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The Prodigal Son: Bible Story Summary, Analysis and Themes

by J ACK WELLMAN on APRIL 14, 2011 · 69 CO MMENTS · Print · Email


he parable of the Prodigal Son is a story about

God‟s redemptive grace and mercy. It is a story of His unconditional love and forgiveness. It is about God seeking sinners. In Luke 15, Jesus tells about the youngest son coming to his father to ask for his inheritance ahead of time. The youngest son would only receive one-third of the father‟s inheritance in accord to the Old Testament laws in Deuteronomy 21:17. He then took the inheritance and ran away to spend it all on having a good time. He had plenty of “friends” to help him spend it but quickly ran out of his inheritance funds. Then he was reduced to working in a pig pen and the pigs ate better than he. For a Jew, to tend to pigs was the height of humiliation since they were deemed unclean according to the Old Testament dietary laws. He thought of his father‟s servants who were at least fed well and had shelter at night. The young son had reached the end of his rope and came back home. He was accepted with open arms by his father. The older son was outraged; he was angry that his father had allowed his brother to return and even more disturbing was the gift of a rob, a ring, and a pair of

In fact he would have been disinherited or even stoned as was done in the ancient Jewish culture in the Old Testament. Who Does the Youngest Son Represent? The youngest son represents all of those who have been called by God and for whatever reason. This is what the Jewish leaders understood and in their minds. they have placed one foot in the world and one foot in the church.sandals and a huge feast. they would not have received the young son back into the family. He would have been disowned and he would not have been allowed to return at part of the father‟s family. in his honor. in the Jewish culture of that day. it was like he was saying. When God chastises those Who He has . Key Questions to Consider for Prodigal Son Parable Why would Jesus tell this parable with the religious leaders and the Jewish crowd there? What would there reaction have been? What would the Jewish leaders have done to the son when he came back home? Why did Jesus feel the need to tell this parable to the Jewish leaders? Commentary and Analysis Jewish Culture and Background When the young son came to his father to ask for his inheritance. with the choicest of the fatted calves. “I wish you were dead!” This was highly unconventional and was insulting of the father.

He made a change of direction. I have not come on my own. shows His love is unconditional He accepts him back into the family. does He give “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. This can not be a picture of the lost because they would never have been a child of the father in the first place. the devil. Who Does the Father Represent? The father represents God the Father for He gladly receives His son as part of His family. In fact the father had been watching and waiting for his son to return. He brings them to their knees and they see their need for repentance and return to God and ask for His forgiveness. The son felt unworthy and was remorseful. you would love me. He comes back with nothing to offer. as any loving father would. “If God were your Father. for I have come here from God. When the father sees the son . yet the father receives him with joy and celebration. The young son returning is a good picture of what repentance is. Unbelievers are children of the devil as Jesus said in John 8:42-44. He returned to the father begging for his forgiveness and acknowledging his sin. “To the Father‟s own. The son had come to the end of himself and was in desperate need.redeemed. and you want to carry out your father‟s desires. God sent me. The father. You belong to your father. which is the root meaning of the word repentance. as God the Father does.

The Jews considered this highly undignified in their culture. No human works can ever earn salvation. he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). indicating that he had been watching for him. no good . Yet this shows that God the Father sought us and called us and that we never initiate our own calling into the Kingdom of Heaven (John 6:44). The older brother is filled with anger saying in Luke 15:29-30. The religious leaders saw their rewards due for their works. They didn‟t understand that they can bring nothing to the plan of salvation and if they try to earn it.approaching. “Look! All these years I‟ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. they do not understand how God saves and that it is Jesus‟ righteousness alone that accounts them worthy. he runs to him and embraces him with open arms. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. The youngest son had nothing to bring. The Father celebrates as he tells the eldest son. Here the Father gives the son what he does not deserve (called grace) and withholds what he actually did deserve (called mercy). you kill the fattened calf for him!‟ Who Does the Eldest Son Represent? The eldest son represents the Jewish leaders. The patriarch never ran or never made the first move in such a situation. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home. “…this brother of yours was dead and is alive again.

does not light a lamp. is similar in nature in how the Father seeks those who are lost: “Or what woman. and it is with great intensity that God the Father seeks those to whom will be His children for now and for eternity. she calls her friends and neighbors together. and came back with barely the shabby cloths on his back. In Luke 15:31-32. This may be why the father provided a robe for him and sandals for his feet. Luke 15:8-10. and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it.” But we had to celebrate and be glad. And God never gives up this pursuit. the father tells the oldest son why he is rejoicing: “‟My son.‟” Harmony in the Gospel The Parable of the Lost Coin in the same chapter. „Rejoice with me. „you are always with me. sweep the The pursuit is relentless. I say to you. it is effectual. having ten silver coins. because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again. and everything I have is yours. saying. there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10). if she loses one coin. for I have found the piece which I lost!‟ Likewise. . he was lost and is found. The Bible emphasizes:  there is no one who seeks God (Romans 3:11).‟ the father said.

but on God‟s mercy” (Romans 9:16). depend on man‟s desire or effort. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. but by the grace of God.” (John 10:29). If you are reading this. therefore. The reaction of the crowd was most likely extreme upset and outrage.  that Jesus tells them plainly that. It is time to come to the Father through Jesus Christ today as John 14:6 says. As stated . you who are lost. He has either sought you and bought you or He is seeking you now.” Will you come today? Let us know that you came to Jesus on our contact page here: Contact Us. Jesus was teaching against their tradition and for that they would have been offended and astounded. and  as stated by Paul that. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. who has given them to Me. is greater than all. in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:4-6) Perhaps He is pursing you now. We will rejoice at the news!  Conclusion Jesus told this parable to the religious and the Jewish crowd there to help them understand that salvation does not come by works. and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father‟s hand. which he has freely given us in the One he loves.that our “Salvation does not. similar to that of the eldest son. “My Father. “… he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

The son‟s behavior was highly insulting to the the opening of this . Jesus needed to tell this parable to the Jewish leaders because Jesus came to fulfill the law. the Jewish people would have disinherited the son or even stoned him to death. New International Version Youtube “Prodigal” by Casting Crowns Read more: http://www. Resources The Holy Bible. as a matter of tradition. thereby making Jewish tradition of a works-based salvation unnecessary (Matthew 5:1518).