One Father & Two Sons – The Prodigal One, & The Other One
Proverbs 13:20-25; Luke 15:11-32
Target Truth Ministries.com Pastor Gerry Crossroads Church, Box 1533, Ukiah, Ca. 95482 707-467-8400
God calls us, as Christians, to spread the Word—the truth of the Bible. We don’t save anyone. God will do the saving. But, we are called to bring the Word to people (Rom.10:12-17).
There is a story of a father who wanted to move this huge bolder away from his house. He told his son to push on this huge bolder which was close to the house—push on it all day if necessary. The boy pushed and pushed. He couldn’t move it. So, the boy tried the next day, and the day after that. The boy didn’t want to disappoint his father. But, after several days of pushing, the son came to the father and apologized, because he failed to move the boulder. His father looked at him, and praised him. All the father asked, was for the boy to push on it. The father didn’t expect him to move it—just push on it. Sometimes, we get ahead of God, just as this boy got ahead of his father. God calls us, as Christians, to spread the Word. God will do the convicting.
In Luke 15:11-32, we find Jesus giving us a parable of:
1) A lost son,
2) Another son who is loyal,
3) and a father (who doesn’t fit the traditions of the Jewish culture).
What is really going on here? This is one of the most famous parables Jesus gave, and yet, many note that the story, which seems at first glance fairly simple, just doesn’t fit the customs and traditions of the people. Is there another deeper meaning to this parable, other than a simple story of forgiveness and reconciliation? Read the whole parable first!
Verse 11: Here, two sons are introduced to us. Because we know that Jesus gave parables to convey a deeper meaning, the astute listener would begin to wonder; “Two? Is this a story about the Jew and the Gentile…or the good and bad…or the rich and poor…,or the religious leaders and the regular people?”
One traditional way of interpreting this parable of Jesus is to suggest that the father is symbolic of God in heaven (on the estate–on the farm), and that the two sons are symbolic of two groups of people here on earth. The father must be symbolic of God in heaven because no Jewish father here on earth would ever act this way (the father must always be respected and honored). One of the sons seems to be true to the father, while the other son is rebellious and is separated. The seemingly good son shows himself to be just as selfish as the son that left when the first son returns and is welcomed home. Some see the parable as pointing out that both sons fail in some way…that we are all sinners.
Another traditional way of interpreting this parable of Jesus is to suggest that the father is symbolic of God in heaven (the farm), and that the two sons are symbolic of the two types of Jewish people here on earth…the Jewish people who don’t submit to Jewish law, and the Pharisees and Priests who do follow the law (do the work). Some suggest the parable points out that those who ignore the law suffer, but can be restored. Also, that the religious leaders who do follow the law actually show themselves to be sinners–being jealous of others because they supposedly were always true to the father (did the work).
However, these interpretations seem to fall short of relating to this parable because:
This is a story of a father in heaven (on the estate–on the farm), and the sons are also in the parable “on the farm” (which is in heaven). One left the farm, while the other stayed on the farm (stayed in heaven).
The father under Jewish traditions would never give one son his inheritance before the father’s death, and further, the father under Jewish traditions would never welcome his son back with open arms. This is why every interpretation of this parable sees the father as symbolic of God in heaven.
One of the sons is pictured as being true to the father, which we all know can never happen in this life until a person is “born again” (John 3:1-7). We, from birth (even from conception), are all sinners and do not seek after God…God seeks us (Rom. 3:10-12, 23; John 6:64-65, 15:16; Philip. 2:21). This means that neither son could be “true” to God from birth, much less through the years. So, how is it that Jesus says one son is true to the father?
Verse 12: One son wants his inheritance now, before the father dies, and the father gives it to him. This would never happen in the Jewish tradition. This would have been an insult to the father, and the father would have disowned the son before giving any inheritance early. The father must die before one can receive their inheritance. In fact, in the Jewish society, there was even a ceremony called the “qetsatsah,” which was a method for shunning a son who somehow might have allowed his inheritance to fall into another’s hand (gambling, indebtedness, etc.). Any son who dishonored his inheritance had to earn it back, or forever be shunned. The shunning involved breaking a jar (filled with burnt corn and nuts), in front of the son in a public place in the town.
But, in this parable from Jesus, there seems to be no problem for the father to give his son his freewill, and let him go. What strikes me here, is that, as fathers, we can try and hold onto our child’s love, by controlling them, and compelling them to honor us… or, a father can let the child go, and pray that the child will love the father and honor the family, someday. The Jewish culture demanded honor. God, in the Ten Commandments, demands that we honor Him, and also demands that the child honor the father and mother (Ex. 20). The right thing to do is to honor. But, the father, here, lets the son go…giving the son his freewill to leave, giving him his inheritance, and allowing the son to dishonor the father. This parable makes no sense in the Jewish culture.
What exactly is this parable telling us? This parable doesn’t fit the culture of the Jewish people, or God’s commandments. But, this story does fit the story of the creation, and the love of God for us. God created the host of heaven, and allowed the host freewill. Two-thirds of the host of heaven stayed with God, but one-third was deceived by Satan, choose not to follow God, and left God’s kingdom (Rev. 12:1-4). In Genesis, chapter three, we read how Satan, Adam, and Eve, used their freewill to not follow God, and left God’s kingdom. So, just like this parable of the two sons, God the Father gave His creation freewill, and some choose to follow temptations, and leave. This parable, therefore, is actually a parable of the creation—and the fall—and the reconciliation (God’s love and forgiveness), and not a parable about life here on earth and Jewish culture. Note also, that there is no mother mentioned in this parable, even though mothers are seen as the parent which would normally reach out with affection. I believe that this was deliberate on Jesus’ part—another indication that this is a story of the creation—the Fall—and the reconciliation—our relationship to God the Father.
Verse 13: In this parable, this one son travels to a distant place, and there he looses everything. If we understand that this is a story of the creation—the fall—and the reconciliation, then what Jesus is saying is that we were given our free will, and chose to separate ourselves from God, and now have found ourselves in a distant place (called earth), and have lost everything (our relationship in Paradise with God). We, in fact, enter this world separated from God, and faced with death (Eph. 2:1-9; James 2:26—see the book “Eden to Evil” at Target Truth Ministries.com).
Verse 14: The son in this parable now experiences famine (hunger). We, as flesh beings, have a basic need for food and water. But, we also have a desperate need for peace of mind—of knowing God, and knowing that He has a plan to forgive, reconcile, and save us. Here, on planet earth, we experience famine, and separation from God.
Verse 15-16: This son, in this parable, is desperate for help, and he turns to one who is a citizen of this world (Satan). God’s Word tells us that this world is Satan’s domain for the time being (Matt. 4:8-19; 2 Corin. 4:4). The worst thing a Jewish person could do would be to work with swine—pigs—seen as unclean for Jewish people. For the time being, Satan is allowed by God to control this age, and we are tempted to follow the world’s ways. We must remember that we asked for this of our own freewill, and also remember that God has a plan to save us (see Message: “You Asked for It” at Target Truth Ministries.com).
Verse 17: The son, in this parable, now comes to his senses. Different people react in different ways. He is either broken and humbled at this point, or is beginning to rationalize how to scheme his way back into the good graces of his father (perform good works—do good deeds). Many times, we think we need to “do something” to be reconciled to God. Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us that we are saved by “grace.” Salvation is a free gift. “No works” can save anyone—only Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Verse 18-19: The son, in this parable, seems to be willing to be a servant, as long as he can be restored to the safety and security of his father’s estate. The son, here, does not expect to be restored to any ownership of his father’s estate. He only wants to be reconciled. The same is true of the Christian, today. We recognize we have sinned against God, and only desire to be reconciled, and are willing to accept whatever God determines, in order to be reconciled.
Verse 20: Again, this would have never happened in the Jewish culture and society. For the father to embrace and kiss this son, would have meant disgrace and humiliation for the father. The father was due respect, and the son would be required to pay for all the damage done. Forgiveness and compassion could not be granted until the debt is first paid. Isn’t it interesting that for us, as Christians today, Jesus allowed Himself to be disgraced and humiliated. And, our debt has already been paid (by Jesus sacrifice), for all of us who will trust in Jesus, love Him, and develop a relationship with Him (John 3:1-7). So, by grace we are saved (a free gift—there is nothing we can do to earn salvation—Eph. 2:8-9), but Jesus had to pay the price to secure the free gift for us (humiliated Himself, even unto death).
Verse 21: Here, the son admits that he has sinned against both heaven and his father (note the reference to heaven). In our world, today, many will admit their sin against God, while others do not see the need, and will remain separated from God and Paradise for all eternity.
Verse 22: The father, in this parable, responds by giving his lost son his best robe, a ring, and sandals. The robe, to the ancients, represented honor. The ring represented his renewed right to the inheritance of the father. And, sandals meant that he was not to be seen as a servant, but part of the family (servants wore no sandals). For those of us who are Christians, being clothed means being given a right standing with God (righteousness—Matt. 6:28-34; Rev. 3:5, 18; Rev. 19:7-8).
Verse 23-24: In this parable, the father calls for a great feast to be prepared because his son who was lost has been found. A calf is sacrificed for the feast (a blood sacrifice to pay for the sin, as well as provide for food—just like the sacrificial offerings which were made daily at the temple for the Jewish people). We know that Jesus’ blood was shed to pay for our sins, and Jesus is planning a great feast called the wedding / marriage supper, when all those to be saved have been saved (Luke 13:29, 14:15-24; Rev. 19:6-9; Matt. 22:1-14). Note the reference to his son “coming to life again”—a resurrection from the dead— a restoration to the family farm (to heaven / Eden).
Verse 25-32: Now, the parable moves to the other son who never denied his father…never left…remained on the farm (in heaven). This other son is jealous of the son who left. In verse 30, he complains that the father never killed even a goat for him (note… no blood sacrifice for this son–not even a goat, which was a lesser sacrifice). The father responds by explaining that all that is the father’s belongs to his sons. And, more important, his brother was dead, and now lives again—so celebrate. If this parable represents the host of heaven (as discussed in verses 11 and 12), it makes sense that blood was sacrificed to pay for the sin of the one son, while no blood is necessary for the other son. Also, the parable states twice (in verses 24 and 32), that the son that left was dead, but now lives again, just as it will be for all of us who trust in Jesus—we will live eternally in heaven with God, while those who deny Jesus (those who do not love Jesus), will remain as dead to Him—remain separated eternally.
The only thing that is puzzling is the reaction of the son who stayed with the father. Some have suggested that the second son is representative of the Jewish Pharisees (the religious leaders), who were self-serving and felt entitled to prominence and special attention, expecting the regular Jewish people to look up to them. After all, the religious leaders were trying to keep all the rules (staying with the Father). In other words, the father should not honor the son that left above the son who does all the work required.
This is a parable, and Jesus gives parables for us to search for the deeper meaning. In the Scriptures, the Pharisees were not seen by Jesus as good sons who stayed with the Father (Matt. 23:13-33). The leaders of religion were actually called “sons of Satan” (John 8:37-44), because they elevated themselves. Therefore, I believe the second son cannot represent religious leaders, but that the second son represents the host of heaven who never denied God—the two-thirds of the heavenly host who remained true to God (stayed on the farm–Rev. 12:1-4). I believe this is what God is referring to in the new heaven and earth to come (Paradise), when He talks of “healing the nations.” God will provide healing in Paradise for nations (Rev. 22:2). The Greek word used here for “healing” means “to care for, to attend to, or to cure.” In the new heaven and earth, for some reason, there will be a need to cure the nations…to care for and attend to the nations (all the various groups of heavenly beings). There is no physical pain or suffering in heaven (Rev. 21:3-4), so the cure must be for relationships…relationships between the host of heaven who remained true to God, and those of us who will have come back home.
Scripture tells us that, just like the son in this parable who stayed with the father in heaven, the angels in heaven also question and wonder about us here on earth in the flesh. The angels in heaven long to understand about salvation (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Jesus helps those of flesh and blood, not the angels in heaven (Heb. 2:16). Again, there is no blood sacrifice needed for those who stayed with God in heaven. Those of us who trust in Jesus will have Jesus to represent us to the angels in heaven (Luke 12:8-9). There is joy felt in heaven in the presence of angels when one of the fallen repents (Luke 15:10). The angels in heaven are spectators, watching those who spread the Gospel struggle (1 Corin. 4:8-10).
In the parable of these two sons, the one son is “jealous,” or “envious” of the lost son who is rewarded when he returns and is reconciled. Today, jealousy, or envy, are seen by many as a sin. However, we all know that our God is a jealous God (Exod. 20:5), and God is not a sinner. What would cause jealousy or envy to become sinful? Jealousy, or envy, is a desire to have the same thing another has for oneself. The second son desired to have the same respect paid to him as the son that left and came home. This jealousy is not a sinful desire. However, when jealousy or envy leads to pride and selfishness, then sin occurs. It is pride and selfishness which leads to deprive another of what they have. Pride and selfishness is the sin (Prov. 11:2, 16:18, 29:23). To be jealous is to desire justice. The one son’s reaction of anger and jealousy is a normal reaction of desiring justice. And, God will provide that justice…with the healing of the nations…the understanding that all who trust in Jesus will receive the inheritance of eternal life in Paradise with God for all eternity (Rev. 22:2), while those who continue to deny Jesus will remain separated (John 3:18). Praise God for forgiveness and justice!!!
This parable represents a picture of the plan of salvation from the very beginning (the fall of the host of heaven), to the end (the restoration for those who love God). Jesus, here, deals with our fall from God’s kingdom, as well as our reconciling with God, and how God (the Father), desires reconciliation. This parable tells us that, unlike our earthly relationships, God is forgiving, and loving, and extends Himself to us who are lost. This parable indirectly deals with any son who remains lost—which would result in judgment to hell (separation from God). We understand that if the son does not change (repent—Rom. 12:2), that he would remain lost and separated.
Ironically, Jesus spoke more of hell than of salvation. Why did Jesus emphasize hell so much? Jesus wants us to understand the plan of salvation, but He also wants us to be fully aware of the judgment to come, where many, perhaps most of humanity, will remain lost, remain separated, and not inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:25-34). Anyone out there lost? The kingdom is ready…the Father is ready…the sacrifice has already been made…the welcome mat is out…HELLO!