The Prodigal Son? The parable of the Prodigal Son, or Lost Son, is found in the New Testament of the Bible in Luke 15:11-32. It is the third of three parables in that chapter directed at a mixed audience of tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees (religious leaders), and teachers of the law. All three parables are on the topic of lost things being found: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Likewise, all three parables point to the heavenly joy over every sinner who repents from sin and turns to Jesus.
Sometimes important principles are repeated in the Bible for emphasis. Such was the case when Jesus three times implored Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:17). In response to the chiding from the Pharisees and scribes recorded in Luke 15:1-2, Jesus spoke three parables that emphasized His response.
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 even more info 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.”