Luke 15 Outline:
IV. The Repudiation of the Son of Man by Men, Luke 9:51-19:27.
I. Instruction in the Light of Rejection, Luke 12:1-19:27.
13. Concerning God’s love for sinners, Luke 15:1-32.
a. The Parable of the Lost Sheep, vs. 1-7.
b. The Parable of the Lost Coin, vs. 8-10.
c. The Parable of the Prodigal Son, vs. 11-31.
1) The wayward son and waiting father, vs. 11-16.
2) The repentant and restored, vs. 17-24.
3) The resentful brother and insightful father, vs. 25-32.
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c. The Parable of the Prodigal Son, vs. 11-32.
This is the third parable Jesus taught in this chapter. Here, we have the “Parable of a Lost Son” that goes beyond the simple explanation of the lost sheep and lost coin that spoke to the love and value God has for every member of the human race, where He lovingly and diligently searches out the heart of every member of the human race, so that everyone can receive salvation.
In these parables, we see the odds ever increasing and ever endearing, as in the Lost Sheep it was 1 of 100, or 1%, in the Lost Coin, it was 1 of 10, or 10%; here in the Lost Son it is 1 of 2, or 50%. The stakes have been raised to the point where sheep and coins could be written off, but a son could never be replaced. In addition, “Sheep wander off and coins roll away; they simply behave according to their natures. But sons are responsible for their choices. How does God deal with lost people?” (Swindoll’s Living Insights).
This parable is also known by several names including, The Lost Son, The Two Lost Sons, The Waiting Father, Parable of Divine Mercy, God’s Love for the Lost, and The Lost Son and the Dutiful Son.
There are three main parts to this parable:
1) The wayward son and waiting father, vs. 11-16.
2) The repentant and restored, vs. 17-24.
3) The resentful brother and insightful father, vs. 25-32.
Jesus’ main intent was to illustrate the folly of self-righteousness, just as in the previous two parables where the contrast was with those that would not search out the lost in contrast to the loving attitude of God. But in this parable, we also see a specific application to the world of sinners and the application of repentance for the reversionistic believer called the “rebound technique,” as found in 1 John 1:9.
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Luke 15:11, “And He said, “A man had two sons”.”
“Two sons,” DUO HUIOS, where two is the number of division or separation in Scripture, and where man is concerned it can denote his fall, which implies opposition, enmity, and oppression. Here, we will see a son separated from His father, and a brother separated from a brother. It reminds us of the stories of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, etc., where sin created division or enmity between the two. It speaks to man’s separation from God the Father, and from each other.
In this parable, the “man,” “ANTHROPOS,” called “father,” PATER in this parable, represents God the Father, and the son or sons are members of the human race.
Luke 15:12, “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.”
“Give me,” uses the Imperative of Request, where the “younger,” NEOS, of the two sons desired to receive his “share of the estate that falls to me,” MEROS, “part,” OUSIA, οὐσία that can mean, “property, wealth, or estate,” EPIBALLO that can mean, “throw over or upon, lay on, put on, falls, etc.” OUSIA is only used here and vs. 13, in Scripture. Principle: The sinful tend to demand what they think they deserve from others.
This son had a right to a portion of his father’s estate according to the Law in Deut 21:15-17. Being the younger son of two sons, he would receive a third of the father’s property. The father retained the use and benefits of his property until his death. If the property was sold, which apparently the prodigal did, vs. 13, the new owner could not take possession until the father died. Yet, for a child to demand his inheritance was an outrageous and presumptuous act of rebellion. By demanding his inheritance early, the younger son essentially divorced his father. As such, there would be no relationship, submitting to his authority, or responsibility to carry on the family legacy, and no communication with him. To put it bluntly, the younger son treated his father as if he were already dead. That is how the sinner treats God the Father. Yet, to steal a popular phrase, “God is Not Dead!”
“So he divided his wealth between them,” uses the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb DIAIREO, “divide or distribute,” with the Noun BIOS that can mean, “life, livelihood, possessions, etc.” Here, we see that the father agrees to the son’s highly unusual request and grants the request to the son. In that, we see the love and mercy of the father towards the rebellious son, right from the beginning of this story. Principle: God allows the sinner to choose the lifestyle of sin they desire.
DIAIREO is only used here and 1 Cor 12:11, which shows the graciousness of God the Holy Spirit in giving us our personal spiritual gift based on His personal decision.
1 Cor 12:11, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”
In the same way, the father chose to give his younger son his portion of the inheritance. Whether this was actually money given to the son, sheep and cattle given to him, or a deed to the land and property we do not know. But, as we will see, the son was able to monetize it so that he could spend it on his desires.
The point is, the father graciously gave this sum to his son, as the son did what sinners have done throughout history, accept the blessings of the father, as do all men who live on God’s bountiful earth, while at the same time turning his back on his father, as men do when they sin and abandon the fellowship of God. Notice that the father made no attempt to stop him, just as God does not force men to remain in fellowship with Him.
And interestingly, “As a member of his father’s home, the young man starts with everything. But he’s ungrateful and impatient, so he makes himself fatherless.” (Christ-Centered Exposition)
Luke 15:13, “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”
After this conversion, it was not long before the son took all that the father had granted him, “gathered everything together,” SUNAGO PANTA, and “went on a journey into a distant country,” APODEMEO MAKROS, “to go away or into another country,” and “long, distant, or far.” To go away from one’s land and people is to make a journey, and it is often translated in this way. APOSDEMEO is used 6 times, (the number of man), in the NT, Mat 21:33; 25:14-15; Mark 12:1; Luke 15:13; 20:9.
So, we see that it did not take long for the younger son to pack up and leave his father. Here we see that the saved person can sometimes journey back into the world of sin, i.e., Satan’s cosmic system. Notice that it was the son who moved, while the father remained. Such is the case with the life of sin. It is sinful man who draws away from God, not God from sinful man, cf. James 4:8.
James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
“And there he squandered,” which rhymes with wandered, is KAI EKEI and the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb DIASKORPIZO, διασκορπίζω that means, “scatter, disperse, waste, or winnow.” The understanding of wasting or squandering the inheritance, “his estate,” AUTOS OUSIA, is in view here.
He scattered or wasted his inheritance “with loose living,” which is the Adverb ASOTOS, “dissolutely or loosely,” which is only used here in the NT. It also has a strong connotation of immorality. With this is the Present, Active, Participle, Nominative of the Verb ZAO, “to live or living.”
ASOTOS is a cognate of the noun ASOTIA that means, “wastefulness, excess, or dissipation,” that is used in Eph 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Therefore, we see that the younger son scattered his inheritance in sinful and worldly living, i.e., Satan’s cosmic system.
Later in vs. 30, the older brother says he was consorting with prostitutes, although we are not told whether this identification came from actual knowledge or from suppositions based upon his familiarity with his brother’s character, or that he was just a bitter brother who wanted to disparage his younger brother. In any case, Jesus left no question that the younger son wasted his money in a generally immoral manner.
Luke 15:14, “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.”
Here we see that the young son did not leave anything for a “rainy day.” Instead, “he had spent everything,” DAPANAO PAS means he burned through his inheritance in short order. “Spent,” is the Aorist, Active, Genitive of the Verb DAPANAO, δαπανάω that means, “spend, bear expense, waste, or consume.” This word is used 5 times, (the number of grace), in the NT. It is used for both good spending, Mark 5:26; Acts 21:24; 2 Cor 12:15, and bad spending, as here and James 4:3.
James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
After foolishly squandering all his money the real famine sets in as, “a severe famine occurred in that country. This phrase uses the Noun LIMOS that means, “famine or hunger,” and in a metaphoric sense means, “one’s mind is hungry or starved,” meaning a lack of information. It is also used as an apocalyptic sign of distress in Mat 24:7; paralleled in Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Rev 6:8; 18:8. Here, the famine’s severity is pronounced with the Adjective, ISCHUROS, “strong, powerful, mighty, etc.” This occurred “throughout the country,” he was in, KATA HO CHORA, which means, “in the foreign land,” meaning Satan’s Cosmic system and living in sin without Bible Doctrine resident within the soul.
LIMOS is also used in Rom 8:35, which we noted above that again reminds us, as does this parable, that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Cf. 2 Tim 2:11-13.
As a result of the severe famine, the young son “began to be impoverished,” the Aorist, Middle, Indicative of the Verb ARCHO, “began,” with the Present, Middle, Infinitive of the Verb HUSTEREO that means, “to come too late, to lack, want, fail, or be inferior.” Here, it means lacking resources to sustain himself and being in need.
In the positive sense, Paul tells us the mystery of godliness. That is how to get along joyfully in all situations. Phil 4:12, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”
In principle, we see that sin results in hunger, and that for the sinful man or woman there is always a famine in the heart of Bible Doctrine and fellowship with God, because the sinner has turned away from God and His Word.
Luke 15:15, “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.”
The impoverished young son tries operation human good works by “hiring himself out,” that uses the Aorist, Passive, Indicative of the Verb KOLLAO, κολλάω that means, “join, cling, cleave to, or join oneself to.” The principle here is that before the reversionistic believe repents, they typically try to solve their own problem(s) in a humanistic or worldly way, rather than turning to God. But, as we will see, when this too fails, and they are brought to their knees, then they may or will repent.
The primary definition of KOLLAO is “to glue” or “to cement” together. In the NT, this word is used figuratively rather than literally. It is also used for good or bad joining, where in 1 Cor 6:16, it is bad joining in sexual relationship with a prostitute, and in vs 17, it is good joining with God. The use of this word in our passage may figuratively mean he hired himself out as a male prostitute to a pimp.
Yet, this passage states his job was literally out “in the fields to feed the swine,” EIS AGROS BOSKO CHOIROS. You can see the imagery here too, as the “fields” are the streets and the “swine” are the patrons!
BOSKO means, “to feed, tend, graze, or pasture.” Therefore, the literal job of this young son was to be a shepherd or herdsman. This is the second time Luke uses BOSKO and CHOIROS, where we first noted them in Luke 8:32-33, when Jesus sent the “legion,” of possessing demons into a herd of swine that then ran into lake and drowned, cf. Mat 8:30-32; Mark 5:11-16. CHOIROS is only otherwise used figuratively in Mat 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
BOSKO is only used otherwise in John 21:15, 17, when Jesus was asking Peter how much he loved Him and told him to feed His lambs and sheep. Therefore, we see that the rebellious young man received a picture of God’s caring love for him as a reminder, trying to get him to wake up from his sinful ways and repent / return back to Him.
“The parable now describes the depths to which the prodigal had sunk. His moral desolation was shown by the occupation to which he stooped: tending pigs. There could be no worse job for a Jew than swine herding. Swine were considered to be unclean animals and expressly forbidden in the Mosaic law (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8). This contrasted sharply with the customs of other people of the ancient world. For example, the pig was the most frequently sacrificed animal among the Greeks. This contrast between Judaism and paganism became the edge of conflict during the period of the Maccabean persecution. In that time the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, in his attempt to Hellenize the Palestinian Jews, sacrificed pigs to Zeus on the altar of the Jerusalem temple and forced the Jews to eat pork. To the Jews, the pig had become a symbol of the pagan world, the epitome of Jewish intolerance and abhorrence of the Gentilic lifestyle.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary).
This principle here is that this arrogant sinful young man held on to the belief that he could maintain his self-sufficiency, even though it meant complete humiliation. God often uses times of distress to lead us to self-examination to bring about changes or repentance in our lives, as we will see in vs. 17.
Have you had enough of trying to go it alone? If so, God is waiting for you with open arms to spread His mercy, grace, and love on you and care for you!
1 Peter 5:6-7, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
Luke 15:16, “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.”
“He would have gladly,” in the Greek states “he was longing,” using the Active, Imperfect for ongoing action, Indicative Verb EPITHUMEO, ἐπιθυμέω that means, “desire, long for, or lust for or after,” and then “filled his stomach,” is actually, “to be satisfied,” using the Aorist, Passive, Infinitive of the Verb CHORTAZO, χορτάζω that means, “satisfy, satiate hunger, or fill.” Therefore, “He was longing to have his hunger satisfied …”
Next, we have, “with the pods/husks,” EK HO KERATION, κεράτιον a noun that means, “little horn, husk, or pod.” It is only used here in the NT. In classical Greek, it usually implied the fruit of the carob or locust tree. It yielded long, as much as 12 inches, edible pods, reminiscent of sheep horns or sickles containing a sweet pulp and several brown shining seeds like beans that was fed to animals and sometimes consumed by humans. It is common in Syria and the southern parts of Europe.
“That the swine were eating,” CHOIROS ESTHIO. At this point he would have eaten even what the pigs were eating. Therefore, living a life of sin eventually leads to want and desire of the basic necessities of life that you bring upon yourself. Not only does the fun and pleasure run out, but the bare necessities to survive run out. Even though God promises our logistical grace blessings, the apostate believer causes even those to be rejected causing themselves destitution.
“And no one was giving anything to him,” KAI OUDEIS DIDOMI AUTOS. Even though he was “working,” his hunger was not being satisfied, and he was not receiving any charity from others. In arrogance, he was feeling sorry for himself, thinking that others should be providing for him, most likely like his father had been doing all of his life, even though he squandered his inheritance. The arrogant always have their hand out, thinking that others should provide for them, even while they are living in their sins.
The paradox Jesus is making here is that even this food that was passable for the filthy swine, was unavailable for the young man. The detestable pigs were now eating better than the prodigal son. Therefore, in this first portion, we see that sin is a destroyer and Satan is a devourer. When we give ourselves over to sin, we are giving ourselves to Satan and he will consume us until there is nothing left.
“Because he wants to gratify his sinful desires, he also makes himself homeless by going to “a distant country” (v. 13). Without self-control or delayed gratification, he ends up penniless (v. 14). In the end he is friendless and foodless (vv. 15-16). He wallows in the pigpen with what Jewish persons considered disgustingly unclean animals. A sinful life is a riches-to-rags story. His life slides deep into squalor and loneliness. If you live for yourself, you’ll soon live by yourself. He doesn’t have a friend in the world to help him (v. 16). This is what living apart from Christ looks like from the vantage point of heaven. God the Father watches his rich but rebellious children squander his love and his riches as they run from Him to the far country of sin. Sinners want all the goodness of God’s creation and all the enjoyment of God’s blessings, but they do not want God himself. They do not understand his Fatherhood. They refuse to return His love. Unless God restrains the sinner, they squander their lives and waste away as they chase every desire of the flesh. “Life” apart from God is really a slow death. Apart from God we are living to die. But repentance is dying to live. It is dying to self that allows us to find life in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Christ-Centered Exposition).