11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
Although the passage of scripture found in Luke 15:11-32 is often referred to as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” it probably tells us more about the Father than it does about the son. Parables are Jesus’ way of taking events that are familiar to us and using them to teach spiritual lessons. So, in this parable the father represents God and each son represents one of two relationships we could have with God. While there are many lessons we can learn from the sons, let’s look at several important lessons that we can learn about the Father:
As the parable begins, the youngest of the sons goes to the father and asks for his share of the inheritance. Jesus tells how that when the son approached his father and requested, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me” the father “divided his property between them” (Luke 15:12). Notice the father’s reaction? The father did not dispute the request. He could have put his foot down and said “No.” He could have threatened that the son must stay “or else.” He could have complained, “After all I’ve done for you, are you going to treat me this way?” He could have lectured, “You’ll be sorry if you do this.” But he didn’t! What he did was grant the son his wish. From the beginning God has allowed human beings to make their own choices. If you want to move away from God, he will let you.
The son chose to leave with his inheritance in hand. He went to “a far country” and squandered it away (Luke 15:13). Where was the father? The father did not follow his son to the far country to watch out for him. Neither did he beg and plead for him to return. Although it broke his heart, the father let his son go. God lets you make your own decisions also.
When the son “came to his senses” and chose to return (Luke 15:17) the Bible says that, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him” (Luke 15:20). Why did he see him so soon? My guess is that the father saw him a long way off because he had spent a lot of time looking for him and hoping for his return. The father wanted his son back and God wants you back no matter what far country you have traveled to.
As soon as the father saw him, the Bible says that he had compassion on his wayward son. So, what did he do? He ran to his son. He threw his arms around his son’s neck in a loving embrace and kissed him (Luke 15:20). Can you imagine a better way of showing unconditional love to his son? He did that because he was anxious to have his son back. God is anxious to have you back also!
The son immediately started to confess to his father how wrong he had been (Luke 15:21) but the father wanted to forgive and move on to a party. Instead of the “How could you?” questions, or lectures about how stupid he had been or demands such as, “If you are going to come back here…” the father ordered his servants to bring the “best robe” and the father placed it on his son. He brought a ring and put it on his finger. He brought shoes and placed them on his feet. (Luke 15:22) Even this was not enough! He had the fattened calf brought out and a wonderful feast prepared for all. His desire was, “Let us eat, and celebrate” (Luke 15:23). God is anxious to forgive you!
The reason for the great celebration was that while he was gone, the son was “dead” but now that he had returned he “is alive again.” The other descriptor the father used was “he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). Dead vs. Alive? Lost vs. Found? All the time the son was gone the father knew he was as good as dead…that he was lost. Things were not going to work out well. But now, upon his return, he is alive and found. The son may have thought things were lively around him. He may have even been called “the life of the party.” But the father understood the real situation that the son was in. He was lost and dead! God knows the cost of rebellion against him. He understands dead and lost. That is why he was willing to pay the price of his son.
When the older son came home from work and found out what was going on, he became angry and wanted nothing to do with this celebration. Rather than the father ignoring the son with a “He’ll get over it” attitude, he “came out and entreated him” (Luke 15:28). He listened to the son and his concerns without getting upset with him that he did not fully comprehend what was going on. Instead, he did his best to explain to the son and help him understand the reason for the celebration (Luke 15:31-32).
What a wonderful picture of God that Jesus shared with us through this parable! What do these lessons mean to you?
God has done his part. He wants you to be in heaven. He wants to reconcile with you. Have you done your part? Jesus is standing at the door and knocking. Are you willing to let him in? To help you know how you can respond, please see the article “What Must I do to be Saved?” under the Salvation tab on our website. We urge you to email us if you have questions or concerns about your salvation.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33).
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