Good News for Prodigals

Bible Reading: Luke 15

The story of the prodigal son is set in the broader context of the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes who were saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).  The chapter speaks to the “joy in heaven” which occurs when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7).  Several words are prominent in the chapter: find(s) and found (15:4, 6, 8, 9, 24, 32); and joy, merry, and rejoice (15:7, 10, 23, 24, 29, 32).  Set in the broader context of this gospel account, the chapter highlights its major theme: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a prodigal is one “who spends lavishly, or foolishly.”  That’s what the prodigal did when “he squandered his property in reckless living” (Luke 15:13).  We do the text and ourselves an injustice if we view the prodigal as an exception to the rule.  In Adam, we are all prodigals by nature (Romans 5:12).  It is in the heart of man to spend his life in vain and foolish pursuits.  Sin is so inclined and the world, the flesh and the devil all concur (Ephesians 2:1-3). 

The prodigal had both the money and freedom to do as he pleased.  He foolishly spent all his resources in these sinful pursuits (Luke 15:13-14, 30).  He spent everything he had.  A severe famine in the land left him hungry, so he found a job feeding pigs and was longing to feed himself with pig food (Luke 15:14-16).  It was only then “he came to his senses” (Luke 15:17).  Sin makes no sense.  To spend oneself in sinful and vain pursuits speaks to the insanity of sin (Romans 6:21; 1 Peter 1:18).  Yet immersed in this sin-sick world, and rebellious by nature as we are, such insanity is commonplace.

The pivotal point in the account is when the prodigal came to his senses. That happened as the direct result of his impoverishment.  To be sure, God uses such things to gain our attention.  The lost sinner cannot be truly satisfied by the mere “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).  Thirsty souls can never find lasting refreshment in broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:12-13).  But sin is too tenacious a foe to be subdued by mere human reason alone.  The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to bring us to our senses concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  We come to our senses only as He intervenes in one’s life (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).  How wonderful the day when a prodigal is made “sane” through the ministry of the Holy Spirit!

Having come to his senses, the Prodigal returned to his father and penitently hoped he could get on as one of his father’s hired men (Luke 15:17-19).  He had lost everything and embarrassed his father—to be made a servant was the best he could hope for.  As he neared home and “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion.  He ran and embraced his son and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).  The father hastened to put a robe around him, a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet.  He even killed the fattened calf and held a banquet for his son, accompanied by music and dancing (Luke 15:23, 25).  Not only was the prodigal forgiven, but he was also reconciled and restored in an amazing fashion.

Such is the nature of God and the working of grace!  A penitent sinner cries out to God for mercy and seeks pardon for his sin.  The grace of God works in “far more abundant” fashion to bestow unanticipated blessings (Ephesians 3:20).  The new believer in Christ is not just forgiven, God’s love and grace are lavished upon him, and he is made the recipient of “unfathomable riches” (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:8, 3:8).  All of this is to the “praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14) which is made manifest in the salvation of a prodigal!

“It is a joyful occasion when a penitent sinner comes to “his senses.”  He finds in the Savior one who was already looking for him.”


Like the woman at the well, I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy.
And then I heard my Savior speaking—
“Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”

Chorus: Fill my cup, Lord; I lift it up Lord;
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

There are millions in this world who are seeking
For pleasures earthly goods afford.
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord. (Chorus)

So my brother if the things that this world gives you
Leave hungers that won’t pass away,
My blessed Lord will come and save you
If you kneel to Him and humbly pray—(Chorus)

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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