The Parable of the Forgiving Father
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus Christ told the story of what has come to be known as the Parable of
the Prodigal Son. To understand why he told this story and to whom he told this story gives more
depth and understanding to this story. Also, knowing that this is a parable and knowing what a
parable is gives us cleared understanding of this passage.
The publicans and sinners in verse one where there, yes, but, who else was there? The Pharisees
Luke 15:1-3 (KJV)
1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
“Them,” them who? The scribes and the Pharisees. Understand that a pronoun is controlled by it
closest associated noun, in this case the scribes and the Pharisees. The publicans and sinners
could hear him, but, he was looking directly at the scribes and Pharisees.
Now a parable is an extended simile and a simile is a figure of speech which compares two
things by likeness. For example, someone might say about a fast runner, “he was like lighting.”
Or someone might say someone who eats a lot “he eats like a cow.
A parable is an extended simile and is made up of two Greek words, para and ballo. Para means
“beside” and ballo means “to cast or throw.” It literally means to cast along side of a narrative
with a hidden meaning.
The meaning consists in likeness and is usually in one salient or great truth. An example of this
is Christ being compared to a thief in the night. He is not a thief, but, the one great truth is the
unexpectedness, the suddenness of his coming.
Another thing to know is that a parable must be possible. If it is not possible, like trees talking, it
would be a fable.
Knowing these truths 1) Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and scribes and 2) he is telling a story
that has a hidden meaning let us read this parable.
Luke 15:11-32 (KJV)
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.
Notice that one son asks for his inheritance, but, the other son doesn’t. The father loved both of
them and treated them the same.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.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to
Feeding swine is as low down as a Jew can get! There is no lower station in life. The Jews,
especially the scribes and Pharisees wouldn’t even think about touching a pig let alone care for
them. Also, in that culture when a man tends a herd of swine he is counted as one of them. He
eats what they eat he lives with them and when the owner of the herd is asked how many pigs he
has, if he has ninety-nine and he has one herdsman taking care of them he would say he has one
In verse sixteen the word “fain” is to desire or to lust after. Not only did he have to eat the husks
he was so hungry he wanted to, he lusted after them.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave
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!
He came to himself! Hallelujah! I could teach a few sermons on this! The day in a man’s or
woman’s life when they wake up and see the situation and know there is a better way is great
freedom. It is like a cool breeze on a hot day. It is life changing.
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven,
and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
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.
Why did the father see him? Because the father was watching! Just like God. God is always there
he never leaves us or forsakes us. He doesn’t walk away from us, we turn our backs on him, we
walk away AND YET God is always watching, always waiting for us to come back! God
hungers for fellowship with his sons and daughters. If we only knew how much. If we would
only come to ourselves and say “my father has more than the things of this World. My father can
and WILL take care of me.” What a day that would be in our lives!
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.
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:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard
musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
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.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
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:
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.
“I did everything right, father and he did everything wrong. Why on earth would you kill that
fatted calf.” What should have been the son’s response? One of happiness that his brother was
alive and had returned. Instead, it was a response of anger and of jealousy. But, what does the
father do? He lovingly set his son straight.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
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.
This parable is not a parable of a prodigal son. They were both prodigal. In different ways, but, both
were way off track. Yet, the father forgave them both.
What is the hidden meaning to this parable? Jesus was standing in the midst of two diverse groups, the
publicans and sinners (who the scribes and Pharisees distained) and the haughty and self-righteous
scribes and Pharisees. Two groups so far apart, so off the beam. Both were gone astray, but, God was
waiting to forgive and bless each and every one of them.
This is not the Parable of the Prodigal Son, this is the Parable of the Loving and Forgiving Father, God.