What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?
Jesus often spoke in parables. Earthly stories with deep heavenly meanings. There are those in the world who are like lost sheep. Those who need to be restored back to the fold. As Jesus told these few parables, He spoke in the presence of the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees. They, like many religious leaders today, thought they had the monopoly on the grace of God and believed their place was secure in heaven. But Jesus came to challenge their self-righteous beliefs and call the ones who felt they had been forgotten. The parable of the lost son – Part 1.
My son was dead, now he’s alive Can it be true, what I now see? My eyes are old, are they deceiving me? Within me now, my senses revive My son was dead, is he now alive? Long I have looked, across the fields in tears. The long days and weeks, have grown into years. My eyes so pained, have grown weary and dim. He’s a long way still from home, But I’m sure it’s him. My gentle walk, breaks into a run. Heart filled with pity, I throw my arms round my son. How I’ve prayed and prayed without sight or sound. My son was dead, but praise God he’s now found. “Hurry bring the best robe, and put it on my son. I’m really not too concerned at what he’s done. Go and kill now, the prize calf. Prepare a feast on my son’s behalf. With a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet I can celebrate, my joy is now complete! By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Father, give me my share
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
You are always with me, and everything I have is yours
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32
Henry says – Here is the parable of the prodigal son. It shows as in ones before how pleasing to God the conversion of great sinners is. He is ready to receive them upon their repentance. It demonstrates the riches of gospel grace which will be while the world stands. It directs and encourages us all to repent and return to God.
We all have one Father
The parable represents God as a common Father to all mankind. We are all His offspring, we all have one Father, and one God created us, Mal. 2:10. From Him we have our being, in Him we still have it, and from Him we receive our maintenance. Our Saviour was intimating to those proud Pharisees that these sinners, whom they despised, were their brethren and therefore they ought to be glad of any kindness shown to them. God is the God, not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles, (Rom. 3:29). The same Lord over all, who is rich in mercy to all who call upon Him.
The story represents the children of men as of different characters, though all related to God as their common Father. He had two sons, one of them a solid youth, reserved and austere, sober but not at all good-humoured to those around him. Such would adhere to his training, and not be easily drawn away from it. But the other was volatile and erratic, impatient and lacking in restraint. This son represents the tax collectors, sinners and Gentiles, whom Christ is endeavouring to bring to repentance. The former son represents the Jews in general, and in particularly the Pharisees, whom He was endeavouring to reconcile to that grace of God which was offered to, and bestowed upon all sinners.
The younger son is the prodigal, whose character and case are designed to represent that of a sinner, that of every one of us in our natural state, but especially of some. He requested of his father proudly (Luke 15:12): “Father, give me”. He could have said, Pray give me, or, Sir, if you please, give me. But he makes an arrogant demand—“give me the portion of goods that falls to me. Not so much as you think fit, but that which falls to me as my due.” It is very bad when men look upon God’s gifts as debts. “Give me the portion, all my part,” not, “Try me with a little, and see how I can manage that, and accordingly trust me with more.” But, “Give it me all now.”
They will be for themselves
The great foolishness of sinners, and that which ruins them, is being content to have their portion now in this lifetime. They look only at the things that are seen, that are temporal, and desire only a present gratification. They have no care for a future happiness. And why did he desire to have his portion in his own hands now? Was it that he might apply himself to business, and trade with it, and so make it more? No, he had no thought of that. But, He was weary of his father’s government, of the good order and discipline of his father’s family. He was fond of liberty, falsely so called, but indeed is the greatest slavery, for such a liberty to sin can be.
See the foolishness of many young men, who are religiously trained, but are impatient and long to cast away God’s cords from them, and instead bind themselves with the cords of their own lust. They will not be tied up to the rules of God’s government. They desire for themselves to be as gods, deciding what evil and good is according to their own pleasures. He desired to get from under his father’s eye, for that was always a check upon him. A disbelief of God’s omniscience, lies at the bottom of the wickedness of the wicked.
He did not want his father limiting him in his present expenditures. There was a pride in himself, and had a great conceit of his own sufficiency. He thought that if he had his portion in his own hands he could manage it better than his father did. There are more young people ruined by pride than by any one particular lust. Our first parents ruined themselves by a foolish ambition to be independent, and not to be beholden even to God Himself. This is at the bottom of sinners’ persisting in their sin—they will be for themselves.
God is a kind Father to all His children
How kind his father was to him: He divided unto them his living. He computed what he had to dispose of between his sons, and gave the younger son his share. He also offered the elder his, which ought to be a double portion. But it seems he desired his father to keep it in his own hands and in the end heard the words (Luke 15:31): All that I have is yours. He gave the younger son what he asked for. Surely he might now see his father’s kindness, how willing he was to please him and make him at peace.
Yet in a little time he would be made to see his own folly. He was not such a wise manager for himself as he thought he would be. God is a kind Father to all His children, and gives to them all life, breath, and all things, even to the evil and unthankful. In the giving of our very lives, God puts us in the capacity to serve and glorify Him.
The prodigal spent the money as fast as he could, and in a short time made himself a beggar: not many days after, Luke 15:13. If God ever leaves us to ourselves, it will not be long until we would depart from Him. When the bridle of restraining grace is taken off, we are soon gone. The younger son determined to be gone and gather everything together. Sinners who go astray from God, venture their all on it.
The state of departure and distance from God is a sinful state. He took his journey from his father’s house. Sinners who flee from God revolt from their allegiance to Him. They get as far from Him as they can. They take up their residence in the world and are as at home there and spend their all. It is the misery of sinners when they are afar off from God, from Him who is the Fountain of all good. What is hell itself, but being afar off from God?
A sinful state is always left wanting
There he wasted his substance with riotous living (Luke 15:13). He devoured it with harlots (Luke 15:30), and in a little time he had spent all, Luke 15:14. He bought fine clothes, spent a great deal in meat and drink, and associated with those who helped him to make an end of what he had. As to this world, they who live riotously waste what they have, and will have a great deal to answer for. But this is to be applied spiritually. Wilful sinners waste their heritage for they misspend their time and all their opportunities which were intended to enable them to serve God and to do good with.
A sinful state is always left wanting. When he had spent all on harlots, they left him, to seek another such prey. Then there arose a mighty famine in that land, everything was scarce and dear, and he began to be in need, Luke 15:14. Wilful waste brings woeful want. This represents the misery of sinners, who have thrown away the favour of God, their interest in Christ and the strivings of the Spirit. These they gave away for the pleasure and wealth of the world, and then perish for the want of them.
A sinful state is like a land where a mighty famine reigns, for the heaven is as brass. (The dews of God’s favour and blessing are withheld, and we will be in want of good things if God deny them to us). The earth is as iron (the sinner’s heart, that should bring forth good things, is dry and barren, and has no good in it). Sinners are wretchedly and miserably poor, and what aggravates it is they brought it on themselves.
The prodigal began to be in need
This young man’s rioting brought him to servitude. He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, Luke 15:15. Sinners join themselves to the devil to hire themselves into his service, to do his work, to depend on him for maintenance and a portion. They who commit sin are the servants of sin, John 8:34. He sent him into the fields, not to feed sheep (there had been some credit in that employment; Jacob, Moses and David kept sheep), but to feed pigs. The business of the devil’s servants is to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts, and that is no better than feeding greedy, dirty, noisy pigs. How can rational, immortal souls disgrace themselves any more than this?
A sinful state is a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. When the prodigal began to be in need, he needed to satisfy his hunger, and nourish his body and longed to, with the husks which the swine did eat, Luke 15:16. When they depart from God that which sinners promise themselves satisfaction in, will certainly disappoint them. They are labouring for that which does not satisfy, Isa. 55:2.
The stumbling-block of sin is that it will never satisfy their souls, 7:19. Husks are food for swine, but not for men. The wealth of the world and the entertainment of senses will serve our bodies, but what are these to precious souls? They do not suit their nature, nor satisfy their desires, nor supply their needs. He who takes up with them feeds on wind (Hos. 12:1) and feeds on ashes, Isa. 44:20.
In vain we cry out to the world
This prodigal, when he could not earn his bread by working, took up begging. But no man gave him anything, because they knew he had brought all this misery upon himself. Those who are provoking to everybody are least pitied. This, in the application of the parable, intimates that those who depart from God cannot be helped by any creature. In vain we cry out to the world. They have what will poison a soul, but have nothing to which will feed and nourish it. If you refuse God’s help, how can any creature help you?
A sinful state is a state of death: This my son was dead, Luke 15:24, 32. A sinner is under a sentence of death. He is dead in trespasses and sins, destitute of spiritual life. He has no union with Christ, no spiritual senses exercised, no living to God, and therefore dead. The prodigal in the far country was dead to his father and his family. He was as cut off as a branch from the tree, and therefore dead, and it was his own doing.
A sinful state is a lost state: This son was lost—lost to everything that was good—lost to all virtue and honour—lost to his father’s house. They had no joy with him. Souls that are separated from God are lost souls. They are lost as a traveller that has lost his way. If infinite mercy does not prevent it they will soon be lost as a ship that is sunk at sea, lost irrecoverably.
A sinful state is a state of madness and frenzy. This is intimated in that expression (Luke 15:17), when he came to himself, intimating that he had been beside himself. Surely he had been when he left his father’s house, and much more so when he joined himself to the citizen of that country. Madness is said to be in the heart of sinners, Eccl. 9:3. Satan has got possession of the soul and whoever is possessed by Legion is raging mad! Sinners destroy themselves with foolish lusts, and at the same time deceive themselves with foolish hopes. They are, of all diseased persons, the most enemies of their own cure.
The grace of God can soften the hardest of heart
What follows is his penitent return from this ramble, back to his father again. When he was brought to his last extremity he thought about how much it would be in his best interest to go home. We must never despair of the worst of them, for while there is life there is hope. The grace of God can soften the hardest of heart, and give a happy return to the strongest stream of corruption.
The occasion of his return and repentance was his affliction. When he was in want, then he came to himself. Afflictions, when they are sanctified by divine grace, prove a happy means of turning sinners from the error of their ways. By them the ear is opened to discipline and the heart willing to receive instructions. In this the vanity of the world and the mischievousness of sin is revealed.
We may apply this spiritually. When we have found the insufficiency of man and creature to make us happy, and have tried all other ways of relief for our poor souls in vain, then it is time to think of returning to God. For a soul that groans under the guilt and power of sin and with no man giving to us what we have need of, then we turn ourselves to Jesus Christ. For all others are miserable comforters.
What prepared him for this? It was consideration. He reasoned with himself, when he came to his right mind, How many hired servants of my father’s have enough bread! Consideration is the first step towards conversion, Ezek. 18:28. He considers, and turns. To consider is to retire into ourselves, to reflect upon ourselves. It is to compare one thing with another, and determine accordingly. May we all consider and turn where we have gone astray in our hearts and return back once more to the Father.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father I come to You. Thank You that this parable demonstrates the riches of gospel grace which remains while the world stands. May it direct and encourage me to repent and return to You where I have turned aside.
You are indeed my Father and I am Your offspring. From in You I have my being, and from You I receive all I need. You are the same Lord over all and I thank You that You are rich in mercy to all who call upon You. May I never be content to have my portion now in this lifetime. May I never look only at the things that are seen and temporal with only a present gratification. But care more for my future happiness. You are a kind Father to all Your children, and You give all life, breath, and all good things. Thank You that You even these to the evil and unthankful. You have given me all things to put me in the capacity to serve and glorify You. May I be faithful in all things.
I Know that if You were to ever leave me to myself, it will not be long until I would depart from You. Never take the bridle of restraining grace from me. You are the Fountain of all good. What is hell itself, but being afar off from You!
May I never waste the inheritance, time and all the opportunities which are intended to enable me to serve You and to do good with them.
I pray Your infinite mercy upon the prodigals in my life that they be not lost irrecoverably. May I not despair of the worst of them, for while there is life there is hope. I pray Your will soften the hardest of hearts, and give a happy return to them back to the family. In their afflications and need I pray that they will come to themselves. May their afflictions be sanctified by Your divine grace and prove a happy means of turning them from the error of their ways. Cause their ear to be opened to discipline and their heart be willing to receive instruction. Let them see the vanity of the world and the mischievousness of sin which leads them to destruction.
We may we all return to You where we have gone astray for man and the things of this world are insufficient to make us happy. All others aside from You are miserable comforters.
May we all consider and turn where we have gone astray in our hearts and return back once more to the Father. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.