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Message of the Day: The Story of the Two Sons. Which Son Was Truly Lost?

Text: Luke 15:11-32

Key Verse: Luke 15:31

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (NKJV)

Jesus told these parables after the Pharisees and the teachers of the law complained about His welcoming sinners like the tax collectors and low class citizens, and eating with them. The more respectable jews considered such people unworthy of God’s blessings. They were angry that Jesus showed interest in them and that many of them responded to his message.

The account of the three parables ends with the complaint of the elder son, who betrayed a total lack of understanding of the loving heart of the father—like the Pharisees, who had no idea why Jesus would want to associate Himself with sinners. These stories show that God does more than welcome sinners; he actually goes looking for them. And when they repent, he rejoices. The Pharisees, however, did not consider themselves sinners. Therefore, they could not repent and so they bought no pleasure to God.

In the story of the lost son there is a contrast between those who consider they had done everything right and needed no repentance (the elder brother) and those who were obviously sinners but who knew it (the younger brother).

The father might divide the inheritance (double to the older son; see Deut. 21:17) but retain the income from t until his death. But to give a younger son his portion of the inheritance upon request was highly unusual (15:21).

The son’s motive becomes apparent when he departs, taking with him all his possessions and leaving nothing behind to come back to. He wants to be free of parental restraint and to spend his share of the family wealth as he pleases (15:13). The ultimate indignity for a Jew; not only was the work distasteful but pigs were “unclean animals” (Lev. 11:7). Best robe, ring, sandals, and eating were signs of position and acceptance; a long robe of distinction, a signet ring of authority, sandals like a son (slaves went barefoot), and the fattened calf for a special occasion. (15:22-23)

The older brother’s resentment is like the attitude of the Pharisees and teachers of the law who opposed Jesus, whereas the forgiving love of the father symbolizes the divine mercy of God (15:28). The older brother would not even recognize him as a younger brother, so bitter was his hatred (15:30).

The father’s love included both brothers. It shows a contrast between the self-centered exclusiveness of the Pharisees, who failed to understand God’s love, and the concern and joy of God at the repentance of sinners (15:31). There is also a contrast between the pardoning love of God (the father who welcomes the prodigal home) and the Pharisees (the older brother who was angry because of the welcome the rebel received).

Because 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. The Pharisee belong to a Jewish sect that is exclusively religious while the were professional writer or secretary. They are also known as religious teachers. Therefore, these two parties are people of the church/temple. They are extremely religious yet they have fallen short of knowing Jesus and his ways.

One need not leave the church or the family to be called a prodigal. One can drift away from his relationship with God even if he is active in the church. Just like the older brother (or the Pharisees and the Scribes), he spent all his life with his father but he had not appreciated his privileges at home. Such a person is the real prodigal.


MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2019.

Olive Tree Bible Software, 1998-2020.

Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.

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