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The Parable of The Prodigal Son Made Simple

(Luke 15:11-32)

This parable may be a common story to most of us. To start with, let us read it right from the Bible. It is found in Luke 15:11-32. It reads:

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fattened calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

I’ve heard this parable so many times but it makes me sad and upset. You may ask, “Why?” It is because I really didn’t fully understand this parable; until recently.

Sarah, a good friend of mine, lent me a book on the Prodigal Son. The book spoke about the older brother in the parable and how he thought that he was better than everyone and how he had done everything right. He felt he was righteous and his younger brother was not. It showed how he thought he deserved his father’s love more than his younger brother who went away and lived a prodigal life. Sarah only gave me a paragraph to read in her book and it deeply disturbed me as the older brother’s thoughts and actions so described how I thought and acted. It made me really sad because what it showed was the older brother’s disgusting attitude. That was the beginning of my eyes being opened to the reality that living a life like mine was not what God wanted from me.

You have to be sad to change. You have to know that there is a need for change before it can take place in your life. This book clearly did that for me. It dawned on me what the older brother did - living a self righteous life, striving to be holy by his own works.

In July 2010, I came across the teachings of Joseph Prince and Andrew Wommack and there has been an entire revolution of my life. In the last eight weeks, I have to say that my life has taken a 180-degree turn. What I thought was the truth that I had found in the Word over the past 16 years was proved to be totally wrong. My concept of what personal holiness was, what righteousness was, and what sanctification involved was all wrong. I had a totally wrong idea of what God was like. I was sadly mistaken in nearly everything I believed in. With that as a contextual backdrop is what I have to say as we look at this parable.

The parable says that the second son came to his father and insisted on his inheritance to be given to him right away.

In the Old Testament Law there existed a law for a rebellious child. It said that if a child was rebellious once, he should be warned; and if he was rebellious twice he should be brought before the elders of the city and stoned to death.

Now the Jews, who were listening to this parable would have though to themselves right away that something was different about this parable. They would have noted that Jesus was talking about a rebellious son and yet his story did not have the son stoned, in fact the father just willingly gave in to his son’s demands.

For a son to come to his father and say, “give me my inheritance”, that was akin to the him saying, “Dad, I want you dead”

Instead of rebuking the son, the father sold some of his land, some of his sheep and gave the son one third of his worth, leaving two-thirds to the older brother, who was his first born son.

In today’s money, I can imagine my parents’ worth to be about $350,000. So a third of that is about $120,000. But we are talking about my parents and they don’t have servants working for them on a property. In today’s money, we can assume the younger son was given up to a third of a million dollars at least.

The youngest son went around and spent his money with drinking and wild living including sleeping with prostitutes. When the money ran out, he secured a job feeding pigs. Pigs were unclean to the Jews, so the old state of affairs would say that the younger son was tremendously unclean.

The son soon came to his senses and thought about the servants in his father house who were treated better than how he was at the moment. He decided to go home.

If you are reading this, you might be wondering what a lost son or a prodigal son has to do with your life. I have to ask you, have you really been home to see the Father? The Bible records that we are seated in the heavenly places. Are you a person who has felt the Father’s embrace? Do you feel like you are seated in heavenly places and are holy and righteous?

Or do you feel like a dirty sinner? Do you fall in sin and can’t seem to erase its memory from your mind? Do you have trouble staying clean and righteous? Do you seem like being in a pig pen? Do you long for a way where you could feel forgiven, clean and in a robe of righteousness? Do you need the power to stop all the sin in your life?

I didn’t admit that I felt like this to myself. I thought I was more like the faithful older brother. I had sins in my life, but I used to try to excuse them.

Let us get back to the parable…

The prodigal came back to his father. The father saw him a long way off and ran to him. I was told that in the Jewish custom of that day, men did not run. So once again Jesus’ parable breaks all customs.

You see the message of grace breaks all customs. The idea that we can be sinners and still be embraced by God is scandalous. One time, in the midst of my addiction to prostitutes, I was taken in a vision to heaven where Jesus wanted me to go into the throne room and meet His Father. As a sinner, I was petrified to meet a holy God. But Jesus urged me and told me not to fear, and then He took me inside. The Father embraced me with His love that day and said something I will never forget. Folks, I was a dirty sinner. Four days before this visit to heaven I had been in the arms of a prostitute.

The father in this parable is a true representation of our Father in heaven. He hushed his son’s excuses and carefully rehearsed speech and called for his best robe to be put on him. The robe signified the robe of righteousness that Jesus has given to all of us. Whether we care to admit it or not, whether we can handle it or not, we are righteous in God’s sight if we are born again. You may protest about being righteous, but you would be like I was for those sixteen years with the wrong theology.

His father gave the son new shoes, so he did not have dusty feet. Shoes are for going places and they are a lot easier to work in. We are said to be clad with the shoes of the Gospel of peace. The hard thing about most of us spreading the Gospel is that we don’t think we have a story to share that is exciting enough. Your story can change and you can be taught how to share it in an exciting way.

The father gave his son a ring and put it on his finger. When I went to heaven and met the Father, Jesus put a robe around me, a crown on my head and a ring on my finger. In those days the ring that the father gave his son was an official sign of authority. It could be used as a seal, as a stamp to have cheques signed by; it represented all sorts of financial duties. Though we don’t understand it that much, we also have been given authority in the Kingdom of God. We, as co-heirs with Christ, have power over this world. We have the authority to do great things. Yet without knowledge of this power and authority, we are ineffective.

Now let us talk about the older brother. When the younger brother came home, the older brother got totally out of sorts with it. As a person living the Christian life, going to church each week and reading your Bible often, it is not hard to start thinking that you are better than others. When you feel you have a good relationship with Jesus, you are very zealous with the things of God, and you are always trying to learn more about the Kingdom, you might become quite proud of yourself and think that you are better than other people.

You might be like me. If you meet a gay person out in the street and they are not a Christian, you might be very cordial to them as a way of maintaining a good witness in the hope of one day you can help them see Jesus. But if you see gay people at church, a gay guy and his boyfriend praising God, suddenly you rise up in judgment and say to yourself that they should not be allowed to come to church as a practicing gay couple. You forget that once you were an unwashed sinner, you forget the thousands of times you have been forgiven and all you can think about is how they should be told to stop coming to church if they will not change.

There might be a man in your church that has a gambling problem and every time he sees you, he wants to borrow money from you. You know he has a gambling problem and now you won’t even treat him like a human. “How could he be in such a mess as a Christian”?, you ask yourself.

Like the older brother, you might be full of self works, self righteousness and pride and you might need to change. Or, you may be like the younger son that is lost in sin. Either way, there is good news for you. God knows all about both of these sons and He has answers for both situations. Why don’t you run to Him?

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