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The Father, the Pharisees and the two lost sons
Powerpoint for sermon (PDF)
As I was
preparing I felt God prompt me to look at the Parable of the Lost Son
from Luke 15. It is a passage that I have read many times and one that I
have heard many sermons on it. I guess many of you here had a read it a
number of times and heard sermons too. Today I would encourage you to
listen with an open heart and open mind, because we all approach
Scripture with our own views, our own experiences, and our own teachings
we have heard.
This parable is a great story of a father who has
two sons. One that is wayward and away from home for a part of the story
and one who is wayward in attitude but lives under his father’s roof.
As we read this story we need to read it in light of verses 1
and 2. Verse I and 2 says…
Now the tax collectors and sinners
were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the
teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with
This puts them in context and gives us an understanding
of how they are to be interpreted. We need to remember that as Parables
they are stories Jesus used to teach important spiritual truths. We also
need to be aware of the hearers of the story. They were for those who
were following Jesus (tax collectors and sinners according to verses
1-2), but also for the Pharisees who were listening and complaining off
to the side. They really didn’t like Jesus and saw Him as a threat.
Bible Reading - Luke 15:11-32
of the Lost Son or the Prodigal Son as it is called in some versions
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The
younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the
estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “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. 14 After
he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole
country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out
to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.
16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were
eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “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! 18 I will set out and go back to
my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and
against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me
like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his
“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.
21 “The son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer
worthy to be called your son.’
22 “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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill
it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead
and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When
he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one
of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has
come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because
he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became
angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.
29 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. 30 But when this son of
yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you
kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said,
‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’”
teaching on the text
For many years I only read this
great parable on a surface level. But after attending Bible college I
learned a lot of the background customs and meanings used in the story
and it helped me to see the deeper level and meaning. In this section I
want to share some of the things I learnt.
verses 11 & 12 we see it used the term "share of the estate". This would
be his inheritance that a younger son would receive on the death of the
father. It would be one-third, because the older son received two-thirds
(see Deuteronomy 21:17). Some Bible commentators tell us that in the
Jewish culture the sons asking for his inheritance actually meant “I
wish you were dead and I want my money now.” It was not something a good
son would do. For a son to do this to a father would be heartbreaking.
In saying this though it is very much like the Pharisees who were
listening. They wanted their inheritance of the Kingdom, but did not
In verses 13-16 we see the son "squandered his wealth on wild living."
In our terms it might mean our kids left Merredin and went to live in
Kings Cross and lived the Kings Cross lifestyle (ie. drugs, alcohol,
gangs, strip clubs, prostitutes). The "distant country" was apparently
outside Jewish territory where the Temple and/or Synagogues were. And
for the Jew, especially the Pharisees, the closer to the Temple you were
the purer or holier you could consider yourself to be.
see in this section a famine had swept the country and made food harder
than usual to get. The wayward son found himself with the demeaning job
of feeding pigs. Again, pigs were seen as unclean animals for the Jews.
He would even have eaten pig’s food. Not only had the son told his
father he wished he was dead and he squandered his money living wildly,
but he worked with unclean pigs in a foreign land. For a Jewish son it
was a very bad place to be. It was a low as you could go.
In verses 17-20 we read that he "Came to his senses" and seems to be
repentant. He even prepared a speech for his father. He was motivated by
his situation and his hunger, but ultimately he wanted to return to his
father. He realized that his sins were ultimately against God when he
says "heaven". It is interesting to note that a devout Jew would often
use the term “heaven” instead of “God” so he would not be seen to
potentially be blaspheming. The son knew he had no right to return as a
son, having taken and squandered his inheritance. He therefore planned
to earn his room and board. In telling this story Jesus portrays the
father as waiting for his son. If it were today in Merredin, he might
have been waiting at the edge of town or at the farm gate. He runs to
great him. This would have been considered shameful for a man of his
standing. For a Jewish man to lift up his robe and run would expose his
ankles and lower legs. This was considered very shameful. Regardless,
the father's compassion and his embrace show his true love for the son.
He is not worried about social conventions or what others think.
In verses 21-24 we see the son's prepared speech was never completed
in verse 21. He didn’t even get to the part of being a "hired man" that
he talked about in verse 19! The father was too busy rejoicing that the
son had come home. What he gave his son signified more than being his
son. The robe was a ceremonial one such as a guest of honor would be
given. It covered him much like Jesus’ righteousness covers us. The ring
signified the father’s authority and access to the father’s money. In
our terms he gave him an American Express gold card in the father’s
name. The sandals also signified a rich person or a person of standing
as slaves did not generally wear shoes. The calf that was apparently
being fattened for some special occasion and used as it was time to
When we come to verses 25-32 we
come to the part that talks about the other lost son. In verse 28 we see
a contrast of attitude between the older son and the father. The son
became angry, but the father went out to him as he had for the younger
brother. He pleaded with him to come inside, but the older son was very
abrupt in his reply. The words he uses in verses 29 & 30 shows
disrespect towards his father. He says things like “Look”, "slaving" and
"You never gave me". Likewise, by saying "this son of yours," he is not
even acknowledging his own brother. The father though says "this brother
of yours" in verse 32. The father reminds him it is not just his son,
but it is his brother too. The older brother is angry with both father
and brother, but the father is compassionate and open to both his sons.
What can we learn
from this passage? What things can we draw from it to put into practice
in our lives today? I have three things I want to share.
1. From the father we can see what it is to truly love, accept and
forgive those who have gone astray.
In the story the
Father sees the son in the distance and runs to him. As we saw this
would have been shameful, but he ran regardless. He kissed his son on
the neck. Remember the son would have been filthy from his work and the
long journey. But the father kissed him anyway. It is interesting to
note the Greek word used here for kiss is kataphileō. Which mean to
kiss earnestly – not an air kiss! He was not concerned about getting
dirty or unclean. It was not about him, it was about his dead son who
was now alive. In this passage we get a glimpse of what it is to welcome
people home. We see the son didn’t even get a chance to finish his
repentance speech. He was welcomed and a party started. The father
doesn’t lecture, or place conditions on him, he just welcomes. Welcoming
his lost son home was his main priority. As a father I can learn a lot
In many ways it is like Jesus who left the glories of
heaven to come and die on a Roman cross – the most shameful way a person
to die. He wasn’t worried about getting dirty or unclean because it
wasn’t about Jesus - it was about His love for us.
Christians, we need to welcome people into our lives and the church too.
We don’t need to lecture them or they don’t need to have their act
together before they come. We just need to invite and accept and love
them. Why do I say this? Because when people are in relationship with
us, and inside the church, they have a chance to hear the Word of God,
they have a chance to let the Spirit of God touch them. They also get a
chance for our love, for our prayers and our service to minister to them
and meet their needs. Then they can come to know Jesus and become the
people God longs for them to be.
In short: The father welcomed
the son. God welcomes us. We need to welcome people too.
2. We can never be like the son who could not forgive and accept
The older son in the story was jealous and
angry and couldn’t believe that the Father would accept the wayward son.
This is like the Pharisees not accepting those people who were outside
the “faith”. To them they were Gentiles or sinners with a capital S.
There is a real parallel between the older son and the Pharisees, and
the younger son and the gentiles. This is the point Jesus is trying to
get across to them. In many ways the older son was in the father’s
house, like the Pharisees in the Temple, but he didn’t have a real
relationship with his father and he didn’t understand what that really
meant. When the father went outside to invite him in, he refused. It was
like the Pharisees and Jesus. The reality was that the Pharisees could
have come and sat down with the sinners and listened to Jesus. Like the
Pharisees, the older brother couldn’t get over the younger brothers
acceptance when he had been obedient and served all along in his own
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day got so caught up in following
the law and their Jewish customs that they forgot what it was to welcome
outsiders with compassion and to show mercy. This is why Jesus clashed
with them so much. They were so caught up in following the law that they
despised the “unclean” people that God loved so much. God’s heart for
the Jewish people was that would have outward facing mirrors that would
reflect God’s love, holiness and character to the world around them.
Instead they turned the mirrors inward and only looked at themselves.
There was an old Rabbinic saying that sums them up perfectly. It said,
“Let not a man associate with the wicked, not even to bring them to the
Law”. In today’s terms we might say, “Let not a person associate with
those outside the family of God, not even to allow them to see the love
of Jesus and His message of salvation”. It was not what God wanted from
Today for us as Christians we need to be careful we don’t
do the same things the Pharisees did. We need to accept people who have
lived wild lives and then who come to God. We need to trust people who
followed others faiths and now follow Jesus. We also need to be
accepting of those who have wandered away who have now returned to
follow Jesus. Our heart should be like that of the loving father who
welcomed his son home. Our heart should be like the Heavenly Father who
always welcomes and accepts us home too.
In short: We can’t see
people as unclean, or outcastes or sinners. We need to allow people to
receive God’s forgiveness and welcome them in.
3. Do you
relate to one of the characters in the story?
relate to the father whose son has gone astray? Have your kids not lived
up to your expectations? Are they not living the way you hoped? Are they
off in a far land away from you and away from God? If so, take heart
from this story. Like the lost son I hope and pray they will come to
their senses. Keep believing, keep praying, keep holding out hope. Wait
at the farm gate. Wait at the edge of town. And when they come run to
them. Throw your arms around them and welcome them in. Have a party and
celebrate. This unconditional love might just win them over like God’s
unconditional love won you and me over.
Maybe you relate to the
angry older brother? Maybe you are a bit like the older brother who has
served in his father’s house for many years and you don’t feel blessed.
If I am brutally honest here, I used to feel that way at times in my
walk with the Lord. People would come along and get opportunities to
serve over me. I had been there for years and they just arrived. It
didn’t seem right in my own mind. Sometimes I would struggle that others
received so many blessing from God like new cars, or houses and had
great jobs and I was struggling to rub two cents together. Likewise some
people had great health and fitness and I could hardly walk. One friend
could run half marathons and I could hardly walk from the car to the
pew. I was jealous and angry on the inside. I was doing all the right
things on the outside, but sometimes on the inside I was angry, bitter
or estranged from God. I was like the older brother and the Pharisees. I
needed to repent and ask God to help me to think right and to soften my
hard heart afresh.
Or do you relate to young son who has gone
astray? Maybe you are on the edge of decision today. Maybe you were once
in the church and serving God, but maybe you have slowly gone astray.
Maybe you went off to the foreign land. Your church attendance has
drifted. You heart may have grown cold to the things of God. Maybe you
just don’t like spending time with Christians because you have been hurt
in the past. Today I would encourage you to come home. Come home to the
Heavenly Father and come and live under His roof and His covering today.
Unlike the lost coin and the lost sheep in the preceding parables, you
have a choice to come home, they needed to be found.
This parable of the lost son, gives us a great
picture of God’s welcoming love for us all. In the first part (verses
11-24) we saw the sense of joy and restoration when the lost son is
found. In the second part (verses 25-32) we saw the wrong attitude of
the elder brother. Like the Pharisees, he could not comprehend the
meaning of forgiveness and acceptance on unclean people. While all along
the father remains constant in his love for both sons.
telling the story Jesus identifies himself with the Father God in his
loving attitude to the lost. Jesus represents the Triune God and their
joint mission of bringing the world back to Themselves. Like the father
in the story who was overjoyed, it should bring joy for us as Christians
when someone comes home to Him. We can never be like the older brother
or the Pharisees.
Let us pray.
By Dave Quinn
of PASSION Australia
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