Two Sinners in the Prodigal Son Story – Luke 15

The-Prodigal-SonThere are three characters in the Prodigal Son parable.  Most of the attention goes to the younger son, but the story is about the Father and his TWO lost sons.

Younger:   And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.   Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

This son is one kind of sinner.  He thinks about himself and his desires.  He does not care for the teaching he received. He does not care for tradition. He does not a care for doing the right thing.  He breaks all the rules and eventually he finds himself facing the results.This kind of sinner plants trouble and ends up getting more trouble

I do not think he knows about forgiveness.  He believes that he can make a plan to work for his father.  The last thing he expects is to be forgiven.  He knows his father is fair – he would do the right thing to give him a job.  He does not know that his father loves him enough to forgive him.

Older:  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,   but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.   But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

The older son is a second kind of sinner.   Yes he is a sinner.  He is lost .The younger son was lost because of his selfishness.  The older son was lost because he kept the rules.  He did not know his father or  his father’s live. He only knew the rules. He only understood that you earn your way by your work.

The Father: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

When the son returned, the Father saw him first.  He was waiting for the time when the son was ready to come back.  God is also looking for people to return home to him.  You may be far from God.  Maybe you know someone who is far from God.  God is looking for those who are far off to return.

The Father ran and gave a robe and a ring and a party to his son.  In the same way, when we return to God, he gives us many gifts.  We are received as his children, we are forgiven, we are given an inheritance.  God desires to welcome people back because he wants so pout out his live on us.

Literary Notes:

Luke 15:1-2 shows that “sinners and tax collectors” as well as “scribes and Pharisees” interacted with Jesus.  the Sinners were drawn to him but the religious were offended. They were offended that Jesus accepted sinners into his company

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” v. 1-2

The Father went out to both sons to welcome them home from their estrangement:  The Younger son as he returned from the pig pen. The older son who stood outside in anger against his Father and judgment against his brother.

At the end of the story, the younger son returns but the attitude of the older son is left unresolved.

Worksheet: Forgive.luke15

Context and the Lord’s Prayer

So if you go to a bookstore or to Amazon and look for treatment of the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:9-13, you will find a ton.  Have you been to church recently, then you have probably heard a sermon or sermons on the subject.  Have you been to a funeral, then you probably recited it, as the crowd said “debts” and “trespasses” at the same time.  (Both are OK since Luke uses the word for “trespass” and Matthew for “debt”).

Here is a thought.  What if you read the prayer it it’s setting.  In Matthew it is in chapter 6, which has at the start the theme of religion, piety or spiritual disciplines.  The verses cover giving to the poor (a surprisingly common theme in scripture if you take note of it), prayer and fasting. 

What is interesting and what we are pondering this week is the prevalence of the phrase “our/your father/in heaven”.  (5:14; 6:1; 6:4; 6:6; 6:8; 6:9; 6:14; 6:15; 6:18; 6:26; 6:32; 7:11 – see also 5:9 “sons”; 7:3 “brother’s eye”; 7:9 “son”;  7:11 “children”)

Some call “the Lord’s Prayer” the “Our Father” as those are the first words.  so then here is the question.  How does this theme of God as Father permeate and flavor the Lord’s Prayer?

  • “Hallowed by thy name” – Familial honor and love.
  • Kingdom – are Kingship and Fatherhood related?
  • Daily Bread – don’t we eat with our families?

Consider this a lead, not a conclusion.  It could be a red herring.  However, I think that the idea of piety or spirituality in Jesus’ teaching is very personal.  The focus is on God, with whom we have a relationship.  It is not on the processes we use to gather power or merit. Do we need to repeat our prayers incessantly when God is our Father – rather like those kids at the grocery story who plead, cry, hold their breaths and kick until they get that candy bar…..