Luke 15:11-32 The Prodigal Son

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Good stories tend to have great endings.
The plot is engaging, the characters have depth and meaning and the ending is not a lazy one.
I am talking about such classical stories as “The Great Gatsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell to name a few.
Perhaps you are a movie buff, let me provide these examples.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” starring Jack Nicholson, “The Sixth Sense” starring Bruce Willis, and “Avengers: Infinity War” starring Robert Downey Jr.
My Dad and Mom were fond of the movie “The Sting” starring Robert Redford because the ending is such a twist it totally surprises the viewer.
My generation grew up with the movie “Star Wars” and when Luke Skywalker defiantly tells Darth Vader, “I will never join you” and Vader responds, “Luke, I am your father” the entire audience was blown away!
If you recall, it is right about there the movie ends- what an ending!!!!
No doubt, good stories have great endings.
Great stories have great endings and impart a lesson.
Jesus was a great story teller.
Tax collectors and “sinners” had gathered to hear Jesus’ teaching but the Pharisees and teachers of the law criticized him for eating with them.
They were jealous and resentful of Jesus’ love for this rejected demographic.
Jesus addressed their attitudes through the telling of parables- stories that teach a lesson or address something within the listener.
He illustrates his point about God’s love and forgiveness of the lost using a lost sheep, a lost coin and now a lost son.
However, it is the ending that is most poignant.
It is the ending to this great story that squarely points out the divisive attitude of the Pharisee’s and the teacher’s of the law.
It is the attitude of the older son that is so surprising and in many ways, saddening.
Jesus taught this lesson initially to the Pharisee’s and teachers of the law but it was also written eventually to us for our day and in our lives.
The lesson(s) we learn are:
Transformational Truth: Salvation of the lost is cause for celebration.
Transformational Point: We should never be jealous or resentful of God’s forgiveness of the repentant sinner.
READ “LUKE 15:11-32
Movement #1 (verses 11-12):
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Jesus begins his parable describing a man who had two sons.
This parallel’s God’s choosing the Jewish people.
There are “two son’s”- The Jewish people and those who are not Jewish (Gentile).
This imagery would have been extremely clear to Jesus’ Jewish listeners.
They would have picked up immediately that this story was about Jews and Gentiles.
Jesus goes on to describe the younger son as an ungrateful and despicable child.
What, in this text, describes these aspects?
The inheritance of a man passed to his children upon his death- NOT BEFORE.
Further, the elder son would be entitled to the greater share.
Thus, Jesus paints the picture of a younger son who basically tells his father, “I wish you were dead so I could have the inheritance money.”
The Younger Son would have represented you and I- Gentiles.
So far, in the first part of Jesus’ story, the Pharisee’s and Teacher’s of the Law would have been pleased.
They may have felt comfortable as they listened and shared smiles as they might have thought Jesus was teaching a lesson about the righteousness of the Jewish people.
Transition: At this point in the story, you may even be able to think of someone you know (a family member, a friend, relative) who depicts an ungrateful and despicable.
I can think of a cousin of my own who fits this description.
He is an easy character to dislike and it gets easier as the story continues.
Movement #2 (verses 13-16)
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”
Jesus does not let off the gas in describing this young man.
He sounds something like a young Marine, doesn’t he?
He leaves home all cocky and self-assured with more money than he thought he could possible spend.
Wealth is easily squandered though.
Illustration: Andrew Lisa reported: “Five years after Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards won a $27 million jackpot, he was penniless and living in a storage shed with his wife. The couple squandered their fortune on the typical goodies that sink so many lucky winners. They bought dozens of high-end cars, mansions and a plane.
They blew through $3 million in the first three months. By the end of the first year, $12 million was in the wind. By 2006, the couple had spiraled into drug addiction, and just 12 years after the win changed the course of his life, David Lee Edwards died alone and broke in hospice care at the age of 58.”
Jesus portray’s a young man who believes money will solve all his problems.
The only thing that was between him and the money necessary to pursue his hearts desire was his father, who loved him.
As is so often the case, after the money was gone the young man found out who his friends really were- there were none.
As they say, when it rains it pours.
1. The money was gone.
2. The whole country experienced a severe famine.
Remember, Jesus is setting up the story of this young man:
He insulted his father.
Left family and home.
Squandered what he was given on promiscuous and reckless living.
Was now in desperate need.
Thus, Jesus places him in such a desperate situation that he was willing to hire himself out as a pig farmer.
Keep in mind, Jesus’ audience was Jewish.
Pigs were considered unclean animals according to Jewish Law.
To care for pigs would have been the lowliest position imaginable for a good Jew.
Jesus describes him as starving to the point he wanted to eat pig slop.
Yet, he found out the world is a cruel place especially for those without financial resources- No one gave him anything.
Transition: So there is the prodigal son, the youth who left home, got into deep difficulty, wasted his life in riotous living, and ended up in the pigpen.
Dr. J. Vernon McGee once asked, “Do you know the difference between the son in that pigpen and the pig? The difference is that no pig has ever said to himself, “I will arise and go to my father.”
He is right; only sons say that. That is why there will be no condemnation, no rejection by God of his children. All believers, even prodigal sons, are his children, not his enemies.
Transformational Truth: Salvation of the lost is cause for celebration.
Transformational Point: We should never be jealous or resentful of God’s forgiveness of the repentant sinner.
It is at this point that Jesus begins to turn the story on it’s head.
He has the young man “come to his senses”.
Movement #3 (verses 17-24)
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
It begins in a pragmatic way that he has a father who is well off.
Even his servants have more than enough food.
It progresses quickly to an act of contrition.
He understands his sin- not just against his father but against God as well.
He demonstrates humility in saying he is no longer worthy to be associated as his son but rather ought to be treated as a servant at best.
Up to this point the Pharisee’s and Teacher’s of the Law haven’t heard anything too concerning.
The next verse will rattle them because Jesus does something entirely unexpected.
He describes the father, “filled with compassion, running to his son and embracing him with a kiss.”
He depicts him as watching from afar for any sign of the return of his son and when he catches sight of him he RUNS.
For this to sink in one must understand the cultural context.
Men in the Jewish culture did not run anywhere.
It was considered undignified.
And certainly a father who had been insulted and dishonored would not have run to an offending son.
Yet this is how Jesus describes the father- which is completely understood by his audience as God the Father.
The father is compelled to celebrate the return of his child who,for all practical purposes, was as good as dead but was now alive.
Movement #4 (verses 21-32)
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”[1]
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