Bible Study Review – The Prodigal God

The first thing you’re going to have to do is read the Parable of “The Lost Son.”  Actually go ahead and read all of Luke 15, this will still be there when you’re done and you’ll get some important context.

So, what is the parable about?

  • The traditional answer – a son who leaves and comes back and a father who welcomes him with open arms.
    • The heading above it reads “The Lost Son,” its in a chapter talking about lost things, this answer makes sense
    • But it misses something important – There are two sons in the story
      • Both are lost, not just the first one described
      • Both are alienated from their father
      • Both show a way to be alienated from God and to try to seek acceptance into God’s Kingdom

Context – Luke 15: 1-3

Two groups of people gather to hear Jesus

  1. Tax Collectors and Sinners – people who had not lived up to their upbringing, who had abandoned the traditional morality of their society.
    •  This group is going to correspond to the younger brother in the parable
  2. Pharisees and Teachers of the Law – opposite of the first group, they had held on and in some cases gone beyond the way they had been brought up

Verse 1 – “were gathering” – the Greek here implies a continuous event, not a one time thing

  • Anywhere Jesus went the first group, the younger brothers, flocked to hear him
    • The second group doesn’t like that
      • Verse 2 – “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”
        • Eating with people in this culture was a sign of acceptance – Jesus is accepting these people without expecting them to change their actions

These versus show a difference in why the groups are there – the “younger sons” want to hear Jesus, the “older sons” want to catch them

Verse 3 – “He told them this parable”

Our understanding of the parable hinges on who we believe “them” is

  • If the first group are “them” then the target of this parable (and by extension, Jesus’ ministry) are the younger sons, the wayward sinners who hear this story and realize they can return to the father
  • If the second group are “them” then the target shifts to the “older sons,” the people who are doing everything right, who are already in church, who look way more like most of us then the first group

What’s the answer – yes

  • Both groups get something to hear in this parable, but Jesus begins telling these “Lost” parables in response to the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law
    • Jesus seems to be saying that both the un-religious and the religious were lost, both life-paths they’re on are dead ends, and that everything the human race though about connecting to God up to this point was wrong

Who Cares? We Should

Traditional stereotypes show older siblings as the parent pleasers, the responsible one, the ones who meet the established standards.  Younger siblings represent the opposite of that

  • This pattern plays out in society – more and more society is being split into the religious and the un-religious.  The un-religious are more and more intense in their rejection, and in most cases the religious are doubling down and becoming more strict in what they believe in response.
    • Very similar pattern to the religious world Jesus lived in.

If we don’t see ourselves as the younger brother in the parable then we’re more then likely the older brother.  And if that’s the case then we need to rethink what this parable is saying and what it means for how we relate and connect to God

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