In the teachings of Jesus to the masses that often thronged around him, he used parables to illustrate some important spiritual messages. The parables were mainly based on common-to-life encounters. In Luke 15, Jesus taught three interrelated parables, the most outstanding is the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
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The parables in this instance were generated after the Pharisees and the lawyers criticized Jesus for the supposed welcoming of sinners and dining with them. A common element of truth cuts across the three parables. The parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost son both teach that God is interested in the lost and that the whole host of heaven rejoices when a sinner forsakes his way and turn back to God.
In the third parable, instead of replicating this truth verbatim, He permits the actions of the characters to drive the point home. Furthermore, since these parables were a rebuke to the Pharisees who were offended at the efforts of Jesus to save the lost, the central truth applies to us today as God requires us to be concerned about the lost souls and be pleased about their repentance.
Three different groups of people are brought to focus in Luke 15:1-2: Jesus, the leaders of the Jews, and the sinners. Jesus was preparing the sinners for His Kingdom, while the Jewish leaders were condemning His moves. Jesus, therefore, gives the parables to explain His deeds and to rebuke the bigotry of the religious leaders.
The critic in the parable of the lost son is the elder son. He was not caring that his younger brother had gotten lost. Even though the father was anxiously looking forward to the return of his lost son, the older brother was indifferent; he was busy in the field attending to other matters. In addition, when his brother came back, instead of rejoicing, he criticized his father’s love and ready forgiveness toward the lost son.
The immediate application of this teaching of Jesus is derived from His figurative connection of the older son to the religious leaders at the sight. In direct representation of the older son, the religious leaders were most of the time indifferent to the needs of the sinners, even contemptuous at times. They showed no effort to bring the lost to repentance. In comparison to the older brother, they were more occupied with other things. They were comfortable in showing publicly how much they have kept the laws of God and engaging in theological disagreements. Nevertheless, many around them were deprived of spiritual food, but they dared not teach them the ways of God. The lack of spiritual love was evident in them. These self-centered individuals even disregarded the efforts of the One who was making efforts to save the lost: they criticized Jesus. In this regard, it is possible to assume that when the sinners repented and returned to God, they did not rejoice.
Is there something we can learn from this parable as God’s people living today? The same spiritual trap that entangled the religious leaders is likely to ensnare us. This incident was written for our example. We should be like Jesus in showing compassion to the lost in bringing them back to God, be pleased about spiritual growth when it occurs, and avoid criticizing the efforts of other people in reaching to the lost.