Last week, we learned that Parables are short, fictitious stories that Jesus told as a way to explain about how the Kingdom of God was like. We also learned that Parables usually contain a twist that Jesus used to bring a point across to the audience. In our first instalment, although it is titled as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20 & Luke 8:4-15), the focus was very much on the condition of the soil
In this second instalment, we are looking at the parable in Luke 15, in particular, the story of prodigal son. There are 3 parts to Luke 15; the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, illustrating the point about the God’s heart for the lost. Before Jesus told the parable, we learned that the Pharisees and scribes were unhappy that Jesus was dining with the so-called “sinners”. Hence Jesus told the stories to illustrate the point that regardless whether one considers himself to be righteous or a sinner, the Kingdom of God is ruled by a King who is a good and compassionate Father who seeks to reconcile everyone to Him.
Although most of us identify with the prodigal son who repents and runs back to the Father, this parable also teaches us to guard our hearts from becoming the older son who was blinded by his own “goodness”. He was also lost because he failed to see his father’s love and compassion for both his sons.
1a. Have you ever lost something that was so precious or had great value to you that you went through great lengths to find it? How did you feel after it’s been found?
1b. Who was the “obedient” one in your family? The “wild” one? Which were you? How did everyone get along?
2. Read Luke 15:1-10. What is the context of Jesus sharing these stories? Luke 15:10 tells us, “…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”.” Why is this a cause for rejoicing? (Hint: Understand the audience that this parable was intended for and its context).
3. Read Luke 15:11-31. Jesus built upon the stories of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin by sharing one more; the Prodigal Son, which added more layers to the point he was making.
a. In the culture of Jesus’ day, much of the wealth of people was found in their land, cattle, etc. When the son left his family, he likely had to sell his father’s land. As a result, the consequence of his actions was felt by his family daily. Why do you think the father would give his son the inheritance? What does this reveal to us about God?
b. After the younger son decided to return home, we learned that he was still unrepentant and wanted to gain sympathy from his father to hire him as a servant. What led the younger son to change his mind and repent?
c. The older son was upset that the Father did not punish the younger brother and yet celebrated his return. How does this parable answer the objections that the Pharisees had with Jesus in verses 1-2? What is Jesus trying to communicate with the Pharisees with His words in verses 25-31?
d. In light of the parable’s context in verse 2 why did Jesus leave the story open-ended as to how the older brother responded to his father’s plea?
e. In your own words, what is the point of the parable?
4. Do we see ourselves in any of the characters (younger son, older son and the father) in the story of the prodigal son? Which one(s)? Why? What does that tell us about ourselves?
WHAT WILL YOU DO
The lesson in this parable is that the Kingdom of God is ruled by a King who is also a Father, a Father who is always willing to forgive us with grace and mercy when we return, a Father who runs to embrace us when He sees us coming from afar. We also have a true older brother in Jesus who knows the Father’s heart and came to save us by taking our sins on the cross.
If you identify with the younger son, are you willing to repent even though your life is messed up and you are still trying to solve your own issues and sins? Are you willing to allow the grace of God, as seen on the cross of Jesus to remind you that you are loved and cherished and that God has already taken the first steps towards you?
If you identify with the older brother, are you willing to repent from self-righteousness and transactional attitude towards your heavenly Father? Are you willing to know and love the Father on a deeper level rather than simply wanting what He can do for you?
Finally, are you willing to reach out to God’s sons and daughters who have wandered far from Him? If we are the ‘older’ brother or sister God meant for us to be, our love for Him would compel us to search for those who are lost. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He is the perfect older brother. Are we like him?
“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” – Luke 15:32 NIV