A few weeks ago a friend of mine stopped me before one of the worship services to tell me that he had read my e-newsletter article that week where I referenced the prodigal son’s motivation in returning home. I said that it wasn’t repentance, but a scheme. He disagreed. And after seeking to explain myself, he reinforced his opposition by saying, “I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.”
I’ve thought about that brief exchange often since that day. The trigger for such thoughts has been my preparation for our fall series, “The Rescue”.
What I’ve found in studying the first three chapters of Galatians is the need to go back to Luke 15 and spend a little time dissecting this 3-part parable that ends with the greatest story ever told.
The story of the Prodigal is the stuff of legend. Myriad books have referenced it. Countless sermons and teachings have sought to explain it. It’s a story I thought I understood well until a decade or more ago when I came face-to-face with Dr. Kenneth Bailey, an expert in the culture of the ancient Near East. Bailey lived and taught in Lebanon for nearly 40 years. And his insight into this parable opened my eyes to something I had never seen with such clarity – the pure, unvarnished Gospel.
Suddenly, all three stories that make up this parable came together. What’s more, each story builds to a crescendo in the final story of a man and his two sons.
There’s so much here; and yet, this week we are going to discipline ourselves to look at only one part of the parable – the father and his “reckless” son. For here in these few verses is the Gospel in miniature. It’s a Gospel that Paul elucidates beautifully in Galatians.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
- What is the nature of the lostness of the younger son?
- What does he mean when he says, “Father, give me the share of the property that is coming to me?”
- What does Jesus mean in verse 13 when He says, “He gathered all he had and took a journey…”?
- What is the nature of his “recklessness”? See verse 13.
- Why would this Jewish son hire himself out to feed pigs?
- What does Jesus mean when He says in verse 17, “But when he came to himself…”?
- What biblical parallel is there to his words in verse 18?
- Why does his father run to meet him?
- Why does his father interrupt his speech?
- How is this story a perfect description of the Gospel?