Below are some things to consider while reading Luke 15 today:
  • The setting and context of this chapter is found in Luke 15:2-3b, 8, 11 “[T]he Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So He told them this parable…[v8] Or what woman…[v11] And He said…” All these three parables found in Luke 15 are linked that end with the parable of The Prodigal Son AND his brother. Furthermore, the Pharisees and the scribes appear to be the primary target of the passage, even though others are listening.
  • All three parables in this chapter, The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son, are first and foremost allegories of how much the Father rejoices when lost, wayward people repent and return to Him even when they don’t seem to “deserve” such celebration (alluding to the tax collectors and sinners of verse one).
  • Think about how cold the prodigal son is in verse twelve. Basically, he is saying, “I don’t want to wait for you to die, father; give me my inheritance now. I don’t want to be around you anymore anyway.” In that culture, it would be even worse than ours.
  • Consider how the father not only lets his son go but almost enables the son to go by giving him his portion of the inheritance. The father in the parable corresponds to THE FATHER. How often do we pursue people when we should let them go? Think about the story of the rich ruler found in Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18-30 – Jesus just let him go. Gary Chapman in his book, When to Walk Away, counts forty-one occurrences where Jesus deliberately parted ways with others. It seems heartless and against our nature, but this is the example Jesus set. Can you think of a time when Jesus ran after someone to rescue them from themselves? Consider how you might apply His example.
  • When the son does return, think about how excited the father is. He runs to his son…what dignified man runs to his adult son that was once considered dead to him? It didn’t matter what his son had done because he repented and returned – that is what mattered. This is exactly what our Father does when we humbly run back to Him. This is demonstrated three times in the three different parables in this chapter to ensure we get it.
  • The other son, the one who stayed and did all the right things but was clearly heartless (v. 29-30), seems from the context to represent the Pharisees and the scribes. This could also represent us Christians who are proud of our piety. However, when people humbly return (even if it is seventy times seven times c.f. Matthew 18:21-22) the father says, “it is fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.” What can we learn and apply from this?
If you would like to go deeper into the parable of the prodigal son, I recommend reading the book: A Tale of Two Sons, by John MacArthur (also available on Hoopla).

by Michael Burner, Deacon Vice Chairman

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