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Lesson 10: The Prodigal's New Clothes *

Introduction: Jesus tells us in Luke 7:47 that those who are forgiven much, love much. Those who are forgiven little, love little. Have you been "good" your entire life? Were you obedient to your parents, the school authorities and the state authorities? Were you always in church and still are? If I'm describing you, then identifying a specific time that you were converted is hard, right? If none of this sounds familiar, were you always getting in trouble? If you have been "bad," but are in church now, you undoubtedly clearly recall your conversion experience. Now that we all know who we are, what if God told us a story whose point is that good people are not entering the Kingdom of Heaven? Let's dive into our Bible study and learn more!

  1. The Setting

    1. Read Luke 15:1-2. Describe the audience listening to Jesus?

      1. Which group came willingly and which group came with complaints? (Jesus had no trouble bringing open sinners to His meetings. The "good" people were griping, however.)

      2. Are open sinners flocking to your church each Sabbath?

        1. If not, are you teaching like Jesus did?

        2. Consider whether you would be complaining about a big influx of sinners?

    2. Skim Luke 15:3-10. Jesus tells two stories about something that was lost and found. We understand these to be "Kingdom of Heaven" parables - stories about those who are lost and God's attitude towards giving them eternal life.

  2. The Younger Son

    1. Read Luke 15:11-12. Contemplate this text from the point of view of the father. What does the young son want? What does he not want? (He wants your money. He does not want you. He wants life to be as if you were dead.)

      1. Tell me, parents, how does this feel?

    2. How do you think the father holds his wealth? (The text says "share of the estate" and "property." The Greek translated "property" is "bios" or life. When a farmer reduces his acreage by one-third (the younger gets one-third, see Deuteronomy 21:17), his life, his status in the community, is reduced. The land is his life.)

    3. Read Luke 15:13-16. If you came up to the younger son and he asked you for a loan, what would be his story? On what basis would he say he would repay you? (It would be natural for him to blame the severe famine. It is not "his fault!" He will get his money back.)

    4. Read Luke 15:17. What does it mean for him to "come to his senses?" (He realized that he had failed. Whatever the impact of the famine, he had not survived financially.)

      1. Is it sometimes a blessing to fail?

    5. Read Luke 15:18-19. Do you think the son rehearsed this speech as he walked back home?

      1. Explain the son's opening negotiating position? (Tim Keller's excellent Prodigal God (on which much of this study is based) explains that the son wanted to be a hired tradesman so that he could pay back what he had taken from the father.)

  3. The Father

    1. Read Luke 15:20. Does the father, who has been embarrassed and discarded by this selfish son, treat the son as the son has treated him?

    2. Read Luke 15:21-24. How much of the son's rehearsed opening negotiation position gets out? (Only the confession. The offer of repayment is drowned out by the father's welcome.)

      1. What does a feast represent in Jesus' Kingdom stories? (The Kingdom of Heaven: Matthew 22, Luke 14. See also, Revelation 19.)

      2. When the younger son is invited to the feast as a full-fledged son, what does that symbolize? (He is saved. Salvation comes to Him as a free-gift when he: a)Comes to his senses; and, b) Returns, in confession, to his Father. The Father is not even interested in hearing about repayment.)

  4. The Older Son

    1. Read Luke 15:25-27. We just discussed how salvation is a free gift for the younger son. Was it really free? Or, was it coming out of the pocket of the older son? (It was certainly coming out of the older son's pocket!)

    2. Read Luke 15:28-30. How does the older brother react to losing his property to the younger son?

      1. Recall that the younger son cared about his father's property, but not his father. How would you describe the attitude of the older son towards his father? (If he loved his father, he would want to rejoice with the father. Instead, he is very disrespectful of the father and the father's wishes. He viewed his father as being stingy with him ("young goat" not "fattened calf"). Thus, the property and not the father was utmost in his mind.)

      2. How different are the younger and older sons? Do they have the same goal (property, not dad), but only differ as to the method of achieving their goal?

      3. If you are a faithful church member, how important to you are God's blessings and protection?

        1. How would you value God's "property" versus God's presence?

        2. How does this work in your life: if you have less "property" do you have more of God's "presence?" Are you forced to trust and rely on God more if you have less?

      4. Does the older son enter the feast? (No.)

        1. Why? Look again at what the older son says. (He is: a) Too good for this ("I've been slaving" while the younger has been "with prostitutes"); and, b) He is angry with the generous nature of the Father.("This son of yours" for whom you "kill the fattened calf."))

        2. Is the older son lost eternally, and the younger son saved eternally? (The older son does not enter the father's feast.)

          1. Read Luke 15:31-32. What does it mean to be "always with me?" (The issue is whether having "God's stuff" and being with God (here) is the same as salvation. It is a debatable question, and I may well be wrong, but I vote that refusing God's invitation to enter the feast because you are too good and too concerned about your property is eternally fatal.)

        3. Think back to Jesus' audience. How does this story relate to those two groups?

          1. Which is your group?

  5. The Missing Person

    1. When you consider the first two stories of Luke 15, what is the common theme in them that is missing in the story of the two brothers? (No one is seeking to find the lost younger brother.)

      1. In the story of the two brothers, who should naturally be the one to go searching? (The older brother.)

        1. Why didn't he search? (He didn't want the younger brother back. He valued his property over his brother and over the joy of his father.)

        2. Before his financial collapse, would the younger brother have taken the time to look for the older brother? (No. He was too busy enjoying his property. He was focused on himself.)

    2. Who is the missing "Older Brother" in our story? (Jesus. He came to find us.)

      1. Is anyone in the story looking for the lost? (Notice that in Luke 15:20 the father looks for the younger son and runs to him. In Luke 15:28 the father leaves the feast to go out and plead with his older son.)

      2. If you are in church, are you a proper older brother to the sinners and tax collectors?

      3. To what extent does your concern for preserving your property get in the way of you helping "younger brothers" in your church?

    3. Friend, if you are reading this, my guess is that you are an "older brother." Will you ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight into your heart to answer the question: "Do I love the blessings from serving God more than I love the God who died for me?" "Do my good works and my concern about myself keep me from entering into salvation?"

  6. Next week: The Wedding Garment.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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