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THE PRODIGAL SON
The parable of The Prodigal Son was intended for the Pharisees and Scribes, so that they would not persist in dissatisfaction and repugnant of any Jew or Gentile that came to repentance. The forgiving love of the father symbolizes the divine mercy of God. The parable shows a great contrast between the self-centeredness of the Pharisees who failed to understand God's love, concern and joy at the repentance of sinners. To further illustrate the point, he told them this story:
Luke 15:11-32 "A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!' his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. "A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him. And no one gave him anything. "When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.'" "So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him. "His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son--' "But his father said to the slaves, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jewelled ring for his finger; and shoes! And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.' So the party began. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working; when he returned home, he heard dance music coming from the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. "'Your brother is back,' he was told, 'and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast to celebrate his coming home again unharmed.' "The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, 'All these years I've worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place.' "'Look, dear son,' his father said to him, 'you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!'"
There are many morally supported lessons in this parable which have both spiritual and material contents.
The certain man personifies God, The Heavenly Father. The younger son characterises disobedient and repentant sinners, both Jew and Gentile. The elder brother is a representation of the obedient and the self-righteous who are not pure and clean of heart.
According to Jewish Law the elder, the firstborn son received a double portion, therefore the younger son receiving a third of all movable property. The younger son asked for his inheritance which led to his downfall. He had no right to claim from His father his portion of inheritance while his father was alive. It was highly irregular that the younger son asked for and received his inheritance. So it was a favour which the young son requested of the father and it was granted. The father divided the inheritance of both his sons and gave it to them. The father, allowing the request of his younger son illustrates how God permits each person to use their own will to go their own way. With a craving for independence the younger son took his portion, the older son knew all belonged to him.
By self-will the younger son no longer wanted to be subject to his father's authority and had showed selfishness in its deepest sense, a sin of rebellion and disrespect, for he wanted what he could get for himself before leaving home. He left his father's house in a sinful state of dissatisfaction. The father waited for the return of his wayward son. He went far and was separated away from parental control, from his home that represented love and security, as does God's Kingdom. The younger brother's attitude had been based on a desire to be free to do as he pleased. He travelled outside Jewish territory, and being far away, all moral restraints of home were gone. He was reckless and lived a riotous life. While he had money, he had friends.
The younger son squandered his inheritance. He had lived in wanton immorality, in an utterly debauched lifestyle and wasteful extravagance. Because of his driven self-will and immaturity, he became the lowest in society and the poorest. No person cared for him and his physical need was evident when he was willing to eat the food given to the pigs where he was kept as a field hand. His starving lifestyle among the pigs was desperate. He was reduced to poverty and thought of the comforts of home. Only when he was utterly bankrupt he was able to think more clearly, he understood the gravity of his transgressions. He realised his wrong doing.
He realised how low he had become since leaving his family home and resolved to return home, admitting his sin against God and his earthly father. The younger son had to realise himself he had done wrong and that he had made a bad decision. He admitted that his sins were ultimately against God.
Repentance is a change of mind, a godly sorrow for sin, confession and forsaking sin, a complete change of mind. A human's self-will takes time before a person concedes they cannot make it on their own, and come to their senses. True repentance is confession of an offence that has been committed against God, and a change of heart takes place in the result of seeing a change of action. Before the lost can come to God, they must acknowledge their slavery to sin and their separation from God. People have a free will to return or not. A sinner realises that they deserve nothing from God and completely rely up His mercy and forgiveness.
All sinners are related to God The Father by the fact of Creation. He is their Creator, but they waste their potential privileges and refuse any relationship with Him by choosing self-indulgence. Ever since the fall of mankind God is willing to save sinners and rejoices every time one repents and turns to Him of their own will. When an unbeliever repents and turns to God, others should rejoice like the angels in heaven.
Upon arriving home the younger son expected to be hired as a servant for he knew he was no longer worthy to be his father's son, but his father accepted him for he had been lost (dead), but was found (alive). He had been looking for life, but had found life when he returned to his father's home. The son who returned was a different man, not restless, lost or dead, but now alive. He was lost, dead in his sin, but was restored through repentance.
The younger son did not receive a rebuke from his father for the past. So great was the father's excitement that he ran to meet his son. He returned home and was reconciled, given the best robe, ring and shoes, he was restored as a family member. The ring was authority back into the family, his shoes were a sign of being a member of the household and not a hired servant. A celebration feast was held. Meat was not eaten at ordinary meals, the fatted calf was for a special occasion. The fatted calf also depicts the lavishness of the blessings of salvation.
While the repentance of the younger son is important, the father's willingness and his unexpected action illustrated God's fatherly love. Like the father's loving response to the undeserving son, salvation is not a reward for good works but entirely the gracious gift of God. Compassion is at the centre of God's heart, He goes more than halfway to receive a returning repentant sinner, and welcomes the aimless with fatherly love.
Many of mankind are lost in sin but God longs for their return. God rejoices over the lost coming back to Him after genuine repentance for leaving. In Jesus' mission, He represents God and His loving attitude toward the lost.
Even though the older brother had all the inheritance, he had sinful anger and enraged jealousy. He had stayed working for his father, not because of his will, but because of a legal attitude, and therefore had a self-righteous disposition. He would not rejoice over the younger brother's return and had a disrespectful attitude towards his father for not accepting and forgiving the wayward son. Being proud robbed him of rejoicing. The elder brother would not receive and accept his brother who had been sinful, he was bitter that the roving brother was accepted and endorsed again into the family. The contempt of his attitude was noticed by all.
As the younger brother who strayed repented, so too, the elder brother was in need of repentance. His sins were made great for he also refused to forgive. The brother had a loveless and uncharitable attitude. The older son argued that justice was not in the situation, but his father explained all the calves were his and had the opportunity to celebrate at any time. Just because he had blessings and inheritance, it does not mean that he was not to rejoicingly share it with others.
All the years the older son stayed with his father, he was motivated by concern about what he could get for himself. Everything the father had, had been distributed, yet the older son who benefited all was begrudging the love the father showed to his prodigal brother and refused to participate in the joy of his younger brother's return, he complained he was never rewarded for faithful service and obedience. He had never been given a fatted calf with a great feast. With restoration of a lost soul there is joy but with one who is obstinate, ungrateful and unreconciled there was no cause for celebration.
The older son, thinking himself far more worthy, was described by Jesus for the benefit of The Jewish Religious leaders. They and the older son did not understand the father's actions, which showed these men who were to lead the nation spiritually did not really understand God at all. The sins of the elder brother not only represent unregenerate sinners, but hypocrites within God's family, for all need to repent of wrongful anger, jealousy, pride, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, and sinful attitudes constantly, for mankind will always allow disrespect, resentfulness, anger, legalism, a non-acceptance attitude, and hypocrisy, both in action and thoughts to re-enter into their lives.
Repentant sinners are to be accepted wholeheartedly. Likened to the Pharisees and Scribes who had access to all the riches of God's Truth, the elder son never really possessed any of the treasure enjoyed by a repentant sinner. The older brother should have rejoiced and celebrated with the others, because he did not, it showed his state of heart. The point is repentance is needed before forgiveness, the young man left demanding but came back begging and humbly asking.
The younger son will always be a description of those in disgrace, just as the older brother is a pattern of right priorities.
The elder brother had the same unforgiving attitude of the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes, Elders, Levites towards sinners even though they had repented. The religious authority reacted the same as the elder son when they saw Jesus accepting and receiving sinners. The same hypocritical leaders acted alike when God received Gentiles into His family. The legalistic and religious leaders resented Christ's interest in sinners. God has extraordinary love, for He seeks sinners to forgive them. The Pharisees and Scribes could not see the prospect of forgiven sinners becoming acceptable to God. They continually approved of themselves and their word with such pride above others that they deceived themselves.
The Pharisees and Scribes had served God faithfully and obediently but resented God showing mercy to others. They did not recognise their hypocrisy or guilt of any sin. Their pride had blinded them. God's heart would be gladdened at their repentance also and be overjoyed at them turning to Him. They would not comprehend the meaning of forgiveness, nor of the father's love for both the righteous and unrighteous. Many in self-conceit think they are good enough to enter the Father's home.
The moral of the parable is that genuine repentance brings acceptance back into the Father's house. Christ has love and compassion for lost sinners. All who reject God's love and waste God's provision in riotous living are prodigals. The self-righteous are lost in the eyes of God, and is agony to His heart. This is why Jesus chose to associate with the lost to bring about their transformation.
God is The Father of all mankind, the whole family of Adam (mankind). He has given to all, and puts us in His testament, or leaves out, according as we are or as we are not dutiful children. God is of the Jews and of the Gentiles, He is also father of the sinners. He is rich in His mercy to all, both the saved and unsaved, faithful or not faithful, self-righteous and arrogant and patiently waits for their repentance and return. Even the Pharisees and Scribes are sons of God by Creation but not by redemption.
The parable is not a lesson in theology. The parable portrays spiritual poverty and turning to God.
Expositors agree that this parable has caused many who have been dejected, disheartened, those cast out from society to find abundant life in God's family, more than other parables in the Bible, because of the tender forgiving father who is representative of God, The Heavenly Father.
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