Return Of A Wayward Son. AG Sunday School Manual.

Return Of A Wayward Son. AG Sunday School Manual.

 

 

Memory Verse: Luke 15:22

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 (KJV).

Central Truth

God’s heart is to see lost people lovingly reconciled to Him.

The Lesson Outline
1. Degradation of Wasteful Living

A. Squandered Wealth

Luke 15:11-13
B. Physical and Spiritual Poverty

Luke 15:14-16

2. Penitent Return and Joyful Reception
A. A Harsh Realisation

Luke 15:17-19

B. A Welcoming Father
Luke 15:20-24

3. Jealous Spirit Reproved
A. Refusing To Celebrate

Luke 15:25-30

B. The Father’s Great Love
Luke 15:31-32

Learning Objectives
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to: 1. Examine the detailed image of God’s love for the sinner in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

2. Better appreciate God’s love toward all those who turn from their sin and receive forgiveness in Christ.

3. Examine their hearts to see if their attitudes align with God’s love and priorities regarding all
people.

Introducing the Lesson
Jesus saves all who are willing to follow Him in faith, but this bothered those who criticised His openness to associate with sinners (Luke 15:2).
To illustrate God’s joy over all who turn to Him, and to confront leaders with their own wrong ideas about who God loves, Jesus told three parables. The first two dealt with a lost sheep and a lost coin (verses 3-10). The third, most often called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, is the most detailed. It uses a broken family to reflect an individual’s broken relationship with God, as well as God’s deep desire for restoration to take place.

The Holy Scriptures
Luke 15:11-20,22-25,28-29

[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.
[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 want.
[15]And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
[16]And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
[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!
[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.
[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 merry.
[25]Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
[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:

Commentary and Application
1. Degradation of Wasteful Living
A. Squandered Wealth– Luke 15:11-13

The Parable of the Prodigal Son begins as a wealthy man-who had land and servants was approached by the younger of his two sons. Not wanting to wait until his father died to receive his inheritance, the Son asked for it immediately (Luke 15:11-12). According to the Law, the firstborn son received a double portion of his father’s estate: accordingly, the younger son in the parable was entitled to one-third of his father’s wealth (see Deuteronomy 21:15-17). The father acted immediately, dividing his property between his two sons.

 

It seems clear that the younger son had wanted to depart for some time, desiring a lifestyle of serving only himself, far from his home. As the parable continues, his lack of preparation for the future becomes painfully apparent. He saves none of his inheritance, wasting it all on “wild living” (Luke 15:13, NLT).

 

The son’s journey to a distant land was not only physical- a journey of miles–but spiritual. Leaving his family behind, he revelled in the opportunity to cast off all restraints of wisdom and godliness. Instead, he plunged into loose, foolish, and reckless living. As he wasted his inheritance, he surrounded himself with others wasting their lives as well.

Questions for Application
How, and why, can matters of wealth and inheritance create a rift, even in Christian families?

What are some kinds of “distant country” temptations that present themselves today, and how can we overcome them?

B. Physical and Spiritual Poverty–Luke 15:14-16

The wayward son’s lack of foresight and preparation would soon catch up with him (Luke 15:14). Just as his wealth was gone, the entire country he was in experienced a famine. (These calamities usually resulted from adverse weather or crop disease.) In the context of the parable, it seems this development happens as if by God’s own hand, in the same way that God sent both the storm and the great fish in the life the rebellious prophet Jonah (see Jonah 1:4,17). Suddenly, the son was in need, on the verge of starving.

 

Having worked only for his father, the younger son now sought to work for a local farmer (Luke 15:15). The setting of the parable is Gentile territory, and this Jewish man found himself in the degrading work of feeding pigs–unclean animals, forbidden for consumption by Jewish law (see Leviticus 11:7-8). As a result, Jesus’ Jewish listeners would have easily recognised the depth to which the younger son had fallen.

 

In this time of famine, the son did not earn enough to meet his needs, and no one else was offering him anything either (Luke 15:16). All he could think of was how good the pigs’ food looked–pods that some identify as those of the carob tree, an evergreen native to the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. Sadly, the younger son had gone from eating at his father’s table to wishing he could dine on the disgusting food of pigs, all because of his reckless, sinful choices.

Questions for Application
How did the younger son’s terrible choices prepare him for his eventual, humble return to his father? What can this teach us about sin today?

Do you think God might use poverty and pain to lead someone back to Him? Give examples from the Bible, or even your own experience.

2. Penitent Return and Joyful Reception

A. A Harsh Realisation–Luke 15:17-19

The turning point of the Prodigal Son’s life takes place when he “came to his senses” (Luke 15:17, NLT). He realised his father’s kindness and generosity, even toward his hired workers. When he lived in his father’s house, his judgement was clouded by his desire to escape the bounds of responsibility and right living. Now, suffering in hunger among a herd of pigs, he could picture the “food enough to spare” (NLT) enjoyed by those working for his father.

 

The Prodigal’s return was better planned than his departure into a life of sin. Most importantly, he was not only returning to his friends and home; he was returning to his father, the very one who was central to the account of his leaving (verse 18). Knowing he had fallen short of both his earthly father’s standards ant those of God himself, he planned to open his appeal by admitting his wrongdoing. Realising that his actions did not reflect the values of his father, the son would also confess his unworthiness to bear his father’s name (verse 19). Further, he would not expect to return to his previous status as son, but would take his place among his father’s hired
servants. In all this, the actions of the Prodigal revealed that he trusted his father to receive him-at least as a hired labourer.

 

Questions for Application
In what ways can temptation to sin blind a person to the blessings God has placed in his or her life?
Why is it crucial that those coming to Christ realise they have sinned not only against loved ones and human authority, but against God himself?

B. A Welcoming Father–Luke 15:20-24
The father had been looking for his son’s return, and his wait was finally over (Luke 15:20). The father responded with compassion. Instead of lecturing his destitute son about his moral and financial errors, he ran to him and welcomed him with open arms. Instead of hardening his heart toward the son who insisted on leaving the estate, his heart was filled with a love that had anticipated his return. The vivid detail Jesus used represents, in a sense, the way that God the Father treats those who go to Him in repentance. The Prodigal’s father running, embracing, and kissing his errant son provides a picture of total welcome and acceptance, Note that Luke 15 begins with the religious leaders complaining that Jesus welcomed and ate with sinners (verse 2), God’s attitude toward the lost contrasts starkly with that of these self- righteous individuals, people who were content both to ignore and to reject those they considered beneath them.

 

The parable continues with the father interrupting his son’s planned speech (verses 21-22). Before the son could ask to become a hired servant, the father did the opposite of what the son was expecting. Having heard his son’s confession of sin, he commanded his servants to treat the son like royalty. The robe was fitting for a guest of honour. The ring was not only a sign of luxury and wealth: it also stood for family authority. The sandals signified status; his footwear may have worn out on the journey
home.

 

The father spared no expense in the celebration, ordering that the fattened calf-kept ready for such an occasion-be killed for a feast (verse 23). The reason for the celebration was simple; his son, feared dead, had returned alive. Lost to those who loved him, he was now found. The terminology of “dead” and “alive” refers elsewhere in the Bible to the difference between a sinful condition art and salvation (verse 24; see Ephesians 2:1-5). In addition, “lost” and “found” connect this parable with those of the lost sheep and the lost coin earlier in Luke 15; in each of these three parables, God’s joy in a restored relationship with penitent sinners is at the forefront.

Questions for Application
Why is It important for Christians to emphasise God’s great love when they share the gospel with others?

What are some ways We can declare God’s joy over new believers and backsliders who have returned to God?

3. Jealous Spirit Reproved
A. Refusing to Celebrate–Luke 15:25-30
In Luke 15:25, the older son-not mentioned since the beğinning of the parable- returned from his work in the field. From the house came the sound of music and dancing. (Note that this terminology is used in various biblical instances to celebrate God and His works; see Exodus 15:19-21; 2 Samuel 6:14-15). Interestingly, the older son had no idea what was going on. (This detail of the parable may infer that the older son had distanced himself from the family to some degree; see verses 26-31.) When the older son found out the reason for the great celebration-his younger brother’s safe return-he refused to take part (verses 26-28).

 

In verse 20, the father had gone out deliberately to receive the repentant younger son. In verse 28, he deliberately went out to plead with his proud, stubborn, older son to join the celebration. His love for both of them is evident. In the same way,
God’s love reaches out to the unsaved, to the new believer, and to those struggling to grow in their walk with Christ.

 

The younger son had confessed his wrongdoing. Now, the older son drew attention to his own years of faithful, but heartless, service (verse 29). This verse includes a strong imperative word in Greek, which can be translated “Lo!” (KJV); “Look!” “Behold!”; or “See!” In this setting, it was a very disrespectful word for the older son to use toward his father, as seen in what follows in verse 29. One can sense a degree of animosity toward the father in this.

 

The older son complained that despite all of his Work, he had never been given even a young goat for a feast-a lesser gift than a fattened calf-as a reward. He also distanced himself from his younger brother, calling him “this son of yours” when speaking with the father (verse 30, NLT). He was disgusted that his father celebrated the return of his sinful, wasteful brother. Like the religious leaders whom Jesus was addressing, the older son could not understand the forgiveness and acceptance of someone who had strayed so far away from God’s plan.

 

Questions for Application
What are some lessons you can learn from the parable thus far?

How may long-term believers might be tempted to feel jealousy for the attention given to new believers or returning backsliders?

B. The Father’s Great Love–Luke 15:31-32
When the younger son returned, the father did all that was needed to celebrate his well-being and repentance. For the older son, the father did all that was needed both to assure him of their relationship and to emphasise the need to celebrate the wayward brother’s return (Luke 15:31-32). Addressing him tenderly as “dear son” (NLT), the father then acknowledged the son’s continued presence over the years. The father also affirmed the availability of his wealth to him; the older son would lose nothing as a result of the grace showed to his younger brother.

 

However, the father also pressed the need to celebrate the Prodigal’s return (verse 32). Yet, it was not only appropriate to celebrate the younger son’s return; but it was morally necessary. The son had been lost and apparently dead, yet now he had come back safe and sound into the loving arms of his father.

In all three parables of this chapter, there is a call to rejoice when the lost sheep, lost coin, or lost son is found. The Parable of the Prodigal
Son illustrates this need the most completely of the three. Mature believers must guard against attitudes of self-righteousness, and celebrate whenever someone receives Christ, as well as whenever a prodigal returns in repentance.

 

Questions for Application
What are some examples of the “wealth” God’s children enjoy in this life?

 

How can a church balance ministry to the lost, discipleship of new believers, and long-term
discipleship for mature,
believers?

Call to Discipleship
How should we treat those coming to Christ, as well as those returning to the faith? Although tempted to inspect their sincerity, our primary response must be joy great joy. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus used an earthly father to illustrate God’s response to each and every human being who turns to Him and receives the forgiveness available in Christ. The Prodigal Son was received with gladness, compassion, and extravagance after coming to his senses and returning home to his father. Since Scripture describes rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of the lost (see Luke 15:7), Christians as individuals and as the Church- should celebrate as well when a person enters the family of God. Such a response not only honours God, who saved them, but it also provides a rich and memorable welcome in the church to those who have accepted Christ.

 

Ministry in Action
Examine your attitude toward new believers. Are you judgemental or supportive about their new life in Christ?

Find ways to include new believers in activities with mature believers. Be intentional about making connections that can last a lifetime.

Ask God to work through you to draw non-Christians to Him, and prodigals back to Him.

 

 

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