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The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Part One

Rev. Michael Calvert, Ph.D., July 28, 2019
Part of the The Parables of Jesus series.

Our study of the parables of our Lord Jesus continues this coming Sunday as we begin our investigation of what is, perhaps, the most beloved parable of all those stories He told. It is known by many names, the most popular of which is ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son.’ This compelling story has also been called ‘The Parable of the Lost Son,’ ‘The Parable of the Loving Father,’ The Parable of the Waiting Father,’ and ‘The Parable of the Two Sons.’ We discover it in Luke 15:11-32.

The parable of the prodigal son has been universally praised and extolled, both inside and outside the believing Church. It has been described as “The crown and pearl of all parables,” and “The most divinely tender and most humanly touching story ever told on earth.” Charles Dickens called it, “the finest story ever written.”

Biblical scholars have referred to this parable in the most exalted of terms as well. One has claimed that, “there is no more powerful a picture of the forgiving love of God or of the motivation behind Jesus’ ministry within the Bible,” and it is an unsurpassed portrait of “Jesus’ ministry to the lost.” Others have recognized this parable as the most conspicuous display of the love of God for sinners, with its central theme being “the Father’s yearning love for the lost.”

In fact, this parable is so very rich and important that we are going to take our time probing its magnificent depths. Our plan for this Sunday is to look at the parable’s setting, and then trace the story as Jesus told it through the first of the three acts in this amazing drama, which will take us up to verse 16. And then, the Lord willing, the next two Sundays we will consider the final two sections of the parable which will take us through the end of chapter 15.

Luke 15:11-32

11And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (KJV)