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Articles: Bible Studies
The Prodigal Sonnotes from a Bible study by Pastor Mason Okubo

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This was from Pastor Okubo's first adult Bible study as the senior pastor of Immanuel First on October 12, 2003. It was previously titled "The Lost Son" but was changed in 2013 to reflect its more familiar name, "The Prodigal Son".

The Parable of the Prodigal Son—Luke 15:11-32

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 he 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 men 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 men.' 20 So he got up and went to his father.

"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 celebrate.

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 come 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 have 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 your 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.' "

Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica Inc.

What We Learn from the Parable Parables are like allegories, but they are meant to teach you specifically about the Kingdom of God. They are "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning."

The keyword in this parable is love.

v. 11-12: The son wasn't willing to wait for his father to die and leave him the inheritance then. He was greedy, and found his worth in material possessions. He had the wrong concept of love in his devotion to money rather than family.

v. 13-14: He found "love" in wild parties and living. He thought that he could buy love by "squandering" his money on these things.

v. 15-16: For the Hebrew people, pigs were unclean animals not to be touched. The son, a Hebrew, sunk to a low point by working with pigs at the citizen's farm. This was indeed hitting bottom.

v. 17-20: He came to his senses. But he thinks love is in the things you do; doing the right things will get you love in return. He doesn't understand what love is about.

v. 20-21: The father ran because he was waiting for his son. This went against the Middle Eastern cultural norm of fathers or older men walking toward a person or place because the dignity and wisdom ascribed to them meant they didn't need to run for something, it would already be waiting for him rather than him waiting for it. In the words he spoke to his father, the son was apparently rehearsing his words so he could say the right thing to him.

v. 22: The ring in a way was like the family credit card today -- documents were sealed with them (i.e. the signet rings used by kings to seal in wax important documents); such rings were the sign of a family's good credit and worth.

v. 26-27: The older brother's ticked off, and understandably so. He doesn't love his brother in an unconditional way, as God loves us (in Greek Agape).

v. 28-30: The older son believes that love is earned; his father owed him love because he stayed home, was responsible, and worked hard for him. To both sons, love was what you do to another person.

v. 31-32: The parable doesn't say of the older son eventually changed his mind and joined the party. He is a picture of the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus' day in that they kept themselves pure and holy in the temple and obeyed the Law of Moses strictly. The younger son represents the "sinners" Jesus talked to in Luke 15:1-7 -- the tax collectors, prostitutes and other social outcasts who saw their sinfulness, came to their senses and wanted to come back to God. The Father is Jesus Himself, the Son of the Heavenly Father.

Concluding Remarks The story has no ending because the story itself is an invitation. Jesus is happy that the sinners were found, like the father over his younger son. But the Pharisees must finish the story by accepting the invitation offered to them by Jesus.

There are days when we are like either the sinners or the Pharisees. One day we may see how far off the mark we are in comparison to other believers or God's perfect standard, and may feel we have to earn God's love to get right with Him. On another day we may see ourselves as superior to others not as spiritually well off as we are, and we become judgmental of them like the older son. But Jesus doesn't tell us that His love is conditional. He says "I love you just because."