The Prodigal Son

Scripture: Luke 15:11-24

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,
19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.
23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,
24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.


Jesus was the master at telling stories and this story is the most famous story Jesus told and quite possibly the most famous story in all of literature. It is much more complicated than you think. One of my relatives, Kenneth E. Bailey, a Presbyterian scholar fluent in Arabic and a specialist in Middle Eastern Literature points out something that you and I would never see. This story is poetic. This story is called a chi-asm, it is written in a certain pattern ABCD-DCBA and then the parrallel [elder brother] ABCD-DCB but the last A is missing. Jesus did not finish the story. There is a reason why and we will get to it later. We could spend weeks on this story but we are going to try to get it into three or four messages.

There are three main characters in the story but today, we will focus on the Prodigal Son…

The Prodigal represents the overtly rebellious and the Gentile. In either case, it represents those who are repulsive to the orthodox Jew or the Jewish Religious Establishment of Jesus day.


Unlike his older brother, he does not hide his resentment for his father. He approaches him and asks for his inheritance early. The younger son said to his father,”I want my share of your estate now before you die.” In other words, he is saying “give me my inheritance early.” 

To his credit, he was not sneaky. The older brother was the pretender, not the Prodigal. He was open about his defiance and rebellion. He made no effort to hide his sins.

The Prodigal wanted his independence. He wanted to be free of any restraints. He did not want to live under the authority of his father, he did not want to be accountable to his father or even to live in his fathers presence. He wanted to be absolutely free of his father which is why he moves to a far country. It didn’t want any attachment that would make him feel guilty.


  • It was shocking request. It was not customary for a child to ask for his inheritance while his father was living. Because the Father had two sons, the younger would inherit one third of the estate at his Father’s death but he didn’t want to wait. This was a shocking story to the Pharisees, “How dare a son treat his father in such a way!”
  • It was a shameful request.  Jesus was telling this story to the Pharisees and they were enraged by the younger sons behavior because he was bringing shame on his father. What kind of son says to their father, “I wish you were dead.” This is basically what the boy is saying. He publically humiliated his father.
  • It was selfish request. The AV reads,“Give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” The flesh is impatient. It wants what it wants when it wants. This is the essence of sin. The motto of the flesh is “give me and I want.” The young man wanted his money and he wanted his way. He wanted his independence and he wanted to live an undisciplined life. He did not want to live under the authority of his father, he did not want to be accountable to his father or restrained by his father. He didn’t want his father to be present. It didn’t want any attachment that would make him feel guilty.


The Prodigal was under the illusion that he could sin without paying the consequences sohe wasted all his money in wild living.” The Greek word for ‘wild’ is a-sō-tōs. It must be a tough word to translate because everyone translated if differently. 

  • AV-Riotous
  • NKJV-Prodigal
  • ESV-Reckless
  • Holman-Foolish
  • NASB-Loose
  • NIV-Wild

The Greek word means to act in a prof-li-gate or dissolute way. To profligate is t0 give in to self-indulgence, cast off all restraints. It is a life without discipline. The same word also means wildly extravagant and licentious. Licentiousness is self-indulgence in sexual sins. So the elder brother may have been right when he said, “But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him.”

The word wasted in verse 13 is the same word for a farmer sowing seeds, it means to broadcast or to disperse. The prodigal was squandering his inheritance. He was recklessly spending money on things that have no significance. He was literally throwing money into the wind. But he had given no thought to what would happen after the money was gone. Rebels refuse to look at the big picture–to think long term. {Halmark Movie}


To his credit, the Prodigal does repent which is more than we can say about his brother but he did not repent until he came to his senses. Sin messes up your mind. It keeps you from thinking straight. Sometimes we have to get caught in some uncontrollable circumstances before we begin to think. We have to hit rock bottom which is what the boy did.

The kid is in a foreign country which means Gentile, he spends all his money and than a famine hits. Famines are tough if you have money but they are fatal to those that are dead broke. The boy attacked himself to a farmer who sent him to feed the pigs. The AV says he’joined’ himself to a local citizen of that country but the Greek word is the word for glue. He glued himself to this man but the man didn’t care anything about him. MacArthur believed that the man wasn’t even paying the kid because the boy was starving.

He was starving literally and figuratively. He needed food but he also needed friends and he didn’t have any, not even one. No one cared anything about him. Suddenly, having a  loving, caring father means something to this wayward child. In this dirty pig pen, he begins to think and pray. Then he came to his senses, he had a change of mind, a radical change of mind about everything.

  • He changed his mind about sin– Once sin had allured him but not anymore. He sees sin for what it is…black and evil. Sin is a weight that will carry you down. It will carry you further than you want to go and keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin is a downer!
  • He changed his mind about work.
  • He changed his mind about home.
  • He changed his mind about His father. 


Both sons were rebellious, both sinned against their father but only one repented. In the final analysis, there are only two kinds of people: those who repent and those who do not. Remember, the essence of sin it that you do things your way: the elder brother was serving the father, but he was doing it his way. He needed to repent as much as his kid brother. Unfortunately, he did not see his sin, only the sins of his brother. To repent, you have to see your sins.