The Expository Files

The Prodigal's Journey
Luke 15:11-32

I am sure that most are familiar with the Lord's parable that has come to be known as "the parable of the prodigal son". But, just in case, below is a rendition of the parable. It is entitled "Melody in F (The Prodigal Son)" and, well, when you read it, you'll get the idea. Though I do not know the original author, I found this several years ago on the internet at the web site of my co editor and friend, Warren E Berkley.

Melody in F
(The Prodigal Son)
(author unknown)

Feeling footloose and frisky,
a featherbrained fellow
Forced his fond father to fork
over the farthings.
And flew far to foreign fields
And frittered his fortune
Fabulously with faithless

Fleeced by his fellows in
folly, and facing
Famine, he found himself a
feed-flinger in a
Filthy farm yard.
Fairly famished, he fain
would have filled
His frame with foraged food
from fodder

"Fooey, my father's flunkies fare far finer,"
The frazzled fugitive forlornly fumbled,
Facing facts. Frustrated by failure, and filled
with foreboding,
He fled forthwith to his family.

Falling at his father's feet, he forlornly
"Father, I've flunked, and fruitlessly forfeited
Family fellowship & favor."
The far-sighted father, forestalling
Further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies to
Fetch a fatling from the flock
and fix a feast.

The fugitive's fault-finding
brother frowned on fickle
forgiveness of former

But the faithful father figured,
"Filial fidelity is fine, but the
fugitive is found! What
forbids fervent festivity? Let flags be unfurled!
Let fanfares flare!"

Father's forgiveness formed
the foundation for the
former fugitive's future


Now, I have heard the parable many times, but never quite like that! However, it is accurate with the facts, but I must confess I prefer Jesus' version. Consider the message of the parable of the prodigal son.

Background to the Parable
"Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:1,2).

The love that Jesus had for sinners is so obvious, and a very stark contrast with the disdain the Pharisees had for them. Jesus tried to help them find the way to purity and life; to overcome their sins and rise above the world. The Pharisees merely tried to maintain their distance. It must be noted that Jesus never condoned the sins of the sinners, nor did He ignore them. He addressed them directly and counseled the abandonment of sin and darkness. In fact, that is one of the things that the parable of the prodigal son is about, as seen in the penitent son, but it is also about the Father's love and forgiveness (as seen in the father) as well as the bad attitudes toward sinners on the parts of the Pharisees (as seen in the older brother). The parable may be read in Luke 15:11-32. By the way, the term "prodigal" does not occur in the parable. The word means "wasteful" and the younger son was certainly wasteful, but the parable is as much about the unrighteous attitude of the older son toward his brother as it is about his brother's wastefulness. It could be called "the parable of the brother with the bad attitude" or, for that matter, it could also be called "the parable of the loving father" as well.

Lessons From The Parable of the Prodigal Son
1) Rebellion (Luke 15:11-16): "...father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me... (Luke 15:12). The son's rebellion began not by doing or asking for something that was not rightfully his. It was his inheritance, and it was perfectly legal to ask for it and up to the father whether to dispense it at that time or not.

But, the request showed that already the rebellious spirit of the younger son was growing. It was a seeking to loose the control of the leadership of the father over the son; it was a rejection of the father's wisdom and guidance. The son's priorities were  becoming warped, and he obviously was looking for something else than the security of home and the companionship found there. He was looking to replace his relationship with loved ones with pleasures of the world. He was heading for trouble.

Further, the text says, "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living." (Luke 15:13). There's an old saying, "Be careful what you ask for, you may get it." That seems appropriate here. Many times, what we ask for is not necessarily what is best for us. For this young man, moving to a "far country" promised pleasure, independence and freedom. But ultimately, after a while, it delivered only slavery (John 8:34; Romans 6:19-23; 12-14).

2) Repentance (Luke 15:17-19): "But when he came to himself... I will go to my father and say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight and am no longer worthy to be called your son...'" (Luke 15:17,21). It took hitting rock bottom for the young man to figure out what had to be done. The word "repent" means to undergo a change of heart and attitude. Living among the pigs and eating garbage had given a much needed "attitude adjustment".

Note that there are really two things that led this man to follow through and act upon his change of heart. First, his own predicament, as noted above. But also, there was his knowledge of his father's goodness, as seen in his statements regarding how his father provides plenty even for his hired servants. Those are the two things that work together to bring about our repentance as well; acceptance of our own spiritual poverty and a comprehension of God's goodness and riches. Thankfully, the young man did not stop here. He acted. If he had failed to act, he would have only been filled with continued remorse and regret. But because he acted, there is something better in store!

3) Rejoicing (Luke 15:20-24): "But while he was a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20). What a wonderful reunion! The younger son begins with the speech which, though he had carefully rehearsed it, nevertheless spoke of what was genuinely on his heart. But the father interrupted him. The past was sorrowful, but it was the past. The present was joyful, so why return to the past? Another important point here: the young man was not saved by the father's love, and neither are we saved by God's love. The father had always loved the son, and God loves the whole world. Love makes salvation possible, but it does not save unless it is responded to.

How sad that the older son was not in a more festive mood. What a happier person he would have been if he had been less envious of his brother's special time. So much was lost by this older son. He stayed outside and pouted, excluding himself from the father's joy. Envy, jealousy, selfishness and self-righteousness does not make us happier people.

Finally, note the following 'mini-lesson":

The prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) ---  Jesus (John 14:6)
a. was lost (v. 24)                                "I am the way"
b. was deluded (v.17)                          "I am the truth"
c. was "dead" (v. 24)                           "I am the life"


By Jon W. Quinn
 From Expository Files 10.12; December, 2003