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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.