he should be and out of the will of God, the more damage occurs and the more scars he has. Forgiveness and healing are available, but we miss out on so much (ex. rewards in Heaven).
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
- Now, we remember the older brother. He’s working for the father in the field and hears all the melody-making and celebration. Since he lived there, he would know if there was a party of some sort planned, so he’s wondering what’s the big celebration. Then he’s informed that the fatted calf has been killed and that the celebration is in his brother’s honor – for simply returning home.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in:
- Now, can you imagine the emotions and facial expressions he has? Maybe he’s partially upset because no one came to get him, but he returns to find a huge party for the younger brother he didn’t even know was okay or not. He doesn’t even want to set foot in the house. Now, compare the reactions between this son and the father. The father is the one that was shamed, gave up part of his wealth (might as well have burned it since he has nothing to show for it), and basically told that his son didn’t care whether he lived or died as long as he could have the father’s possessions and go away,… but it’s the son who’s fuming and outraged.
therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
- Again, the father is doing something uncharacteristic of fathers. He went to the son instead of ordering him to obey and come inside. The father is actually pleading with the elder to join them.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
- Really? Never once? Not one time did he disobey? I wonder if obeying with a horrible attitude still counts as perfect obedience. Probably not just as delayed obedience isn’t too wonderful either. I can’t say what the son did or didn’t do, but over the course of an entire lifetime, I’m pretty sure there was at least one command not followed properly. It’s actually mighty prideful to say, “I did everything right!”
- This answer he gave to his father was actually quite the attitude. He’s speaking to his father as if the father has done some great sin. He’s coming across like, “How DARE you throw him a banquet when you wouldn’t even offer a small dinner for me with my friends?! I’ve done everything I was supposed to do for you all the time, and you give me nothing!”
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
- “This. Thy. Son.” – The older brother is putting as much distance between himself and the younger by not even claiming him. “Your son.” That’s the type of expression people use in kidding but to note that the child has done something wrong, so it must have come from “you” because that’s not something “I” would do.
- As soon as “your” son comes, you give him the best and biggest celebration. Note the extra dig given – “which hath devoured thy living with harlots.” It looks like the older son feels the need to “remind” dad of the younger son’s lifestyle and how he wiped out his substance. If we’d only read this portion, we might actually believe the father is dead broke. There’s no mention that the son told the father of his adventures up to this point, so it’s possible that word actually got back to the family about the son’s lifestyle for the older brother to know what he did. Or maybe it was just a good guess or attempt to make his brother look worse in order to get the father to be angry and punish him as the older son believes he should.
- The son doesn’t believe his brother deserves forgiveness – at least not until he feels the brother has been sufficiently punished. He won’t even share the same roof with him at this point. Again, it shows the perfect forgiveness of the Father. We want forgiveness for ourselves, but he want God to throw the book at others.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:11-32
- Look at v.31. This son was always with him. He had the father at all times and could always access him. ALL that the father had was his. Remember v. 12? “And he divided unto THEM his living.” The elder son had already been given his double portion! (Oldest child gets a double portion. Two children, 3 pieces.) The father gave 1/3 of his wealth to the younger, and the elder had 2/3. The father gave ALL that he had to his sons, which means the elder son could have the fattened calf, robes, money, whatever. The elder son was complaining that “everything” still wasn’t enough for him!
- “Thy brother” – the father makes sure to not let the elder get away with distancing or disowning his brother. The father is rejoicing because one of the two who are precious to him is back. He has been to the lowest of the low and is come back again. Here, again, we see rejoicing…on the part of the father. We can speculate on what happened next, but when we compare it to the previous two “losts” in the chapter, we know this is where the angels in Heaven rejoice over one sinner who has returned.
TWO LOST SONS
Who are you in this story?
Let’s be honest, when we hear this parable, we tend to look at ourselves as the younger son and say we were like that in our lost state (which is true), but now we are found. However, Jesus is directing this parable to the Scribes and Pharisees. The portion talking about the younger son actually might make hearers of that day hate him. Each act the son does makes him less and less likeable. Everything he does is a disgrace, a mockery, and an abomination. People are ready to write him off permanently. But why did Jesus come? To save that which was lost.
- The sheep – lost, possibly dirty, and needed to be carried back by the Shepherd
- The coin – lost, possibly filthy dirty and needed to be found (Holy Spirit)
- The younger son – spiritually lost, deplorable conditions, reckless living, and abandoned everything associated with his culture and his God…and needed to be reconciled to God who granted forgiveness
There are people who have committed the most heinous crimes that God will forgive if they turn to Him with humbleness and repentance (see Nebuchadnezzar and Saul/the Apostle Paul). The Lord said “WHOSEVER will.” That means anybody who will come to the Lord before he dies can be saved.
Why would the Pharisees need to hear this message, and how does it apply to us?
Let’s remember how this 3-part parable begins.
“1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” – Luke 15:1-2
The scribes and Pharisees were fine with Jesus teaching until Jesus did not despise sinners. The sinners are the younger brother. The scribes and Pharisees are the older brother who know what God says, who have not gone into the world to do grievous acts, and who looked at sinners as deserving of God’s punishment for not obeying – being like them. They were of the same family, yet the ones that stayed did not want the ones who’d gone into the world. They acted as if God was only for them.
Truth be told…more often than not, that older brother is us, isn’t it? We’re not always rejoicing when people come to Christ. We’ve acted like what others do isn’t worthy of forgiveness. Sometimes, after we are saved, we start to believe we “deserve” something we can’t do on our own but treat others as though they aren’t worthy of God’s forgiveness and Heaven whether it be something they did to us personally or not. The feast the father prepared is to honor the son who had gone out the furthest and returned. It was open to all, and the elder son was personally invited to the feast with the reminder of what he already had. We have the Father. We already have God. What more could we want? We were saved from our wretchedness, and we should be looking for others who are leaving theirs to come to the Father. There’s enough for everyone. We are to have the heart of the Father and rejoice with Him when the lost are come home.
“2 In my Father’s house are MANY mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” – John 14:2
“10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:10
Voddie Baucham – lost son audio sermon
Mike McCullough – Prodigal Sons
Berean Bible Church – The Father’s Two Sons: Who Are They? (Luke 15:11-31)
Prodigal Son – jubilee
Dean L Bauman – Prodigal Son musical video drama