The Prodigal Son? So, who was the prodigal son? What’s his story? The parable begins by introducing three characters: a father and his two sons. To summarize the tale, the youngest of the two sons demands his share of his father’s estate which the father gives him. Shortly after being given his inheritance, he runs off and squanders the wealth “in wild living” (v. 13). Finding himself destitute and in the midst of a sever famine in the land, he hires himself out to a pig farmer. Seeing firsthand that the pigs were eating better than him, he decides to return to his father and beg to be allowed to serve as a hired servant on the estate.
This accusation by the Pharisees and scribes set the stage for three parables (the third being the one with the prodigal son) in which Jesus taught these Jewish authorities and us today how God deals with sinners.
In the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32, we are told of a wealthy man who had two sons. The younger son gets up one morning and decides to leave home and go about himself. He asks for and gets his inheritance from his father and he heads off to a strange land. Since he had so much money and possessions, he begins to lavish his substance on vanities – without thinking of his future. He had wine, women, and other pleasures whenever he wanted. Eventually, his profuse and wasteful expenditure costs him all his inherited fortune.
Of all the parables that Jesus spoke, this one featuring the prodigal son may be the most touching and best remembered. Described by Expositor’s Bible Commentary (ed. William Robertson Nicoll, 1889) as “perhaps the crown and flower of all the parables,” this story appears once in the Bible—it is only found in Luke’s Gospel. As we read the account, we can’t help but be captured by the story of a father’s love for his wayward son.
After being hit by difficult living conditions – owing to his foolishness – he decides to humble himself and return home to his father. Instead of being rejected by his father, he gets a warm welcome with gifts and celebration. This gets his big brother crossed and starts a quarrel with his father. His father placates him and reassures him that all that he has belongs to him. Come along with me as we, together, learn the rich lessons in this parable. I divided it into four parts for a much easier understanding. Please do well to open your Bible and read the entire story (Luke 15:11-32). Discover additional details on the The Prodigal Son video on YouTube.
Despite the diverse audience, Jesus was speaking directly to the religious leaders and teachers of the law. He was aiming straight into the darkness of their hearts, pleading with them to lay aside their trust in their own righteousness and works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were trusting in a works-based religion, rather than experiencing salvation by God’s grace through their faith. Like the older brother in the parable, they viewed themselves as worthy “sons.”