Minor Notes on Luke 15: Prodigal Living and The Lost Son.

#MeditationMonday‬ – Out of the abundance of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks.

Welcome, dearly beloved. I pray your soul prospers and your body remains in good health. I hope to encourage and build you up in the Lord. As you grow in knowledge and understanding, be empowered to boldly share your convictions with others.

We’re undertaking a minor study on Luke 15. As this is a verse-by-verse study, it is best to read this with the actual bible text close by. On the other hand, if you’re already familiar with the story of the prodigal son, just jump straight in!

t/N – I don’t like the phrase prodigal son, because it defines the boy by something the father later forgives and takes the focus away from what truly matters in this story. I refer to him as the lost son for the most part but for SEO reasons, people are more likely to search “prodigal son”, so bear with me. 


vs.2 – Jesus is accused of associating with sinful people, so he tells 3 parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

First off, this tells us that sinners are not condemned people, just lost ones. The difference between these two states is their finality. Condemnation is final, while “lost” or lost-ness contains the opportunity for restoration i.e. being found, which is the work of the gospel through the ministry of reconciliation. We often struggle with when to give up on lost things or when to be content that something is lost. This desire to seek out and find lost things reflects God’s innate desire for lost people, and the lost thing it seems we are always searching for is really none other than God Himself. 

Second, Jesus uses the foolishness of men to illustrate the wisdom (and Kingdom) of God in this: there is more joy over finding a lost thing than rejoicing over things we presently have with us. vs.7,10. God seeks out pleasure through reconciliation with the lost. It brings heaven pleasure. So Jesus is often found amongst sinners because that’s where His pleasure is, in restoring them to the Father. Creation was “lost to God” and Jesus is God’s reconciliation/redemption/restoration plan.

vs.11 – to further illustrate the point about lost things – people, Jesus tells the story of the lost son. But before that, He establishes the sliding scale of what we see as important. From possessions/property (lost sheep) to money (lost coin), then people (lost son). Imagine losing a £5 bill, a 5-year-old girl, and sweets worth £5. How would you rank the loss of these from least to greatest? Arguably the sweets come in least, then the money, then the girl, right? So we get the progression so far.

By telling this story of the lost son, Jesus is bringing this matter to the realm of people i.e. broken relationships, a two-party issue. The other parables were a one-party affair. The lost coin/sheep couldn’t object to being found, their co-operation was not in view, but with the lost son, his consent and co-operation come into focus and play an important role in resolving the relational conflict.

The sheep and coin didn’t choose to be lost, so the fault totally lies with the losing shepherd or the woman. With the prodigal son, he is willingly making the choice to leave (vs.11), choosing consciously to do something that hurts/betrays the father. When this happens to us in relationships, it is easy to immediately respond with the “cut them off” card and say, I don’t have to do anything since it’s all their fault, in fact, I respect their decision. However, the father wasn’t like this and the brother could NOT understand why.

vs.13 – gathered his wealth and set off for a distant land. The son was now in a distant land: that’s often how it feels when we’re away from God, we may still be in church but spiritually we are in a distant land. Distant land here refers to the mental state of a person living contrary to what is acceptable in the father’s household – i.e. wild living = seeking pleasure elsewhere than at the father’s right hand (Psalm 16:11).

vs.13 –  squandered his wealth; “wasted all his money” on wild living. When you are in a distant land, you are cut off from your source (the Father). Anything one does outside the father’s house is wasteful, wild living. No matter how frugally you live, you will eventually want (for the Father is no longer your shepherd – Psalm 23:1). In the father’s house, there is no “wasteful or wild living” because as we spend (and are spent), we stay connected to our source who recharges and replenishes us so that we never burn out or run out. In the distant land, the source of his inheritance was absent, so the lost son had no anchor, and being disconnected, his battery soon ran out of juice (money, aka dollar bills). T/N – there exists a parallel between faith as the currency of the Father’s house vs. money as the currency of the distant land. Money being like a battery juice needed to survive the distant land is symbolically akin to faith being required to survive in the Father’s house. Faith is the lifeblood of every believer!

vs.14 – there was a severe famine, and he began to be in need. After a while, sin must pay its wages. For some time, the son had what he needed to sustain his wild living but as chickens eventually come home to roost, so also sin must come to pay its wages – death. Death began its arrival when the money ran out – giving him a cold reminder of his separation from the father (because having the father’s inheritance i.e. gifts; is not the same as having the father Himself i.e. the source).

Death accelerated its payment scheme as He began to starve, no thanks to the famine in the distant land. *Insert Tiktok Voice* Don’t you find it suspicious that the famine hit right after he had spent everything? I find it very very sus If I may say so myself. I bet the famine had been on the horizon, but the young lad couldn’t see it because he was engrossed in his wild living, he had no wisdom to pause, think and plan ahead. 

vs.15-16: The son is now looking for ways to sustain his wild living, so he becomes an “employee of a local pig farmer”. He ends up seeking help from citizens of the distant land, (o foolish Galatian, who has bewitched you?!). He longed for pig food, “but no one gave him anything”.

Those in the distant land have nothing to offer but smoke and mirrors. Don’t let the symbolism be lost on you here. Take note of (1) Citizen/Local (2) Pig Farm/Longing for Pig Food (3) Employee/Hired Servant.

(1) No matter how long he had spent living amongst those in the distant land, he was still a foreigner. His wild living didn’t change his position as a son, but he failed to realise this for the god of the distant land had blinded his eyes (II Corinthians 4:4).

(2) He wanted to become an employee, a hired servant, i.e. meaning a citizen of the distant land would become his Lord and master. He previously spent and acted as he liked, but now that he had run out of funds, he had to subject himself to the leading of another master; being akin to a slave, commanded and told what to do, being led here and there by his flesh (need).

(3) Pig Farm/Pig Food – No surprise that a pig is the chosen animal in this story. The animal considered unclean by all Jewish standards was the only place he could find work/food. He had aligned himself with the dirtiest, lowliest, and most unclean person/practices in the distant land for survival.

vs.17: He comes to his senses, which shows us that from the start, he wasn’t in the right frame of mind in making those life decisions i.e. obtaining an early inheritance only to waste it in a distant land.

This part of the story highlights the key role the mind plays in falling prey to the allure of the distant land. A sound mind is not easily conquered by the temptation of what lies outside the father’s house (II Timothy 1:7). See also, Proverbs 24:10 – If you faint in the day of adversity, your mental strength is small. *emphasis is mine*.

Jesus when facing his temptation was physically weak from fasting but so mentally strong, his decision-making was sharp and his rebuttals pierced through the fiery darts of the enemy. He was able to stand strong on the day of his adversity because his mind was strong. It is with good reason that scripture then urges us to guard our minds against the lusts of this world (Proverbs 4:23, II Timothy 2:22).

When we aren’t thinking straight we believe we can get away with prodigal living because of God’s love and mercy. We think we are in control of the distant land and can leave when we want, but I will remind you of two questions by Apostle Paul – (1) shall we sin that grace may abound? (2) what communion hath light with darkness?

(1) God’s love and mercy are no excuse to continue in wild living. You cannot mock God, neither can you manipulate Him. (2) Light and darkness simply do not mix.

Oh but Jesus eating with sinners is what started this whole chapter, you say! Yes, He ate with them, but who did He give His body and blood to in the Upper Room? Whose feet did He wash? Only disciples. He did not MIX with sinners.

I imagine that the youthful thinking of the younger son, not age per se but his “youthful” mindset was the key issue here. He was a child, he thought like a child and was yet to cast off childish ideals (I Corinthians 13:11) but now he came to his senses, he put off childish things and made a sensible decision to return home. vs.18.

vs.17: a single flashback to how things were once upon a time in the Father’s house is the final straw that breaks the young son’s demeanor: “at home, even the hired servants have enough food to spare”.

Through this, we are reminded of the comparison made in Hebrews 3:3-6 regarding Moses, who despite all his fame, is no more than a hired servant in the Father’s house where Christ (and we – joint heirs) is a son. The younger son reminisces that hired servants in the father’s house, have far more glory than the hired servants of the distant land.

This illustration also brings to play the relationship between two identities/covenants – servants vs. sons; law vs. grace (Hagar/Sarah – Slavery/Freedom). These mysteries are visibly hidden in the language used in the lost son’s story because the ultimate goal of the distant land is to make you become a hired servant, lose your freedom and forfeit your identity as a son. 

Although I do not discuss this in further detail, please see Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Romans 10 & Galatians 4:21-31. May the Holy Spirit give you understanding as you meditate upon these things in Jesus name, Amen.

vs.18 – “I will go home to my Father and say to Him, Father I have sinned”.  No longer thinking like a child, the lost son makes his first sensible decision – to set out for his Father in the promised land. He adds that he has “sinned against heaven and against you” i.e. the fatherThis comment demonstrates the effects of transgression. When we err, not only do our actions result in physical/emotional hurt to our loved ones, they also cause spiritual damage. This is why our repentance must be both heavenly (unto God) and earthly (reconciling or restituting unto those we’ve hurt).

*How did the son sin against heaven? See the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12.

vs.19, 21 – “I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me a hired servant” Would you look at that self-righteousness! Son, were you ever worthy? No! This speaks to the son’s mental state. You see, being in the distant land really does a number on your mental health. It tries to get you to redefine yourself using demonic standards through attacks on your hope, confidence, self-esteem, and identity (see the devil’s attack on Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4:1-13). That’s why so many today are confused about who they truly are! They ought to have been defined as sons in the Father’s house but because they are disconnected, in a distant land, and have exhausted their lifeblood on wild living; they think all they can become is a hired servant – far below their real potential. What a disaster! but thank God for salvation, and for the ministry of reconciliation as we’ll soon see in the rest of the story!

vs.20 – “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming and ran towards him”. Thus far Jesus said nothing about what the Father did while the son was away, but in this instant, we immediately know the Father must have been ferociously searching for his son! To see something a long way off, you must exert a high level of focus, in seriously searching/waiting for it. The Father RAN to meet him! He didn’t say, ehnhen, see the fool, finally coming home, I’ll wait till he gets here. No, HE RUNS to meet him, lest the son change his mind and turn back halfway. 

The Father was emotional, full of compassion, not malicious or angry. No, He threw his arms around the son, he embraced and kissed him – the son who was probably unclean after living with swine. He didn’t care about how dirty or smelly the son was. He didn’t even care that by Jewish standards, coming into contact with the Son would make the Father unclean!

The story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 also reminds us of this! Some of us practice “clean Christianity”, we shy away from lost people because we are afraid they will make us dirty, they will infect us with their false identity, but neither Jesus nor the Father in this story had that mentality. As Jesus was not afraid to dine with sinners, neither was the Father scared to tightly embrace his lost son! I can imagine the Father whispering to him amidst tears, “My son! I forgive you, I love you, and I’m never letting you out of my sight, ever again!”. Are we compassionate enough to risk our lives to rescue the lost?

vs.21, 22, 24 – Before he could finish his speech about becoming a hired servant, the father clothes and restores Him as a Son (This SON of mine). Take note of the symbolic tools used in the son’s restoration – robe/body/appearance, ring/fingers/instruction, and sandals/feet/movement. These are all symbols of his identity as a son that the distant land stripped away from him. He surely left the father’s house with these things, but clearly did not return with them, hence the father’s rush to restore them to the son. 

Finest robes: clothes fit for royalty to cover the shame of nakedness and remove the appearance of the distant land. The appearance of a person in these times often determined how they would be addressed, so the Father clothing the son with the finest robes, was him ensuring those all saw him upon his return would address him with the respect befitting of a son. 

Ring: finger rings often bore the mark of their family houses and served as a symbol of authority. The finger is used to give instructions, so this ring empowered the Son to act in his full capacity and instruct those around him. He could confidently command them and they would receive his instructions.

Sandals: a mark to set him apart. In those days, most servants could not afford sandals, only family members. It showed that he was not a slave/servant but A SON. Sandals also serve as protection for the feet, which are used for direction/movement and are most prone to get dirty without protection. Now he could move about freely!

vs.23 “kill the fattened calf, celebrate, throw a feast”. The father is throwing a party and sacrificing the fattened calf, the best animal in his flock! THIS IS IT. This is what Jesus is trying to tell us all along. Finding lost things gives God so much pleasure! Why else would heaven rejoice whenever a sinner is saved? (Luke 15:7). He ate with sinners to reconcile them to himself because it would bring heaven joy – i.e. He was just doing what would please his Father!

vs.24 – “He was DEAD, but now ALIVE” – not just lost, but dead. That was the severity of the lost son’s status! Separation from God, from the father’s household, is akin to death, which is the wages of sin earlier referenced in vs.14. To set off for distant lands is to court death, for life and all its fullness is found only in the Father’s house! 

vs.24, vs.7, vs.10 – “so the party began, they began to celebrate!” Joy broke forth amongst the servants in the Father’s household upon His declaration because they were made happy by whatever made the master happy. They hated what their master hated, and loved what their master loved. His other son (older brother) in comparison, was upset by his father’s actions and refused to partake in the rejoicing (v.28).

We must delight in being found as much as God delights in finding us. We must also, (unlike the older brother) delight in others being found by our father because what brings our father joy should also bring us joy! The Pharisees who scolded Jesus (like the older brother scolding the Father) didn’t know that his actions brought heaven joy! And how could they, for they did not know the Father! (John 8:19).

vs.25 – elder son was in the fields. Thus far as well we’ve heard nothing about the elder son, he was pretty much a non-essential throughout the story till this moment where we are told where he was all this time – in the fields, working. Per stories in Luke 10:2 or Matthew 9:37, fields can be seen as a symbol of the world and working/harvesting these fields denotes evangelism. So the other son was out working in his father’s fields, and came back to meet music playing, fattened calf roasting and servants singing and dancing. And he. was. livid.

Imagine you come back after a long day of hard work to meet a noisy party in your own home, you discover the party is not even in your honour, and your domestic staff have shared the special meal you have been preparing and waiting to eat all week, how would you feel? Yeah, I’d be pretty upset too.

Gosh, the party isn’t even in my honour, might as well skip it yeah. No point celebrating someone else. I’ll just go to my room, eat leftovers and try to get some rest amidst all this horrible noise!

This guy saw all the reasons to be upset (vs.29-30) rather than all the reasons to rejoice (vs.27). So he refused to go in – vs.28 – but the father is having none of that! The father comes out to plead with him – vs.28 – to get that wrong mentality, that cursed, carnal mindset out the door! Instead of being joyful about his brother’s return, he was too focused on his own need for the spotlight – vs.29. 

Beloved, may you never refuse to enter into seasons of rejoicing because the rejoicing is not about you! May the sound of your team’s victory never be agonizing to your ears because you didn’t win MVP. 

vs.28 – note that the father came and pleaded with Him. Not to force or instruct him to go in, but to PLEAD. This reveals the father’s heart. It isn’t a matter of favorites. He wants the older brother to find joy in this moment too. The Father isn’t saying, I have my younger son back, the older one can go to hell. He loves them both and needed them to love and accept each other, rather than being envious/jealous of one another!

vs.29 – All these years, I have been serving, I never sinned against you, yet you never gave me a young goat to make merry with my friends. 

“I have been serving, never sinning but you killed the calf for the one who lay with harlots!”

The older brother believes his past works should give him an air of superiority over the lost son, but that’s just his self-righteousness and inferiority complex making noise. He too failed to realise (like his lost brother) that his identity as a son is not based on works, and neither are the Father’s “gifts”.

The two brothers are sides of the same coin. While the younger son thought his identity was lost by his bad works, the older brother thought his identity was preserved by his good works. Both were wrong. Identity is independent of works. Identity is a matter of grace (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:1-29, emphasis on vs.6-7).

And the humor of their choices isn’t lost on me, in family dynamics, firstborns stereotypically work their butts off, while younger ones are often found sowing wild oats – so the mentality really is fitting, that the older was working, while the younger was squandering. Okay, back to scripture!

“make merry with my friends” – the older son wanted bragging rights. He wanted the father to give him gifts so he could show off to his friends. And many of us are like this too.

We serve earnestly thinking we will be given great wealth and prosperity to show for it, so we can act fake humble when people ask us our secret and we say “oh it’s just God, you know it’s by God’s grace” when really we just want to brag and show off to make others envious of us.

We want those who laughed at us for serving God over the pleasures of the world to feel sorry that they scorned us. We want to “pepper” them! Well, that day may never come if we persist with that kind of heart – James 4:6. If the only reason we want the father’s gifts is to cause envy in the hearts of others, we can say goodbye to those gifts altogether because they will never come. 

For some, it may not be earthly prosperity, rather spiritual gifts. We say to ourselves, It is I who has been serving for years, why can’t I even raise the dead, but this lost son is prophesying and moving in power, it’s unfair!

This is the response many have when they see a restored believer given a ring, robe, and sandal. We look at ourselves and say, I should be the one speaking in tongues and doing miracles, not some former prostitute! they don’t deserve these things, they don’t deserve the fattened calf, they lay with harlots! We focus on their past sin, while the father focuses on the fact that they returned home safe and sound.

Meanwhile, all the things that were restored to them, have always been available to you! Look at your hands and feet! Your rings, sandals, and robes, are of the same quality!  It is so easy to be jealous and envious, it is clearly flesh speaking when the brother says “these many years, I have been serving,” where is my reward, where is my scholarship or fruit of the womb, etc.

We reference time served as if “time served” qualifies us for greater benefits i.e. time invested in the field should yield more benefits for us than those just coming in today. But as we see in Matthew 20:1-16, the father isn’t petty like that. Both the one born again 30 years ago and the one born again today are JOINT heirs with Christ. You’re not more joint an heir because you entered earlier, this is not an aajo/co-operative savings program where the funds must go to you before others because you joined earlier than they did.

The father gives by his wisdom what each person needs. The lost son needed a welcome home celebration, so the father threw the biggest party ever. The older brother needed to rejoice that his brother’s return meant he now had a fellow laborer to share in his fieldwork, so the father pleaded that he go in and be reconciled to his brother! The father knows best what each child needs, we must respect his actions and trust his decisions at all times!

vs. 30 – who has devoured your livelihood with harlots. This tells us that they knew exactly what he was doing in the distant land. There are no secrets in the Father’s house. We can hide nothing from Him. You may think the father welcomes the lost son home because He is ignorant of his actions, but this just reveals the extent of the Father’s love towards the lost son. 

vs.30 – the older son remarks, “this son of yours” rather than “this brother of mine.” This language shows that the brother had cut off relations with the lost son completely. He didn’t regard him a member of his family anymore, even after the Father had declared otherwise!

Beloved, we are often lacking when it comes to showing grace yet we want the father to show us grace! We must show grace to those of the same household – Galatians 6:10.

vs.31 – Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours”. This is the Father’s wise response to the brother’s rant. What a beautiful heart the father has for his sons! He doesn’t respond with anger, doesn’t disregard what the brother said, instead he asks him to see the full picture with these simple words of comfort “YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME, ALL I HAVE IS YOURS.” Oh, how seeing from the father’s perspective changes everything! The father is in a way saying, “dear older brother, you’re my son too, you never had to ask for a reward, I am your exceedingly great reward and everything I have is yours for the taking.” The brother was never disconnected from his source! How could he complain that he never had anything? If this is a matter of who has the most, it really is the older brother, because all the father had left, (upon the younger brother taking his inheritance to japa) was his. All the years the brother was away, the older brother was with the father, fully shepherded, never in want! 

And I want to spend time dealing with certain mindsets we see in the older brother.

1. It’s not that the Father never gave the brother the goat, the goat was always His for the taking, but he never asked for it.

Brother’s POV is you never gave me, while Father’s POV is did you ever ask and I refuse you? (Matthew 7:7) You have a ring, sandals, and robes, you could have asked the servants to prepare you a goat whenever you wanted, let me see which one of them would refuse you! 

This is a picture of the believer’s authority and it is a mighty mindset shift because often we are waiting for God to do things that he has already provided for in Christ Jesus and given us the authority we need to execute on those things! Remembering the father has said all he has is ours helps to change our mindset from one that is full of low self-esteem to one that is bold, fearless, and walking in authority!

2. The inheritance is inexhaustible.

Maybe the older brother felt he had to share what was left of the inheritance now that the lost son had returned. However, your share of the inheritance does not diminish because there’s one more person to share with. No matter how many times it is divided, it will remain equal to the original sum – the fullness of all Jesus has. 

3. God doesn’t consult us about how to handle our siblings.

Perhaps the older brother expected the Father to consult him so they could decide together what to do with the lost son, instead of just killing the fattened calf and playing music right away but God never needs to consult us to decide how to deal with a repentant believer, even if we are the offended party!

I mean, who did Jesus consult before making Paul an Apostle? If Jesus was still on earth at the time, Peter would have called him to the side and given him a stern rebuke, “look, this man you’re bringing on as a disciple, he’s a murderer, he will corrupt the rest and surely betray us!” but Jesus didn’t ask Peter for his permission or any other person and none of them could be offended by it. He was a true Joint Heir, an Apostle just like the rest of them and it didn’t diminish their capacity for miracles or exploits! Rather it broadened the scope of the harvest! There are many parallels in the story of the Lost son and Saul’s conversion to Saul and how it was initially received by the Apostles! See Acts 9, emphasis on 1-22, 26-27.

vs.32 – It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found”.

T/N – remember in vs.30, the brother says this son of yours, now in vs.32, the Father reminds him once more that this son of mine is “your brother”. It is not just this son of mine that returned, but your brother who was dead that has come back home. Beloved, when a sinner is restored, it’s not just God who gains a child, we too gain a sibling, and that is always something to throw a party over!

As to the point of whether it is right to throw a party, the father answers with this, what better thing to celebrate than the miracle of resurrection? I had a son, he was dead, but now he is alive. He is was lost, now he is found. If I don’t celebrate this, who will? If you will not celebrate your sibling, I will at least celebrate my son. I have to show him that he is welcome here, so he doesn’t go looking for validation and approval in the distant land ever again. 

T/N – The father is focused on the point of reconciliation not just between himself and his son, but between the two brothers. This is paramount. We can’t get right with God without getting right with fellow human beings, particularly those in the household of faith! See I John 4:20-21. And the responsibility for reconciliation is not necessarily always on the sinner (lost son), in this instance, it was on the “saint” (older brother)!

The way reconciliation is done is also super important, we must restore the fallen with discipline on one hand and hospitality (love/charity) on the other. Look at the father’s approach! Rather than saying to the lost son you did such a bad thing by leaving, he chooses to say, you did such a good thing by coming back, well done, now don’t you ever leave again – John 8:11. 

And that concludes my notes on Luke 15. If you made it this far, thank you and God bless you. I hope I have left you with much to ponder. I’ll say no more. Selah.

Grace and Peace!

 

 

 

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