In Luke 15:11-32, we have a record of the familiar parable that Jesus told which is often called ‘The Prodigal Son.’ A more accurate title is ‘The Parable of the Two Lost Sons’, because both were lost, or even more appropriately, ‘The Parable of the Forgiving Father’, because the father is the real hero of the story.


It is an amazing short story and through it Jesus teaches us about grace. In Act 1 we have the story of the lost younger brother who shames his father by asking for his inheritance right away and then goes and wastes it through wild living. Eventually, after he comes to his senses, he returns to his father who, surprisingly, runs towards him, shows great emotion and elevates him back to the full standing of a son. The father throws a huge costly celebration feast. There is music and dancing. What a story of grace – undeserved favour!


But the story doesn’t stop there. Act 2 is about the lost elder brother. Unaware of what has happened, he returns from a hard day’s work in the field. He hears the music and discovers that his brother has returned home. He is furious and disgraces his father by refusing to go in to the party.  His father comes outside and tenderly pleads with his son to come in. The listeners are on the edge of their seats. Will the older brother come in? Will the family be reunited? … and then the story ends! A bit like those old crime dramas – just when you’re about to find out who done it … it says ‘to be continued next week!’


To understand what Jesus is doing through this story we need to understand the historical context. In Luke 15:1-2, we learn that Jesus has tax collectors and sinners gathering around him. The Pharisees and religious people are upset about this because table fellowship implied acceptance in Middle Eastern culture. How can Jesus be hanging out with these people?


The startling message Jesus gives to the tax collectors and sinners (the younger brothers) is that God’s grace is amazing, along with his love and forgiveness towards those who come to their senses and return to father’s house, regardless of what they have done. This is good news!


The even more startling message to the Pharisees and religious people (the older brothers) is that you can live a moral life of full obedience (the older brother never once disobeyed his father) and yet still be lost and outside the father’s house. This is the great reversal of the story – the younger son who was outside the house is now inside while the older brother who was inside the house is now outside and we’re not sure whether he will come in. What a shock this must have been to the listeners who saw themselves as the ones who were IN and the sinners as the ones were OUT!


More tomorrow …

3 thoughts on “The Two Lost Sons (Pt.1)

  1. That’s good message with a twist. You are an excellent communicator. Yes, we were all too familiar with the obviously lost younger son. Now you introduce the not so obvious, but just as lost older brother. The suspense – what choice would he make?

  2. Yes isn’t it ironic that many good people will go to hell, and many bad people will go to heaven.

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