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The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Part Two

Rev. Michael Calvert, Ph.D., August 4, 2019
Part of the The Parables of Jesus series.

On Sunday we will open the Word of the Lord once again to that familiar and beloved parable of Jesus known as ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son.’ Of course, we discover it only in the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 15. This Lord’s Day morning we are going to examine what I have referred to as the ‘second act’ of the parable.

We also need to remind ourselves that this is but one of three parables discovered in Luke 15, each of which Jesus told in direct response to the attitude of the Pharisees and scribes recorded in 15:1, where they “grumbled, saying” of Jesus, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

And you will remember that in the first act, verses 11-16, we learned that the boy we know as the ‘prodigal son’ selfishly and foolishly took his share of his father’s estate, and promptly left for a faraway country where he lost every dime he had in wild extravagance and wickedness. Then, at that very moment when his money ran out, a terrible famine hit that country. And this self-centered young man suddenly found himself in an awful situation. Out of money. Out of work. And out of food! And his plight became so very desperate that he found work feeding pigs on a man’s farm. Soon enough, he was so hungry that he gave serious consideration to eating the “pods,” the beans from the carob tree, that the pigs were consuming!

And you will also remember that this detail, that he worked feeding pigs, signaled to our Lord’s audience that this Jewish boy had descended as low as a Jewish man could go, far down into the abyss of humiliation. This kind of work was seen as an unacceptable occupation, and one completely detestable to the Jews.

And then, the first act of this parable ends with the sad words of verse 16: “and no one gave him anything to eat.”

On Sunday we will turn to the next part of this amazing story beginning in verse 17:

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

What we find here in these verses is a very good view of two key Biblical themes. The first is the amazing change that took place in the prodigal’s heart, such that he determined to return home in the spirit of repentance. The second is the amazing attitude of the father who welcomes the prodigal home with a heart full of mercy and love.

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)