The Parable of
The Lost Son
Luke 15:11-32 He said, "A certain man had two sons.
The Younger Son
The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any.
But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants."‘ "He arose, and came to his father.
But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.
Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate.
The Older Son
"Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ "He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’"
First question up for discussion: What was the younger son's attitude towards his father when he left?
How can you ask another the frame of mind or attitude about someone else?
Here's the group of questions to get us thinking.
What was the younger son's attitude towards his father when he left?
Who does he represent in real life?
What made him come to his senses?
Recall another event in the Bible where difficult circumstances had a similar affect.
Have there been such circumstances in your life that caused you to come to your senses?
What do you suppose was the son's expectation of his father's reaction?
How would you characterize the father's actual reaction?
Did the older son behaving in accordance with the spirit of his father?
Who does he represent?
I don't think the parable is about what the son should do or feel, so to a great extent--it doesn't matter. The parable is about how/why the father was wise to act as he did.
The Lost Son
The lost son was truly lost, being dead in his sins. Having asked his father for his inheritance, he reckoned his father as already being dead. And his father reckoned him as being dead to him at that point as well. The lost son represents the lost sheep of Israel who, while being sons of Abraham according to the flesh, were not sons according to the spirit. For he did not behave in accordance with the spirit of his father. For Abraham had two sons - Isaac and Ishmael. One according to the promise and one according to the flesh. (See Galatians 4) So also within the Christian community there are those who may call themselves sons of God, but if they don't behave as sons of God, they are sons only in a nominal sense.
"This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10
The lost son is not unlike much of the history of the nation of Israel itself, which though reckoned as "the chosen people", seemed to periodically waste God's inheritance on fulfilling their own sinful passions for prolonged periods of time. But then God leads them through a "desert experience", which humiliates them and brings them to repentance.
The lost son also had this desert experience - feeding pigs - which led him to repentance. The desert experience brings the necessary humiliation to bring one to repentance. Even Jesus was led into the desert on our behalf to be tempted by the devil. And one of his responses to the devil was from Deuteromony applying to the Israelites in the desert which said, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." De 8:3 Humility is the most essential of all character qualities. For humility will always lead one back to God. However, notice also that his motivation in repentance was not particularly virtuous, but rather selfish. But this is acceptable to God nonetheless. For the repentant are not sinless, just humble enough to recognize their sin and its destructive effect on them.
The father was no doubt angry with his son, but ready to reconcile upon his repentant return. He did not habor bitterness in his heart. Reconciliation was complete. The father affirmed his sonship publically and joyfully as if he had never sinned. This is the New Covenant attitude God has, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" Heb 10:17.
The Older Son
It's a bit confusing as to whom the older son represents. Does he represent those who are already redeemed - the "remnant" of Israel? Yet he doesn't seem to behave according to the spirit of his father in welcoming his brother home, but rather harbors bitterness and hatred towards him. "Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." and " Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." 1John 3:15 The younger son did not do what is right in leaving, but the second son did not love his brother.
So I think the second son represents the Pharisees and such who, while reckoning themselves as "righteous" people in terms of their behavior, were actually unrighteous in their attitude of unforgiveness. In fact this whole "lost series" starts off in Luke 15 with the following: Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Luke 15:1,2
There are two types of nominal Christians - the lawless and the legalists. (Actually there are three - but the "liberals" I reckon as too deviant to even be considered in the category of "Christian") In general, the Lawless accept Christ as Savior but not as Lord, while the Legalists accept Christ as Lord but not as Savior. Of course they may not admit this is word, but their actions speak for themselves. For our works reveal our true faith.
I think we should not lose track of the forgiving father. The father "ran" says a lot, as in the old Eastern culture it was humiliating for an adult man to run. This shows us that the father did not even care, he "ran" to his son, willing to forgive him as our Heavenly Father makes haste to forgive us.
The most pertinent thing is, where does the reader/hearer of the story see themselves in it?
Which character do they identify with the most?
Know this, and then you have your answer, because each one sees themselves differently.
I think focusing on whether the son was grateful and changed his ways is to miss the point. The father did the right thing regardless of the outcome because he acted out of virtue, not to get something for himself or to make someone else behave differently. He did the right thing for his own soul.
here is the true interpretation of this parable....
To the Father the both would always be sons unto him, but he rejoices greatly in the the who was lost and is found because he truly understand the value of his sonship...
For in his return to the Father house he brought with him that which is far greater in value to the Father than that which he left with.
For in his lostness, he truly understood the heart of the Father, which he also understood to be himself thus he sees himself as son indeed....and need no other thing from his father othwr than his sonship....
But to the other son, though the father acknowledges him son, he will forever abide within the fathers house as a slave....for the value of the fathers possesion is always greater to him than the value of sonship.....and his own actions have delared the state if his heart, which shows him to be a false son.....
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