On the Way to THE CRUX: Reflections on Jesus’ Journey to the Cross
Lost in Your Own Home: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Read Luke 15:11-32 NASB
Our main passage for this week is in Luke 15:11-32 where Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son in response to the grumblings of the Pharisees and the Scribes. The title for this week’s reflection is “Lost in His Own Home”.
Right after the sermons on Contentment and Vigilance (Week Three) we see Jesus teaching in one of the Synagogues on Sabbath Day. His conflict with the Pharisees and the Scribes is already scorching this time as he continue his journey to Jerusalem. The effect of his works is unstoppable despite the opposition coming from the Pharisees and the Scribes due to their dwindling popularity (Luke 13:10-21 NASB).
In Luke 13:22-35, Luke reminds his readers of the nature of the “narrative as a travelogue” (Gundry). Jesus evaded the question as to the number of those who will be saved and instead taught about “avoidance of evil as evidence of salvation, a salvation that on the grounds of such evidence will include many Gentiles, such as Luke writes for, but exclude many Jews. The last who will be first are Gentiles, the first who will be last are Jews.” (Ibid)
Once again, the Pharisees attempted to scare Jesus saying “Go away leave here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (v. 31 NASB) But he refused to be deterred by such a threat, instead called Herod as a “fox” or a deceitful person. Jesus was determined to proceed to Jerusalem and fulfill his mission. He cannot contain his sorrow over Jerusalem in an emotional statement in verses 34 & 35, “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (NASB)
The controversial Pharisees fixed their eyes on Jesus, watching him closely as he dines in the house of one of the chief Pharisees (Luke 14:1-24 NASB). Here, Jesus stressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees; they would care for animals on the Sabbath but refuse to extend help to people (v.v. 1-6), they rebuked them about their lust for honor in public gatherings and said that instead they will be humiliated (v.v. 7-11), he also pointed out the need to do good out of pure love and not expecting in return (v.v. 12-14), and another rebuke saying that those who thought themselves assured of a place in the kingdom are going to miss out (v.v. 15-24).
In Luke 14:25-35 NASB, Jesus reminded his followers who might not fully understand why they do so (“large crowds were going along with Him”), that discipleship is about sacrifice, that they were not going to set up a kingdom rather they were going to Jerusalem – to the Cross.
Luke 15:1-2 provides the context for the next three parables; the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes upon seeing that tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus to listen. They say, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (NASB)
The first parable is The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7 NASB). It stressed that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (v7) in contrast to the resentment of the Pharisees and Scribes.
The next parable is The Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10 NASB). It points out the failure or refusal of the Pharisees and the Scribes to rejoice “over one sinner who repents” (v. 10).
We come now to the main section of our reflection, The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32 NASB). The parable is still in line with the message of the last two parables – it was proper to rejoice over repentant offenders. At the same time we see several contrasts in this parable; the younger brother represents the sinners who upon realizing their sinfulness repented and turned back to Jesus while the older brother represents the Pharisees who are arrogant, self-righteous and antagonistic.
In a state of desperation after squandering his inheritance in a country far away from home, the younger brother reached his turning point as stated in Luke 15:7, “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!” (NASB) He had lost everything then, he remembered the good life he enjoyed in his father’s house. He suddenly realized that “he had been far from himself as he was from home. As a matter of fact he had been away, out of his head, now began to see things as they really were” (RWP).
While in that condition, he rehearsed how he would express his determination to repent and return to his father, “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ (v.v. 18, 19 NASB). The word sinned in Greek means “miss the mark” (Strong-Lite). That is, Father, I blasted it, I missed the mark. I messed up. Can I come home?
Let us look at the father’s response in verse 20, “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” “This shows that the father had been looking for him to come back and was even looking at this very moment as he came in sight (RWP). He has been waiting for him to come back. You can picture him sitting in a bench by the road everyday checking and looking at every person who arrives or pass by.
The younger son uttered his prepared speech as he had planned but even before he could finish his confession his father commanded his servants to bring and put to him the best robe, a ring, and shoes on his feet. And then a feast follows. These elements confirm that he was accepted and restored to his former status as a son.
While they were partying, the older brother arrived and inquired. Let us look at his words which exposed what was in his heart. Obviously, he had no idea of what was going on because he was out taking care of his father’s business. So he inquired and learned that the celebration was all about his younger brother’s homecoming. He refused to come in. Apparently, his father was aware of his arrival. He went out and begged him (“entreated him”, v. 28). But instead of taking heed to his father’s invitation, he vented his resentment to him, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ (Luke 15:29-30 NASB
His statement “pictures his virtual slavery in staying at home and perhaps with longings to follow the younger son” (RWP). He stayed home but his heart was far away. “But when this son of yours” (v. 30) not “my brother” further exposed his state of being lost or astray.
His father’s reply was very emphatic, he called him ‘son’ an assurance of his real status in the family and in contrast with his resentful statement. He has no right to complain since he was with his father all these years. With regards to the property, it has been divided and what remained was actually his. It is just right that they should celebrate his brother’s return because he never get to enjoy the things that he, as the older brother, was supposed to be enjoying. ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:31-32 NASB)
Jesus did not tell us what the older brother’s response was. He leaves the parable open-ended. “The Pharisees knew God’s law, they had an advantage over the tax collectors, but because they were self-righteous they never saw themselves as ‘dead’ or ‘lost’. They therefore never came to God in repentance” (Bridgeway).
Finally, the older brother’s character shows that one does not have to leave his home in order to be lost or be called a prodigal son. A person can be estranged from God even if he is always inside the church. However, everyone is invited to return to God and repent, both the sinners and the clean ones.
Chapter 16 is about the shortsightedness of misusing money (Gundry). A follower of Jesus must not squander his money rather he should use it to secure true friendship that will bring about a lifetime of prosperity extending even in the after-life.
Our passage for this week closes with a reminder not to be a stumbling block to others, be willing to correct and forgive those who do wrong, to have faith in him no matter how small it is, and always be humble even in our good deeds because we can never outdo God (Luke 17:1-10 NASB).
Questions for Reflection
Are you enjoying the company of your family? Are there some things you need to fix in order to avoid being ‘lost in your own home’?
How about your ministry? Re-examine your concept of ministry to make sure it will not result to self-righteousness and resentment over those who seemingly have less commitment than you do.
Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc., 2002
Bible Gateway. www.biblegateway.com
MySword for Android for Bridgeway, RWP, and Strong-Lite