This parable is found in Luke 15:11-32 and I would encourage you to read it since space forbids us from quoting the whole passage. This chapter begins with these words in verses 1-2, “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” The Lord went on to tell three parables to show that He does indeed receive sinners. They speak of a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son, and they picture how each Person in the Trinity is actively involved in seeking and saving lost sinners. These parables would be very encouraging to the “publicans and sinners” who heard Him speak. In the parable of the prodigal son He also illustrated how self-righteous sinners can’t appreciate God’s grace in saving lost sinners. The “Pharisees and scribes” would not be encouraged by what they heard, for they must have known He was revealing their condition to them of rejecting and despising God’s grace.

The parable begins by telling us, in verse 11, that “A certain man had two sons.” The “elder son” pictures the religious, self-righteous sinner. The “younger son” illustrates the willful, rebellious sinner.

In verse 12 the younger son asked his Father for an early inheritance and we see in verse 13 that he “took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” What a picture this is of all mankind who have wandered far away from God, as we see in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.”

In verses 14-16 the son was reduced to poverty and became a poor servant feeding swine. This pictures how we are all “slaves of sin.” In John 8:34 Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”

In verses 17-19 we read that “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Ah, what a picture we have here of a sinner who finally comes to the end of himself and realizes, I’M A SINNER. This is true REPENTANCE and it leads to confessing to God “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” Have YOU ever taken your place before a holy God and admitted you were a sinner?

In verse 20 we see the son following through, for he goes to his father in true humility and before he could even confess his sin we read that “when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” The Father was WAITING FOR HIS LOST SON TO RETURN and RECEIVED HIM WITH AFFECTION! This, my friend, is the attitude of God the Father, for He is waiting for you to return to Him and He will gladly receive you.

In verse 21 the prodigal son does confess his sin and then in verses 22-24 we read of the fullness of blessing his father bestowed upon him, “But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.” All of this illustrates the blessings of salvation that the repentant sinner receives based on the death of Christ on the cross (pictured by the killing of the fatted calf).

You can read of the sad reaction to all of this by the “elder son” in verses 25-32. The “self-righteous” sinner places no value on the grace of God which saves repentant sinners. So, instead of “rejoicing over a sinner who repents,” they become jealous and angry. (169.10) (DO)