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Parables - The Prodigal Son

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The Prodigal Son

Text: Luke 15.11-32

Thesis: To note that God is willing to forgive; therefore, so must we.


(1)     Some people believe that the fifteenth chapter of Luke is one parable (i.e., the parable of the lost) with 3 parts to it: 1) Lost Sheep; 2) Lost Coin; 3) Lost Son.

(2)     The impetus for this parable is recorded in Luke 15.1-2:

“Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”

(a)    The tax-gatherers (publicans) were considered extortioners and traitors by the scribes and Pharisees.

(b)   The “sinners” were other people of bad reputation.

(3)     In this parable, Jesus will note 4 types of people who are lost:

(a)    The Sheep ~ One who has wandered away.

(b)   The Lost Coin ~ One who is lost because of someone else’s carelessness.

(c)    The Prodigal Son ~ One who chooses to leave.

(d)   The Elder Brother ~ One who is lost because of self-righteousness.

(4)     The part dealing with the prodigal son is one of the most known and loved sections of the Bible.

(a)    This has been called “the pearl and crown of all the parables (Trench).”

(b)   One called it the parable of “The Loving Father (Wiersbe).”


I.                   His REQUEST (vv. 11-16):

A.    The younger son desires his portion of the inheritance (v. 12).

1.      “To ask one's father for one's share of the inheritance early was unheard of in antiquity; in effect, one would thereby say, ‘Father, I wish you were already dead’” (Keener).

2.      “The eldest son always received a double portion (Deut 21:17); in this case, he would have received two-thirds of the inheritance and the younger brother one-third” (Keener).

B.     The father grants this request, and the younger son departs and “lives it up” (v. 13).

1.  By “loose living,” he “went the limit of sinful excesses” (Robertson).

2.      For a time, life was pleasurable (cf. Heb. 11.25).

C.     As is too often the case, things quickly changed and his money and “friends” were gone (v. 14).

1.      He had hit “rock bottom.”

2.      He now was eating with swine, which was an abomination for a Jew (Lev. 11:7).

3.      Albert Barnes observed: “Nothing could more strikingly show the evil of his condition, or the deep degradation, and pollution, and wretchedness of sin.”

II.                His RETURN (vv. 17-20a.):

A.    Note: “When he came to his senses” (v. 17a.).

1.      To live a life of sin is to live a life without thinking.

2.      Having hit “rock bottom,” there was no way to look but up.

B.     He realized the great blessings that he had previously taken for granted (v. 17b.)

C.     He makes the decision to return home and repent (v. 18-20a.).

1.      He is willing to admit his sins (cf. 1 John 1.9).

2.      He is willing to accept a lower status (i.e., humility).

3.      He is willing to act upon his convictions and return by faith.

III.             His RECEPTION (vv. 20b.-32):

A.    The Father’s Reaction (vv. 20b.-24):

1.      His father rushes out to embrace him (v. 20).

2.      His father restores him into full fellowship and celebrates (vv. 22-23).

3.      His father’s reasoning: My Son is Found! (v. 24)

B.     The Elder Son’s Reaction (vv. 25-32):

1.      He becomes angry at his brother’s return (v. 28).

2.      He becomes jealous by the celebration of his brother’s return (v. 29).

3.      He was not willing to forgive his brother.  This exemplifies the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees.


(1)     If you’ve gone astray, then come home to the loving father.

(2)     Let us also be on guard of our attitudes lest we go astray by our unwillingness to forgive.

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