The point of this story is not the depth of the lostness of the son, but the depth of the love of the father. In fact, the depth of the lostness of the son is shown only to highlight the depth of the love of the father! The lostness of the son is the black velvet against which the diamond of the love of the father is displayed in all of its splendor.
We can see that this is the point by examining the context of Luke 15. The two other parables and especially vv. 1-3.
But this is also a key theme throughout the Bible from Genesis 3:8 where God sought Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Revelation 22:17 where “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!'” and everywhere in between we see God calling for and seeking sinners! Jesus described his own mission as follows: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
This is a parable with two parts. Verses 11-24 focus on the younger son and verses 25-32 focus on the older son.
Then He said: 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 and 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 fatted 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 fatted 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 fatted 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.’”
THE YOUNGER SON, VV. 11-24
1. The Rebellion of the Younger Son
He demanded his legal right to 1/3 of inheritance.
2. The Ruin of the Younger Son, vv. 13-16
The depths of sin. Some of you may not be able to wait till you get away from home. But learn from the story of the prodigal son that: “Sin will take you further than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, and keep you longer than you want to stay!”
3. The Repentance of the Younger Son, vv. 17-19
“He came to himself.” He was not himself before. He wasn’t thinking clearly. This parable doesn’t tell the whole story. Because we know that he did not come to himself by himself! Whenever we see a sinner “come to himself,” we know that God is at work in their hearts!
Though not the main point of this parable, these verses contain an excellent model of genuine repentance. He recognized the desperate situation in which he was (v. 17). His confession of sin acknowledged both his earthly and heavenly fathers. All sin effects both other people and is ultimately against God! This must be acknowledged!
4. The Return of the Younger Son, vv. 20-21
The heart repentance of the son resulted in action. Repentance is a change of mind that brings about a change in action! His father saw him while he was still a long ways off. That means he was looking for him! Elaborate on the love of the father shown in his watching and running. He still smelt like the pig pen, but he had repented and was received!
5. The Restoration of the Younger Son, v. 22
Before he can complete his pre-rehearsed speech completely. He is interrupted by his father who completely restores him. The robe is a symbol of honor (reserved for a guest of honor). The ring is a symbol of authority (signet). The sandals symbolized sonship (slaves did not wear shoes).
6. The Rejoicing for the Younger Son, vv. 23-24
The father throws a party and rejoices over this lost son that has been found. Here you can see the common theme of all three parables in this chapter (compare vv. 5-7 and 8-10).
The heart of the believer should be categorized by the following old German hymn: “CHRIST RECEIVETH SINFUL MEN”
1. Sinners Jesus will receive; Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave, All who linger, all who fall.
Chorus: Sing it o’er and over again; Christ receiveth sinful men;
Make the message clear and plain: Christ receiveth sinful men.
2. Come, and He will give you rest; Trust Him, for His Word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest; Christ receiveth sinful men.
3. Now my heart condemns me not, Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot, Satisfied its last demand.
4. Christ receiveth sinful men, Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain, Heaven with Him I enter in.
Or in the words of the hymn Jesus Saves:
Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
The Rebellion of the Older Son
The older son typifies the heart of the Pharisees and scribes in verse 2 which is the occasion for these three parables.
Three points of application:
1. The Love of the Father. Christ Receiveth Sinful Men! Come to Jesus!!!
2. We should rejoice with the Father over lost sinners coming to Christ!
3. We should receive those who come to Christ!
The question is: Who are you most like? The loving father or the older brother?