Luke 15:11-32

Luke 15:11-32 – Preached @ Ebenezer Church on 28 Apr 2013

This parable in Luke 15:11-32 is often known as the story of the prodigal son.

I believe most of us have heard this story many times. 

Some of us may even be saying in our hearts – oh, not again! 

Like I’ve said before: you can read God’s word a hundred times – there will be something to learn if you are willing to listen. 

This morning, our meditation will be centred on answering the following 3 questions pertaining to this parable: 

1) Why did Jesus tell this parable? 

2) Why did the prodigal son go away from his home? 

3) Why did the father receive the prodigal son in spite of all that he had squandered? 

1) Why did Jesus tell this parable? 

In Luke 15:1-2, we were told that the scribes & Pharisees were not happy that Jesus was spending time with sinners. 

They felt that religion was not meant for people like tax collectors and sinners. 

These tax collectors and sinners were definitely not heading for heaven. 

They don’t fast or pray or dress or behave religiously. 

At least they should be like us scribes and Pharisees – wearing white and put on a solemn look. 

In response to that accusation, Jesus spoke 3 parables. 

What is a parable? 

A parable is an earthly story which people could easily relate to and it illustrates a heavenly truth. 

Why didn’t Jesus just tell the scribes and Pharisees directly – you guys are totally mistaken! 

“You are the ones who are heading to hell if you refuse to repent!” 

Why did Jesus choose to respond in parables instead? 

The answer is recorded in Luke 8:10  

“And He said, To you (ie. The children of God) it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’” 

You see, a parable conveys the nature of the heavenly kingdom in the simplest possible form. 

But those who don’t believe will not be able to appreciate the story at all, no matter how simple it was. 

Instead, that story becomes a judgement upon them. 

This morning, I hope you will accept the truth about God’s kingdom conveyed in this parable. 

Because if you don’t, you will be like the scribes and Pharisees in this parable. 

God gave you this chance to know Him, but you are refusing it. 

So today, if you hear the voice of God speaking to you in your conscience, do not harden your heart. 

Instead, listen to His prompting and respond to His call. 

Now, Jesus spoke 3 parables in Luke 15. 

The first was from verse 4-7 – the parable of the lost sheep. 

The second was from verses 8-10 – the parable of the lost coin. 

These 2 parables were meant to illustrate the extent to which an owner will go to find his lost sheep & coin. 

And here on earth, Jesus was amongst tax collectors and sinners to seek His people – the lost sheep & coin.  

Jesus could have just stayed in glorious heaven and don’t bother about them. 

But just as the owners went diligently seeking their lost sheep & coin, Jesus was seeking His people. 

And Jesus seeks you today if you are His child. 

But how do I know if I am God’s child? 

Rom 8:16 tells us “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God”. 

The Holy Spirit will place a burden in your heart, urging you to respond to this wonderful story about the kingdom of God. 

If that is happening to you today, please talk to me afterwards so that I can pray with you over your spiritual situation. 

Now, the 3rd parable that Jesus told in Luke 15 was the parable of the Prodigal son. 

So why did Jesus tell this parable? 

It was to illustrate how willing God was to receive sinners who returned to him humbly. 

Are we humble enough to acknowledge that we have sinned against God? 

But how have we sinned against Him, you may ask? 

The bible tells us that the life we have is given by God. 

As long as we do not acknowledge Him as the giver of life & spend life on our own pursuits instead, we are like the prodigal son. 

So are we humble enough to return to Him? 

Well, the scribes and Pharisees in Luke 15 were not willing to do that. 

They are not the examples for us to emulate. 

Instead, we ought to return to God in the same humility that the prodigal son returned to his father. 

We ought to acknowledge our great need of God’s forgiveness. 

We ought to humbly appreciate His willingness to receive undeserving people like us. 

Now that we know why Jesus told this parable, let us proceed to our 2nd question. 

Question 2: why did the prodigal son leave his home? 

Was he being ill-treated? 

Was he lacking any comfort in his life? 

No, it appeared that he was from a well-to-do family. 

His father had servants; there was good food and he was even given an inheritance. 

He had the security that many people longed for. 

He had the comforts that many people worked so hard for. 

Somehow, he did not appreciate these things which many people would readily appreciate. 

Instead, he said to his father in v12 “… give me the portion of goods that belongs to me.” 

How many of you upon reading this immediately felt that the young man was simply foolish? – pls put up your hands 

So why did the prodigal son leave his home? Let me give you 2 reasons: 

1) He was attracted by the world 

There was once a young lady who attended this Church and was very consistent week after week. 

She demonstrated interest in bible studies and appeared to be very serious about her faith. 

And then, she suddenly stopped coming. 

When I finally had a chance to talk to her, she told me honestly that the world was just too attractive. 

There’s just so much to pursue. 

There’s so much to discover. 

My friends are all enjoying their youth, I’m missing out big time if I don’t do what they are doing. 

I wonder if there is anyone seated here today feeling the same. 

Perhaps you have been with the Church for a while. 

You know that God is real. 

You know that Jesus died for the sins of His people. 

You understand the major doctrines. 

But you just feel you can’t stand up and tell the whole world you believe in Jesus and be baptised. 

Because you are afraid that such a profession of faith will constrain you in what you can do in life. 

Or perhaps you are concerned that your friends may forsake you or laugh at you. 

And that was probably also one of the reasons why the prodigal son decided to strike out on his own. 

“Now I don’t have to answer to my father and follow his rules.” 

“I can do what I want and experience everything that I have heard of but never got to do.” 

The world looks attractive because Satan has dressed it up with everything that appeals to our flesh. 

But I want to tell you that the world appears attractive because you have not truly tasted the goodness of God. 

If you get to taste of the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God..” – Rom 11:33, the attractiveness of the world will fade away. 

Which brings me to the 2nd reason why the prodigal son went away from home. 

2) The 2nd reason why he went away from home is because he has not yet “…come to himself” –v17 

I am sure you agree that the prodigal son was indeed foolish. 

But, the reality is that many of us were similarly foolish and we didn’t realise it. 

A story was told about a small boy who had a smelly little bolster. 

Although it was so smelly and dirty, he refused to let his parents wash it. 

He constantly held on to it – it was his pacifier and he had to smell it in order to sleep. 

His parents offered to buy him a new one but he would not let anyone touch his precious smelly bolster. 

One day, when he was about to fall asleep while smelling his bolster, he saw a tiny cockroach crawling on it. 

That jolted him from his sleep and he ran to the dustbin, threw the bolster away, yelling and crying. 

Have you ever met such a child? Were you like this when you were young? 

I often look back at some of the things I did and wondered why I was so foolish. 

And for some people, that realisation of foolishness comes only after they have suffered great pain. 

For the prodigal son, the realisation of how privileged he was came only after he had lost everything. 

V16 tells us that he had less to eat than the pigs he was feeding. 

Oh what a tragedy and how low he fell before he realised his foolishness. 

V17 says “…when he came to himself…” 

Notice how humble the prodigal son became after he “came to himself”… 

He acknowledged on his own accord that his father’s house was better than anything he had experienced. – v17 

He was willing to confess to his father that he was unworthy because of all that he had squandered. – v18  

He acknowledged that he was good only to be a servant in his father’s house. – v19 

Now, he appreciates the goodness of his father’s house compared to the attractiveness of Satan’s world! 

This is how you know you have been converted. 

– When you realise & acknowledge that you have squandered away every good thing & opportunity given to you by God. 

– When you realise that you don’t deserve any good at all. 

And that it was totally out of grace that you can return to God. 

To those who have not yet professed faith in Jesus Christ, may I ask you: “have you come to yourself”? 

Do you really need a tragedy to come upon you before you would “come to yourself”? 

Many people are like the prodigal son.  

They need tragedies to happen to them before they would “come to themselves”! 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Because there were also many who, upon hearing the parables of Jesus, immediately see the light of kingdom of God! 

If God is speaking to you today, don’t harden your heart. 

Ask Him for forgiveness; ask Him for mercy; ask Him to take away the veil that covers your eyes. 

Ask Him to help you appreciate the goodness of his household so that you won’t even want to leave home. 

May God be praised and all glory given to Him if He is doing that work in any of your hearts today. 

At this juncture, there is something I want to be very clear about. 

In v19, the repented prodigal said “I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” 

Now, this does not mean that the prodigal is entering into a transactional relationship with his father where his acceptance is based on what he will work for. 

Man like to think that their acceptance by God is based on what they will do. 

But there is nothing they do that is going to be able to satisfy the righteous requirement of God. 

That statement by the prodigal in v19 is simply an expression that he does not deserve anything from his father at all. 

Being back in the house of his father is such a blessing that he was willing to do anything to demonstrate his gratitude. 

In the same way, those who are truly saved by grace will live lives that demonstrate their gratitude to God. 

So back to our question – Why did the prodigal son leave his home? 

Because he was attracted by the world and he had not yet “come to himself”. 

Today, I pray that God will help many of you “come to yourself”, taste the goodness of God and shun the folly of the world. 

Question 3: why did the father receive the prodigal son in spite of all that he had squandered? 

Observe the reaction of the father when he saw his prodigal son returning to him from afar. 

V20 … when he was still a great way off, his father saw him & had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 

Now, this father is no ordinary man. 

He owns an estate; he had servants;  

He is definitely not a young man; he is probably dressed in a sober manner. 

For such people, there’s often a certain decorum and composure to maintain – such people do not run. 

Yet, we read of this father running towards his lost son who returned. 

He even “…fell on his neck and kissed him” – v20 

I could probably bring tears to many here today if I asked you to think about someone you missed so much coming home. 

You need to know that this is how God feels about your coming into His kingdom because you are His child. 

He is all excited to receive you. 

Look at v22 – “Put the best rope on him!” 

“Put a ring on his hand” 

“Put sandals on his feet” 

“Let’s have a banquet, eat and be merry because my son is dead and is now alive”. 

Luke 15:10 tells us that there is great celebration in heaven when a sinner repents and turns to God. 

But why would God receive you in spite of all that you have squandered? 

Because you are His child and Jesus Christ has died for the sins of His people. 

I could never understand a father’s love for his child until my first son was born. 

It was a feeling that I could not describe when I first held him in my hands after my wife gave birth. 

I looked at this little life in my hands that was flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood. 

How could I allow any harm to come upon him? 

If I – who is made in the image of God could feel this way, how much more my heavenly father for His children whom He loved and sent His son to die for?  

Friends, God your heavenly Father delights in your homecoming. 

If His Spirit is speaking to you today, don’t reject that call. 

Would He receive you in spite of your wilful rejection of Him thus far? 

Most assuredly! 

Because He has forgiven you in Jesus Christ!

Your sins are washed away when you believe in Him and return to God! 

The gospel is just too good to be true! 

Sinners are saved by grace – no payment required because Jesus has paid for everything. 

But this is a limited offer. 

It is not valid if you die before you repent and put your faith in Jesus. 

If you delay your decision, most likely your heart will harden and that is not in your best interest. 

So I urge you not to leave your seat here today until you have resolved your relationship with your heavenly Father. 

Now finally, this parable also has a word for those who have been Christians for a long time now. 

The older son was angry that his father threw a lavish feast for his prodigal brother. 

I’ve served you so many years – v29, yet I never got anything to celebrate with my friends. 

And for this prodigal son who squandered everything, you readily slaughtered a calf – v30. 

Some of you may be thinking that the older son had good reasons to feel that way – it appears to be simple fairness. 

But I want you to notice how the older son interacted with the father in v29. 

He says he has served him many years. 

He says he has never transgressed his commandment at any time. 

And for these, he was expecting some reward in the form of preferred treatment. 

Therefore, his relationship with the father is a transactional one – based on works and not grace. 

Remember that Jesus was addressing the scribes and Pharisees in this parable. 

These were religious people who considered themselves more deserving of God’s love because of their religious disciplines. 

So their behaviour is just like that of the older son. 

But God was gentle in how He dealt with them. 

In verse 28, when the older brother was angry, the father came out and pleaded with him. 

The father could have asked his servants to order the older son to go into the house. 

But he took it upon himself to seek the older son. 

The father called the older son “Son”. 

He said that the older son always had his presence – v31. 

He said that all that he had belonged to the older “son”. 

And the father was appealing to him that he should join the celebration because his younger brother was found.

You see, salvation was offered even to the scribes and Pharisees – if only they were willing to repent. 

See how patient our God is –“…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” – 2 Pet 3:9. 

Now, there’s a lesson here for Christians who have served the Lord for many years. 

Some of us may feel that we have contributed a lot to the kingdom of God. 

We may have made a lot of sacrifices just to serve God. 

And yet, we not taken care of or regularly remembered in prayer. 

When we allow such thoughts to come to our mind, we are having the spirit of the older son in this parable. 

We are relegating our relationship with God to a transaction that is based on perceived deserving works. 

But most importantly, it shows that we have taken our eyes away from the Cross. 

We should always remember that whatever we have given up to be Christians is nothing compared to the pain that Christ had to bear on the Cross for us. 

Yes, it is important that we remember to take care of each other in this fellowship. 

But more importantly, we have to help each other remember the message of the Cross. 

Let me encourage those of you who have persevered in the faith thus far with God’s own word in Heb 6:10. 

“God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister.” 

God knows your work and in His time He will encourage you. 

So persevere in your walk, dear Christian brothers and sisters and do not lose heart. 

Let us close with a summary of the questions we have attempted to answer this morning. 

1) Why did Jesus tell this parable? 

It was to illustrate how willing God was to receive sinners who returned to him humbly. 

Will you humbly acknowledge your folly and return to the God who is willing to receive you? 

2) Why did the prodigal son go away from his home? 

Because he was attracted by the world and he had not yet “come to himself”. 

Have you “come to yourself” this morning? 

Please don’t leave your seat until you have resolved your relationship with God this morning. 

3) Why did the father receive the prodigal son in spite of all that he had squandered? 

Because the prodigal son was his son. 

And our God will receive those who turn to Him in repentance because He has forgiven them in Jesus Christ. 

Your sins are washed away when you believe in Him and return to God! 

Please talk to me afterwards if you sense the Spirit of God speaking to you today. 

May all glory be given to our triune God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit! Amen.