Day 1: Lost Son

By Arch Hoercher


The first thing we need to do is understand what a parable is.  Jesus used the parable quite often to illustrate some truth He wished His listeners to understand.  A parable is simply an illustrative story that conveys meaning to an unfamiliar idea by illustrating a familiar idea.  Since a parable is like a story, it will be remembered by the listeners to a much greater extent than by stating specific facts alone.  Jesus was a master of the parable (after all – He is God and God is the master of all things).

The parable we are going to study is the Parable of the Prodigal Son (or the Parable of the Lost Son or as John McArthur wrote in his book, A Tale of Two Sons).  This parable is the best known of all Jesus’ parables.  It is even know outside the church.  Charles Dickens stated that this parable was the best short story ever written.  After all, it should be the best because God wrote it.  Luke included more parables in his Gospel, than did any other writer in the Bible. 

We first need to set the stage: Luke 15: 1-3 (NIV); “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered. ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’  Then Jesus told them this parable….”.  Jesus’ direct message was aimed at the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  He wanted them to understand that recovering what was lost (sinners) was the greatest of all tasks that could be performed.  He first told them the Parable of the Lost Sheep then the Parable of the Lost Coin.  In both parables, something was lost, it was then found, then there was a celebration over recovering what had been lost.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son; a son was lost, then found, then there was a big party.  The parable reads as follows: John 15: 11-32 (NIV) – “Jesus continued – There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’  So he divided his property between them.  Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.”

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  So they began to celebrate.  Meanwhile, the older son was in the field.  When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.  ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  The older brother became angry and refused to go in.  So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.  Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’  ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  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.’