Luke 15:11-32

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

October 17, 2001


We are in the middle of a section where Jesus is talking about finding things that are lost.


A carpet layer had just finished installing carpet for a lady. He stepped out for a smoke, only to realize he’d lost his cigarettes. In the middle of the room, under the carpet, was a bump.  “No sense pulling up the entire floor for one pack of smokes,” he said to himself. He proceeded to get out his hammer and flattened the hump.  As he was cleaning up, the lady came in.  “Here,” she said, handing him his pack of cigarettes. “I found them in the hallway.” “Now,” she said, “if only I could find my parakeet.”

God doesn’t take lost things lightly.  He finds them.  He loves to find them.

:11-24  The younger son, the prodigal

:11  And he said, A certain man had two sons:

:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

youngerneos – recently born, young, youthful

givedidomi – to give; the verb is an imperative, a command the son has given to the father.

that fallethepiballo – to cast upon, to lay upon; it belongs to me, falls to my share

portionmeros – a part; a part due or assigned to one

he divideddiaireo – to divide into parts, to part, to tear, cleave or cut asunder; to distribute

livingbios – life; that by which life is sustained, resources, wealth, goods

According to Jewish Law (Deut. 21:17), the firstborn (or elder) son would receive a double portion.  Since there are only two sons in the story, the younger son would have received 1/3 of the father’s wealth.  The older brother would be receiving 2/3 of the father’s wealth.

:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

gatheredsunago – to gather together, to gather; to draw together, collect; to bring together, assemble, collect

took his journeyapodemeo (“from” + “the people”) – to go away into foreign parts, go abroad

countrychora – the space lying between two places or limits; a region or country i.e. a tract of land

farmakros – long; of place: remote, distant, far off

wasted diaskorpizo – to scatter abroad, disperse, to winnow; to throw the grain a considerable distance, or up into the air, that it may be separated from the chaff

It’s a picture of the guy taking wads of money and throwing it all up in the air to be carried off by the wind.

substance ousia – what one has, i.e. property, possessions, estate

livingzao – to live, breathe, be among the living (not lifeless, not dead); to enjoy real life; to live i.e. pass life, in the manner of the living and acting

riotous asotos – dissolutely, profligately; wastefulness and riotous excess; reckless and extravagant expenditure, chiefly for the gratification of one’s sensual desires.

We find out later in the story (Luke 15:30), that he probably spent his money on harlots.


Sometimes you have to let go

It’s a difficult thing when someone you love goes into something that is very destructive.
I think that most of the time we need to do everything we can to help that person from destroying themselves.

(Gal 6:1 KJV)  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

But sometimes you will reach a point where you have to let go.  Some people don’t learn until they do things their way, and run the car headlong into a brick wall at 80 miles per hour.


Sometimes God will let us go.

Some people have a silly idea that if God doesn’t want them doing their favorite little sin, that God is going to stop them.
No.  God will let you go.  He will let you see the outcome of your sin.

:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

he had spentdapanao – to incur expense, expend, spend; in a bad sense: to waste, squander, consume

faminelimos – scarcity of harvest, famine

mightyischuros – strong, mighty; strong, violent, forcibly uttered, firm, sure

to be in wanthustereo – behind; to come late or too tardily; to fail, be wanting; to be in want of, lack; to suffer want, to be devoid of, to lack (be inferior) in excellence, worth

:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

joined himselfkollao – to glue, to glue together, cement, fasten together; to join or fasten firmly together; to join one’s self to, cleave to

citizenpolites – a citizen

countrychora – the space lying between two places or limits; a region or country i.e. a tract of land

fieldsagros – land; the field, the country; a piece of land, bit of tillage

to feedbosko – to feed

swinechoiros – a swine

:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

would fainepithumeo – to turn upon a thing; to have a desire for, long for, to desire; to lust after, covet

have filledgemizo – to fill, fill full

bellykoilia – the whole belly, the entire cavity; the innermost part of a man, the soul, heart as the seat of thought, feeling, choice

the husks keration – a little horn; the name of the fruit, Ceratonia silqua or carobtree (called also John’s Bread [from the notion that its pods, which resemble those of the "locust", constituted the food of the Baptist]. This fruit was shaped like a horn and has a sweet taste; it was and is used not only for fattening swine, but as an article of food by the lower classes.


There’s no end to what we can lust for.

We get this idea that if we just satisfy our lust, that everything will be okay, and life will be wonderful.
But the truth is, our lusts are never fully satisfied, and all they want is more.

Pr 27:20  Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

What starts off as a seemingly innocent little lust can become something monstrous. 
Uncontrolled lust only takes you one direction, downhill.
From U.S. News & World Report, February 6, 1989 –

Just before he was executed last week in Florida, serial killer Ted Bundy made a last-gasp grab for respectability as a crime expert. Asked by religious broadcaster James Dobson what made him turn violent, Bundy put the blame on graphic pornography.  “Like an addiction, you keep craving something that is harder,” intoned Bundy, “until you reach a point where... you begin to wonder if maybe actually doing it would give you that which is beyond just reading.”

What seems to you to be a harmless little diversion can lead to only bigger and greater lusts.  Don’t let it go any further.  Don’t let it get to the point where you’re lusting after pig food yet.  Pig food in a distant land.

:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

himselfheautou – himself, herself, itself, themselves

he cameerchomai – to come

hired servantsmisthios – employed for hire, hired; from misthos – dues paid for work; wages, hire

enough and to spareperisseuo – to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure; a thing which comes in abundance, or overflows unto one, something falls to the lot of one in large measure; to abound, overflow

hungerlimos – scarcity of harvest, famine

I perishapollumi – to destroy; to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed


Wake up!

It’s not until a person gets to the point where “he came to himself”, that a change can take place.
It’s not until we can get to the point where we are sick of our situation and we realize that we must change that change can occur.

:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

I will arise anistemi – to cause to rise up, raise up; raise up from laying down; to raise up from the dead; to rise, stand up; of those who leave a place to go elsewhere; of those who prepare themselves for a journey

I think it’s interesting that this is the same word that is used to describe the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

I have sinnedhamartano – to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong; to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin

against eis – into, unto, to, towards, for, among

before enopion – in the presence of, before; of occupied place: in that place which is before, or over against, opposite, any one and towards which another turns his eyes

Sin is “against” God and “before” others.


Healing starts with confession

Ultimately, sin isn’t just against the person you’ve hurt, but sin affects God as well.
(Psa 51:4 KJV)  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
(Isa 59:1-2 NKJV)  Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. {2} But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
The Bible says,
(1 John 1:9 KJV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We need to come to the place where we are willing to admit that we were wrong.  We need to admit that we are needy of God’s help.

:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

worthyaxios – weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much; befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing; of one who has merited anything worthy

hired servantsmisthios – employed for hire, hired

:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

he aroseanistemi – to cause to rise up, raise up; raise up from laying down; to raise up from the dead; to rise, stand up; of those who leave a place to go elsewhere; of those who prepare themselves for a journey

a great waymakran – far, a great way; far hence

was … offapecho – have; to hold back, keep off, prevent; to be away, absent, distant

saweido – to see

The Father was watching for the son

had compassionsplagchnizomai – to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)

rantrecho – to run; of persons in haste; of those who run in a race course

necktrachelos – neck

kissedkataphileo – to kiss much, kiss again and again, kiss tenderly

Lesson #1:

The Father’s Heart.

Some of us have the wrong idea of what our Heavenly Father is like as apparently the scribes and Pharisees did.
Too often we have strange, perverted ideas about the Father.  Sometimes it’s because the only thing we know of fathers is a bad father we might have had.
For some of you, the word “Father” conjures up images of someone who is always angry with you, someone who only likes you if you’re good, someone who will abuse you if you even get near him, or someone who’s simply not there, someone who has abandoned you.

This is not what God the Father is like.  Not at all.

1)  He’s waiting.
his father saw him

He’s waiting for you to come home.  He’s watching for you.

God isn’t off doing His own thing, thinking “good riddance” about you.

2)  He understands.
had compassionsplagchnizomai – to be moved in one's bowels, where the ancients thought the emotions of love and pity came from.

God understands.  He cares.  He’s moved with compassion towards you.

(Psa 103:13 NASB)  Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

3)  He’s anxious.
rantrecho – to run; of persons in haste

You may think that you’re still a “great way off” from coming home, but you’re only as far as it takes to turn around and start back.

You’ll find Him running to you.  He wants you home.

4)  He loves you.
kissedkataphileo – to kiss much, kiss tenderly, kiss again and again.

God has such tender affection toward you.  He loves you so much.

This isn’t the kind of affection that is conditional.  This isn’t only when you’re good.  Note that the son has yet to say that he’s sorry.  The Father starts loving on the son before he even gets a word out.

Lesson #2:

Don’t give up on the prodigals.

Some of you have Prodigals, some even in your own family.  Stay close to the Father’s heart and don’t give up on them.
Letting a person “go” does not mean “giving up”.
This is from Sitting By My Laughing Fire, by Ruth Bell Graham, and I wonder if it was written for her once wayward son, Franklin –
She waited for the call that never came; searched every mail for a letter, or a note, or card, that bore his name; and on her knees at night, and on her feet all day, she stormed Heaven's Gate in his behalf; she pled for him in Heaven's high court. "Be still, and wait," the word He gave; and so she knew He would do in, and for, and with him, that which she never could. Doubts ignored, she went about her chores with joy; knowing, though spurned, His word was true. The prodigal had not returned but God was God, and there was work to do.

:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

Just as the son had planned to say (vs. 18-19), except he does not get a chance to say, “make me as one of thy hired servants”,

:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

servantsdoulos – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition

bring forthekphero – to carry out, to bear forth

robestole – an equipment; an equipment in clothes, clothing; spec. a loose outer garment for men extending to the feet, worn by kings, priests, and persons of rank

bestprotos – first in time or place; first in rank

put it onenduo – to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one’s self

put (a ring) didomi – to give; to give something to someone

ringdaktulios – a ring (on the finger)

shoeshupodema – what is bound under, a sandal, a sole fastened to the foot with thongs

:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

bringphero – to carry; to bring, bring to, bring forward

calfmoschos – a tender juicy shoot; offspring; a calf, a bullock, a heifer

fattedsiteutos (“grain”, perhaps as in “grain-fed”)  – fattened, fatted

kill thuo – to sacrifice, immolate; to slay, kill; slaughter

Could it be that there’s more than just a feast going on here?  Could there be a sense of sacrifice as well?

It would seem that this would be a “Peace Offering”, since the whole family is going to have a feast.

One of the reasons for having a “peace offering” was when you had made a vow to the Lord, perhaps something like, “Oh God, if you will bring my son back, then I will offering up a calf to You.”  This is a Father who really, really wants His son back.

let us eatphago – to eat

be merryeuphraino – to gladden, make joyful; to be glad, to be merry, to rejoice; to rejoice in, be delighted with a thing

:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

deadnekros – properly; one that has breathed his last, lifeless; deceased, departed, one whose soul is in heaven or hell; spiritually dead

alive againanazao – live again, recover life; to be restored to a correct life

was lost apollumi – to destroy; to lose

This has been an important word for Luke 15:

Lu 15:4  What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose <622> one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost <622>, until he find it?
Lu 15:6  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost <622>.
Lu 15:8  Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose <622> one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
Lu 15:9  And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost <622>.
Lu 15:17  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish <622> with hunger!


God loves to find the lost.

This has been the message Jesus has tried to give to the Pharisees.

:25-32  The elder son

:25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.

elderpresbuteros – elder, of age,

music sumphonia – music

dancingchoros – a band (of dancers and singers), circular dance, a dance, dancing

:26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

calledproskaleomai – to call to; to call to one’s self

servants pais – a child, boy or girl; servant, slave

askedpunthanomai – to enquire, ask; to ascertain, by enquiry

:27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

hath killedthuo – to sacrifice, immolate; to slay, kill; slaughter

safe and soundhugiaino – to be sound, to be well, to be in good health

he hath receivedapolambano – to receive; of what is due or promised; to take again or back, to recover; to receive any one hospitably

:28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.

he was angry orgizo – to provoke, to arouse to anger; to be provoked to anger, be angry, be wroth

would thelo – to will, have in mind, intend; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish; to love; to like to do a thing, be fond of doing; to take delight in, have pleasure

go ineiserchomai – to go out or come in: to enter

came … outexerchomai – to go or come forth of

entreatedparakaleo – to call to one’s side, call for, summon; to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.


God will come to where you are

You may not be in a good place.  You may be stubborn like the older brother.  But you will find that God will still come to meet you where you are.
But He doesn’t want to leave you there.

:29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

these manytosoutos – of quantity: so great, so many; of time: so long

do I servedouleuo – to be a slave, serve, do service; metaph. to obey, submit to

transgressedparerchomai – to go past, pass by; to pass by (pass over), that is, to neglect, omit, (transgress)

a kideriphos – a kid, a young goat

:30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

devouredkatesthio – to consume by eating, to eat up, devour; to devour i.e. squander, waste: substance

livingbios – life; that by which life is sustained, resources, wealth, goods

harlotsporne – a woman who sells her body for sexual uses; a prostitute, a harlot, one who yields herself to defilement for the sake of gain

All that the older son says makes sense, doesn’t it?  It can almost seem as if the younger son is being rewarded for having lived a horrible life.  And that doesn’t seem fair, does it?


Watch out for resentment

If you have come to the point where you resent those who don’t work as hard at their relationship with God as you do, you’re beginning to sound like a Pharisee.
A proper relationship with the Lord is not just about obedience, it’s about joy in His presence.
(Psa 16:11 KJV)  Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Yet too often we get like Martha (Luke 10:38-42), so busy serving that we don’t remember to stop and sit at the Lord’s feet, listening to His Word, and enjoying His presence.

:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

sonteknon – offspring, children; metaph. the name transferred to that intimate and reciprocal relationship formed between men by the bonds of love, friendship, trust, just as between parents and children; teknon and uiov both point to parentage. teknon, however, emphasizes the idea of descent, giving prominence to the physical and outward aspects; while uiov emphasizes the idea of relationship, and considers especially the inward, ethical, and legal aspects. 

everpantote – at all times, always, ever


Enjoy your relationship with the Lord

All that is God’s belongs to us.  God wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him, not be resentful.
For example:
(1 Chr 4:9-10 KJV)  And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. {10} And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.

Jabez is called “more honourable” than his brethren.

His main claim to fame was in that he asked God to bless him.

Do you ever think sometimes that asking something like this seems like a “selfish” request?

How about,
(Rom 8:31-32 KJV)  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? {32} He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

God wants to bless you.  God wants you to enjoy Him.

:32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

we should make merryeuphraino – to gladden, make joyful; to be glad, to be merry, to rejoice; to rejoice in, be delighted with a thing

be gladchairo – to rejoice, be glad; to rejoice exceedingly; to be well, thrive; in salutations, hail!; at the beginning of letters: to give one greeting, salute

It was meet dei – it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper

was lostapollumi – to destroy

Jesus has been addressing the attitude of the Pharisees.

Keep in mind that the Pharisees aren’t out and out bad people who are part of the society’s criminal element.  They were much like us, people who valued God’s Word, people who tried their best to live in obedience to the Lord.

Jesus was at the house of a Pharisee, sharing a meal, when this entire section started back in Luke 14.

Jesus had encouraged the Pharisees that when they throw a party, they ought to consider inviting people who can’t pay them back.  They ought to consider inviting the needy to their parties.
(Luke 14:13 KJV)  But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:

As the supper progressed, a lot of people crowded in to listen to Jesus.  Jesus began to tell the people of the high cost of following Him.  Following after Jesus isn’t something you do on a whim.  It is something that requires commitment and dedication.

(Luke 14:27 KJV)  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

After He had challenged the crowd, the people left at the front of the crowd were the most unlikely people, the tax collectors and “sinners”.

The Pharisees saw this happening and began to grumble that Jesus was becoming associated with such lowly people.

It was at this point that Jesus again addressed the Pharisees with the parables about finding lost things, and now He has wound up showing them their own attitude as being the “elder brother”.


Don’t neglect the lost

I think this is one of the main things Jesus is trying to say.  His whole purpose in life was to bring the lost people home.
I have a friend, Mike McNichols, who is the pastor of the Fullerton Vineyard church (“SoulFarers”).  He has made it a practice to regularly eat at the same restaurant regularly.  He has learned to tip well.  And he has begun to establish a relationship with some of the staff at this restaurant.  He then took a step and invited three of these people, all unbelievers, to his house for dinner on a Tuesday night.  He set it up as a chance to give these unbelievers a place to ask their questions about God.  They’ve been meeting regularly now every Tuesday night for some time.  He’s expecting that they will come to the Lord.


Rejoice when the lost are found

I mentioned last week that I think it would be cool if we applauded the next time a person comes forward in church.  I think the angels in heaven are doing it.