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Jesus’ Story of a Father and His two wayward Sons Explained
by Clifford Tate 
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Luke 15:11-32

Our Lord Jesus Christ as many tax collectors, harlots, and others who were labeled as sinners and outcast gathered around He took this time to teach as He was apt to do always. As usual there were several Pharisees and Scribes that always followed Him around to find fault with Him and to chastise Him for speaking to the people they labeled as outcast sinners. The Lord Jesus Christ would never allow anyone to derail Him from His purposes and priority. He simply used this new occasion of criticism by these religious rulers to tell a story that pictures the heart of God the Father. This story was not only a perfect picture of the Father’s heart, but it was a story of two different classes of people. The younger son in this story represents the Jewish people labeled as outcast the harlots, tax collectors, and other sinners. The older son represents the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees the Jewish religious elite.

This parable was to show them that God the Father’s heart is to receive any person who turns from self-reliance (repents) no matter what they have done in their past. The religious Jewish rulers never understood the Old Testament Prophecies about our Lord’s first coming and consequently never saw their need to humble themselves before Him in repentance and faith. Our Lord spoke a similar parable to them as recorded by Matthew only and He began it with these same words, “A certain man had two sons.” However, at the end of the Parable of the two sons recorded by Matthew only, our Lord ended it with these words to the chief priest and the elders, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”

The entire purpose of that Parable and this one recorded by Luke only was to open the dead spiritual eyes of the religious Jewish rulers so that they might repent and also enter into the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately their hearts had become so hardened in religion and ceremonies, and rituals that they could not even see the very God they thought they were worshiping standing before them imploring them to come to themselves like the younger son in the story (harlots and tax collectors). In this story our Lord says that the younger son began to be in want (Luke 15:14). A soul must recognize his or her need for change before God will change anyone by grace through faith. No one ever enters the Kingdom of God without recognizing their sin sickness in them. Remember when our Lord said on another occasion to these same religious Jewish leaders, “They that are well don’t need a Doctor, only them that are sick.” The religious Jewish leaders were not sin sick in their minds/heart because they thought they kept the Law of Moses which made them good enough to be with God in Heaven. Here is the same lie the enemy still perpetrates in billions of hearts today.

Some might think our Lord was speaking these riddles, stories, parables primarily just to stick it to these religious people, but He was giving them every possible opportunity to see their sin sick hearts and turn to Him for healing. Our Lord truly does not desire for any to perish but for all to come to themselves. This is exactly what our Lord said the younger son did he came to himself (Luke 15:17) and this represents repentance (a change of mind and turning away from evil). Now the younger son proved His repentance was real and genuine by what he said and did, he said, “I will arise and go to my Father” (Luke 15:18). The younger son did not just say those words but he put one foot in front of the other and as the Scripture says, “And he rose and came to his Father” (Luke 15:20). You see those harlots, tax collectors, thieves, etc. recognized that God the Father had come down from Heaven and stood in their midst in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and they arose from their sin sickness and turned to Him for healing.

Now picture how our Lord displays the Father’s heart for this wayward young son, the Father saw the son way down the road and did not wait for him to get home but ran to the younger son and poured out his grace, forgiveness, and love to this wayward son. God the Father goes after lost sinners and this is what our Lord meant when He said, “I have come to seek and save that which was lost.” The Father before the younger son could get out all of the words he wanted to say commanded His servants to clean him up and put a robe on him and sandals for his bare feet and a ring on his finger. The Father did all of this to show everyone that this is My son and he belongs to Me forever (Luke 15:20-24). This is what our Lord meant at the end of the first two parables in this chapter by there being joy in Heaven in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner repents. This party in this story is a picture of the rejoicing in Heaven when a soul passes from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Now sadly the rest of our Lord’s story is the sad reality of the seemingly obedient son being lost for all the years his younger brother was gone and remaining lost for all eternity because of his impenitent heart. This is the sad picture of the Jewish religious rulers who so looked down on the harlots, tax collectors, and other so-called sinners in their eyes. They despised these people but did not recognize that they were just as lost as they were and needed redemption. Luke records our Lord speaking another parable to the people about a Pharisee and a tax collector going into the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14) and it too was a rebuke to the Pharisees for their self-righteousness that will never justify a person. Our Lord told them, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Our Lord was being sarcastic with this statement because He meant the self-righteous because there was no one on earth righteous when He came but Him. The older brother in this story was furious when He saw his Father receive his younger brother and even throw a party for him (Luke 15:28). This is the very heartfelt reaction we see throughout the gospels when any of the religious Jewish rulers saw our Lord eating with and teaching any harlots and tax collectors about the Kingdom of God. These Jewish rulers felt that these people were under the judgment of God already and that is why they were in the condition they were in and certainly they would never eat with them or teach them from the Old Testament Scriptures.

The older son could not understand why his Father had never given him a goat to have a feast with his friends because he spent all those years in his Father’s house outwardly doing what his Father commanded him to do. It was never done from his heart of love for his Father for if it were so he would have been rejoicing with his Father because he was rejoicing over his younger son being found alive. This would have been the older son’s response if he truly served his Father out of love for him. Religion can never produce a heart in love with God the Father. The older son felt he deserved to be honored and held in high regard by his Father while the younger son should have been disowned by his Father. This was the heart of the Jewish leaders they wanted their own preeminence and did not care for the glory of God at all. Our Lord told them such when he said, John 5:42 “But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.” They thought that if our Lord was truly a teacher sent from God that He should have spent all of His time in the temple in the presence of the religious elite and not with tax collectors and mere fishermen. The extreme tragedy of this story is as our Lord said to them that tax collectors and harlots enter the Kingdom of God before you. The younger son was saved eternally and tragically the older son was lost eternally. Please do not neglect so great a salvation as we have in Jesus Christ by trusting in your Church membership or denominational work or baptism or rituals or ceremonies or any other religious thing because Jesus Christ is not a religion He is a person and He is the One and Only True God from Everlasting to Everlasting. Amen!

“The truth is there are two great classes of sins - sins of the body, and sins of the disposition. The Prodigal Son may be taken as a type of the first, the Elder Brother of the second.” Henry Drummond

“There is a trend today that would put a new robe on the prodigal son while he is still feeding hogs. Some would put the ring on his finger while he still in the pigsty. Others would paint the pigsty and advocate bigger and better hogpens.” “If they had a social gospel in the days of the prodigal son, somebody would have given him a bed and a sandwich and he never would have gone home.” Vance Havner

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...

Sincerely in Christ,

Clifford D. Tate, Sr.

Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reader, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…


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