Lessons from the Parables: Hope and Restoration—the Story of the Prodigal Son (2023)

As he did every day, the father walked from his home to the small hill where he could look down the road and see for several miles. He always thought, and hoped, that he would see a familiar figure heading his way.

His thoughts were always the same—a mixture of longing, of hope and of regret. When he failed to see what he'd hoped, he would turn and go about the business of the day. There was always work to be done. But there was also the empty place created by the one who a long while back had chosen to leave and go far away from his home.

The father remembered the day his son left the family. The young man wanted his portion of inheritance to go out on his own and make an independent life. It would create a hardship to divide off his portion earlier than planned. But the father did it, with regret, but knowing it was the only thing that could be done. His son would learn life's hardest lesson no other way.

Watching him go was the most difficult moment of the father's life, knowing that his son wasn't prepared for life and that he wouldn't listen to him for instruction or wisdom. When would he return? And when he did, could the family environment be the same?

This is the story Jesus Christ told in Luke 15, commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son. It recounts a son's departure from his father's home, the lessons he learns, and his return, wiser for the experience. It is also the story of a family's journey to reconciliation.

Families are the foundation of life. The biblical family is the model on which God is building a spiritual family of glorified sons and daughters. This parable tells of a son who was lost and then found. While it shows many details about a family, in the end one truth stands out—a father's patient endurance for the son he loves.

The story in brief

Let's review the account. A man had two sons. One day the younger came to him with a demand: He wanted an early disbursement of his inheritance. Despite the likely hardship that would come in taking this money from the estate, the father gave the son his portion. So off the young man went, into another life.

He traveled, it says, to a far country. Distance in a relationship is not always measured in miles. It would seem the distance in this relationship had grown to become quite vast long before he left the family home. The son no longer wanted to live under his father's roof.

Did he no longer respect his father? Had some longstanding unresolved tension between the two led to a severing of relations to where they could no longer "walk together" (Amos 3:3)?

The story allows almost anything to be read into it to provide an explanation. Father-son relations are beautiful to behold but also at times complex. Could it be that the son had emotionally left the home long before he physically walked out the door?

In time the son burned through his money and found himself penniless. High living beyond his means reduced him to doing manual labor for a daily wage. Using all the material enticements available to us today, it's easy to imagine how his money could've easily disappeared. A new car or expensive motorcycle. Costly meals. Entertaining and spending money on people whose friendship was dependent on his ample bank account—their friendship lasting only as long as he had money.

After working at a job that paid little and gave no satisfaction, he began to evaluate his situation. He was barely making enough money to buy food. It seems the animals that he fed ate better than he. No money. No friends. No good prospects.

A breakdown of relationships

What would you do in such a situation? Would pride prevent you from returning home or restoring a relationship? Would stubbornness push you toward self-

destructive behavior such as addiction to drugs or alcohol? Or perhaps you might feel your parent no longer loved you and would not want you back.

Perhaps you actually find yourself at present in a position similar to that of the son in the parable. You have been estranged from a parent or friend and feel you cannot return to him or her. You can't bring yourself to pick up the phone or reach out and begin to mend a broken relationship.

It's a sad feature of life today. We're connected by so much social media yet can't always connect at the deepest level of love and meaning. You can have hundreds, even thousands, of "friends" on Facebook but be all alone in your life at the most critical moments. It's vital to have friends and those we can talk with to receive counsel, encouragement and support. It also takes effort to keep the lines of communication open.

Returning to Christ's story, it now reaches the most critical point. The young man comes to himself when he realizes the servants in his father's home have plenty of food and don't go hungry. He says, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you'" (Luke 15:18).

Imagine the moment of humility. He's at the end of his rope. All his natural confidence is gone. He realizes he can't go forward on his own. He knows that he must return home. The journey is now at its most crucial moment.

It's never too late

How many of you are waiting for a child to return to you and your home—back to a relationship that may have been severed long ago? You think back over the long months and years—lost time that cannot be regained. Yet you haven't lost hope. You wait for a letter, an e-mail, a call or to hear footsteps on the path to your house. You know that someday it will happen, you just don't know when. A day doesn't go by that you don't think about your child.

The news recently carried a story about an 87-year-old man who was reunited with his daughter after 40 years. He had divorced her mother when the daughter was four, and he last saw her when she was 12. For more than 40 years he didn't see his child.

She grew up, married, had children and grandchildren. One day she called him on the phone and said, "This is Donna, your daughter." The man discovered he had a family he knew nothing about. He quickly agreed to meet and began making up for lost time, knowing time could not be regained but determined not to allow any more to be lost.

That is how it will be one day for those who wait. That is what this parable is talking about. The prodigals will return. They will come to a moment of clarity and say: "I want a relationship once again with those who love me and pray for me. I need to go home!"

A message about deep love

Jesus Christ gave this parable to encourage families. God's great plan of salvation is based on the family structure of a father and mother and children born within the love of a relationship based on His laws governing the family. And the basis of that law is love—the love of a parent for a child.

This parable shows the deep love of a father for his lost son. I can imagine him praying each day for his son's return, requesting God to guard him from harm, asking God to help the son even when the son's behavior didn't honor God. During these prayers the understanding that God wouldn't suspend the law of consequences didn't keep him from asking for God's mercy and goodness on the lad.

This parable is also about each of us. God the Father stands waiting for the time when each of His children will at last realize the need for a lasting and satisfying relationship with Him.

The image of family reconciliation and turning of hearts is quoted in one of the great prophetic messages of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:6). This parable of the lost son combined with this prophecy helps us to understand God's deep desire to bring reconciliation within His creation. Together these form a promise that you can take to His throne of grace and claim in full faith. When hearts turn to God, they will also return to those human relationships that have been broken through the years. You can count on it.

Holding out hope

The parable of the lost son is a parable for today. It offers hope for all who long for reconciliation. Whether it be with a child, a parent or a friend from the past, this story points to hope. It teaches that even when hope is deferred and the heart is sick, there is the promise that hope will blossom into a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).

Imagine for a moment the day the father goes out to the hill and at last sees his son coming up the road. What joy and elation he feels! His heart immediately reaches out to his returning son, his feet quickly propelling him forward to the exuberant embrace. Both father and son are together again, the distance bridged and the time apart forgotten.

His years of hope and longing are summed in the declaration, "This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:24).

You may think this is a good place to end. But the story goes on. There is the reaction of the older son. Remember him—the one who stayed and honored his father and worked to build the family business? At first he wasn't that happy over the return of his brother. When he came home that day and heard the noise from the celebration, he wondered what it was all about. When he heard his brother had returned home and a banquet was being held in his honor, it was more than he could handle.

He refused to join in the celebration. On hearing of his son's anger, the father pleaded with him to join in welcoming home his brother. But he couldn't because, as he put it: "These many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him" (Luke 15:29-30).

Once again the father showed his wisdom: "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found" (Luke 15:31-32).

The bond forged between the father and the older son could never be broken. The loyalty and dependability of the son here had been proven beyond doubt. Such relationships need no party or grand demonstration of fact. Trust was simply there.

I like to imagine the two brothers reconciling and their healed relationship becoming stronger and enduring through the years. The father lives on to see grandchildren run through his home with shouts of joy and fun. In his later years he thanks God for all of his family, and in time he dies, full of years and giving thanks to God with his last breath for His goodness and grace.

There is always hope for reconciliation. Pray for it and expect it. Never ever give up on God!


What are 3 moral lessons from the Parable of the Prodigal Son? ›

Lessons from the prodigal son
  • Lesson #1: God does not always get in the way of our sinful desires. ...
  • Lesson #2: Sometimes we want things before we are ready. ...
  • Lesson #3: Not everyone is happy about your spiritual growth. ...
  • Lesson #4: The journey of faith can be lonely sometimes.

What is the main message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son how can you show forgiveness to those who have sinned against you? ›

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father forgives his son when he returns and welcomes him home. In the same way, God waits for humans to realise what they have done wrong and ask for forgiveness and welcomes them back when they do.

What lesson do we learn from the prodigal son to children's? ›

The main message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son is that God loves us unconditionally, no matter what we have done. This story teaches us that no matter how far we stray from God, He is always willing to take us back and forgive us. This parable also shows us the importance of repentance and forgiveness.

What is the lesson objective about the prodigal son? ›

Prodigal Son Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to summarize the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Students will be able to express contrition for a sin they have committed. Students will feel the mercy of God.

What does the parable of the prodigal son reflect? ›

He wants to earn so that he won't have to rely on the goodness of another. He wants to take ownership of all the wrong things. So is the message of the parable of the Prodigal Son this: No matter how irresponsible you are, no matter what you've done, God will take you back. God will say: Everything is okay now.

What does the father represent in the prodigal son? ›

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father represents God and teaches us some valuable lessons concerning parenting. Christian fathers need to imitate the example of the father in this parable.

What did the prodigal son finally realize? ›

Finally, when the son was driven to his knees in pig mire, he realized he had made big mistakes, and was ready to plead to his father for a job. He felt he had failed so miserably that his father could never forgive him, but just maybe he would put him to work as a hired hand.

Is the parable of the Prodigal Son about forgiveness? ›

When the repentant son returns home, with the intention of begging his father to hire him as a servant, the father forgives him, replaces his rags with fine robes, and slaughters a fatted calf in preparation for a feast, welcoming the young man with open arms and great celebration.

What was the sin of the older brother of the prodigal son? ›

The older brother was so caught up in working that he forgot why he was living. He was working to earn his keep, working to earn his father's love. In all his toils, he forgot that love is not something to be earned, but given.

How is the story of the prodigal son helpful to children? ›

The son's transgressions were forgiven because he returned, and to his father, that was all that mattered. In a Christian context, the moral of the story is that, no matter what you've done, God will forgive you if you're willing to be humble and own up to your mistakes.

What are the points of the prodigal son sermon? ›

But he wanted the prodigal to learn three important lessons. (I) The father intended the prodigal son to cultivate a humble attitude. (II) For the prodigal son to know that consequences will follow his actions. (III) True happiness does not lie in having the things of the world.

What is the moral lesson of the story of the prodigal son brainly? ›

The moral of the prodigal son narrative is that God is willing to accept sinners who come to Him in trust and repentance. Explanation: Another moral is that when God blesses and protects individuals who turn to Him in honest faith, followers must not be jealous.

What is the moral of the parable of the two sons? ›

The Parable of Two Sons is about obedience and disobedience. Jesus' parable told the priests that they'd claimed to accept the message from God but they'd failed to live up to it by being obedient.

How did the prodigal son grow and change in the story? ›

Success is not the result of the young man's efforts; he wastes his inheritance and eventually ends up as an indentured servant, caring for pigs and even growing envious of them for the carob pods they consume.

What value is being emphasized in the parable of the lost son? ›

In this way, the parable emphasizes the forgiveness that will be offered to those who repent, as opposed to an open rebuke of the elder son for his oppositional response to his father's behavior.

How does the parable of the lost sheep relate to us today? ›

Jesus reminds us in this parable that every one of us is so precious to Him! He loves us so much and He will never give up on us, no matter what! He leaves the ninety-nine sheep that are safe to go to find that one lost little sheep because that sheep is so important to Him, just like each of us!

Why did the Prodigal Son leave? ›

The prodigal son informs his father that he wants his inheritance now. He wants to leave the safety of his home and family and seek after worldly pursuits (see Luke 15:12–13). Please note that in the Savior's parable the father lovingly responds by giving the son his inheritance.

What does the father represent explain? ›

In general, the title Father (capitalized) signifies God's role as the life-giver, the authority, and powerful protector, often viewed as immense, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent with infinite power and charity that goes beyond human understanding.

What are the gifts symbolic of in the prodigal son? ›

3 Gifts Every Prodigal has Received from the Father
  • The Best Robe, put it on him- This is the robe of righteousness. It is a robe of favor. ...
  • A Ring on his hand- The ring is the sign of covenant. ...
  • Shoes on his feet- The shoes are a sign of the journey.
Feb 17, 2017

What is the biblical meaning of prodigal? ›

Prodigal means wastefully extravagant or giving on a lavish scale. Though they sound similar, between those two definitions is a world of difference. You see, God is never wasteful, imprudent, or reckless. God is in every way perfectly generous, perfectly lavish, and perfectly bounteous.

Why is it called prodigal son? ›

a figure in a parable of Jesus (Luke 15:11–32); a wayward son who squanders his inheritance but returns home to find that his father forgives him.

What do the parables teach us? ›

The parables describe ordinary circumstances and situations that people can understand easily, but their moral lessons teach us how to live as faithful Christians, as God intended. Jesus used parables to teach the people about God's Kingdom and the way to salvation.

What is the resolution of the prodigal son? ›

Resolution (Denouement): The Prodigal Son Departs

Ames promises Jack that he'll say goodbye to Jack's father for him. Jack leaves. Ames concludes his letter, hoping that by means his prayers and his letters, he'll be close to his own son.

Why is the father ready to forgive his son even if he turns prodigal? ›

He wants to maintain a healthy relationship with his son. The father wants that his prodigal son may return to his home and start living under the same roof with him. He doesn't want that he should create and live in a world of his own. The father is ready to have his prodigal son return.

What is the moral of the parable of the man who wouldn t forgive? ›

Jesus taught that God is willing to let us off a debt we cannot repay, so we should be ready to forgive others. The servant who did not forgive was tortured. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the way a person feels when they cannot forgive. They remain bitter and resentful and end up suffering the most.

Which parable tells us that God will always forgive us? ›

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant lesson was that we must forgive others their sin against us if we want our sins against God to be forgiven.

What is the main problem in the story of prodigal son? ›

The problem with this is clear; the son didn't have to work or earn the money given to him. By doing so he didn't teach the younger son disciple or hard work. The younger son with having everything handed to him life never learned important skills and lessons.

Why did the elder son refuse to forgive his younger brother? ›

He thought his brother's sinfulness was unforgivable.

His father might be willing to forgive, but by golly, he wouldn't! His standards were higher than his father's. This sin was unforgivable.

What does prodigal mean which of the two brothers is prodigal? ›

Which of the two brothers is prodigal? Prodigal is defined as being wastefully extravagant. The younger brother is prodigal, spending. his inheritance with “riotous living”, making him prodigal compared to his older brother.

What is the father's greatest wish for his son? ›

The father's greatest wish is for his son to be 'The Prodigal' son who will very soon return to his father's house; the home which he always knew.

What is the lesson of Luke 15? ›

Jesus' teaching in Luke 15 is geared toward a heart transformation. He wants us all to see that, whether sinner or Pharisee, we are all broken. The prodigal son is written for the Pharisee to see the pride they harbor in their own works, and because of this they miss the glory of God in salvation.

What is the lesson of Luke 15 1 32? ›

It is without love, humility, and compassion; once we turn our away from Our Father. However, his love and mercy endures all our sins and rejection to Him. Regardless of what we did or how many of us have sinned, he will always love and accept us. We are always be found and seen by Him.

What are the characteristics of the prodigal son? ›

The young son showed traits such as selfishness as well as being ungrateful. He had no worth for his father's property nor did he want to work alongside his father on the family farm. He therefore left behind his father and older brother in search of a better life.

Does the father want his son to lead an independent life? ›

The father knows that his son desires to lead an independent life however, he sees no sense in this and wants his son to return to his ( the father's) house in which the son had lived as a child. He says that he would rather have his son return to him than see him create his own world and settle somewhere else.

What are 3 moral lessons from the parable of the prodigal son? ›

Lessons from the prodigal son
  • Lesson #1: God does not always get in the way of our sinful desires. ...
  • Lesson #2: Sometimes we want things before we are ready. ...
  • Lesson #3: Not everyone is happy about your spiritual growth. ...
  • Lesson #4: The journey of faith can be lonely sometimes.

What are three 3 moral lessons we can learn from the parable of the prodigal son? ›

Some of the lessons we can learn from this story include the importance of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. The story of the Prodigal Son begins with a young man who leaves his father's house to pursue a life of sin. He squanders his father's money on wine, women, and gambling.

Who are the three main characters in the Prodigal Son and who do they represent? ›

Justus Knecht, like others, breaks this parable into three parts noting that, "The father in the parable signifies God; the elder son. the just; and the younger son, the sinner." In the first part: "Man begins to fall away from God by allowing unlawful desires to take possession of his heart.

What is your reflection about the Parable of the Prodigal Son? ›

It teaches us the importance of genuine repentance. This son didn't stay in this foreign country, continuing to live a sinful life, but rather he left it, abandoned his evil, misguided, and sinful ways, and returned home to beg forgiveness and mercy from his father.

What is the impact of the parable on you? ›

The Parable Effect is the magical quality that allows a reader or listener to be transported into the mind of the story's protagonist– essentially turning on the empathy switch in our brains. Jesus understood the power of parable to change the minds of those who feared change.

What mistakes do you think the prodigal son made that kept him far away from his father? ›

In the parable of the prodigal son he wanted his freedom and he never needed his father anymore. He asked his father for the portion of goods he had coming (money; the share of his estate). “I want my money (what is mine). I am leaving home for greener pastures.” That was the prodigal son's first mistake.

Why did Jesus teach in parables? ›

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus asked His listeners to understand an intangible reality they couldn't see with their physical eyes—the kingdom of God. He knew they could only engage this reality with the eyes of their hearts, so He chose to use stories—what we commonly call parables—to illustrate His meaning.

Which parable teaches us about obedience? ›

The Parable of the Nobleman: A Lesson in Obedience.

What is the lesson of the parable of the two builders? ›

Jesus shared his Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders to illustrate the folly of not listening to him. Today, those who hear and obey his words are like the person who builds a house on a firm foundation, unlike those who hear but ignore his words.

Why did the father want his son to be a prodigal son? ›

father loves his son a lot and is ready to forgive him. he wants him to return back as prodigal son in the bible who went away from the home, spent his all money and realized his mistake and asked his father for forgiveness and in return father also forgived him.

What can we learn from the brother of the prodigal son? ›

The older brother was so caught up in working that he forgot why he was living. He was working to earn his keep, working to earn his father's love. In all his toils, he forgot that love is not something to be earned, but given. Furthermore, the love of a father, at least our Heavenly one, is unconditional.

Who are the three main characters in the prodigal son and who do they represent? ›

Justus Knecht, like others, breaks this parable into three parts noting that, "The father in the parable signifies God; the elder son. the just; and the younger son, the sinner." In the first part: "Man begins to fall away from God by allowing unlawful desires to take possession of his heart.

What can we learn from the three parables in Luke 15? ›

These three parables illustrate our responsibility to diligently seek out those who have become separated from God, the joy that attends their return to Him, and the love God has for all of His children.

What do the parables in Luke Chapter 15 serve to teach about? ›

The parables recorded in Luke 15 were the Savior's response to the Pharisees and scribes after they had condemned Him for eating and drinking with sinners. Seen in this context, these parables contain not only words of hope for the repentant sinner but also a strong rebuke against self-righteousness.

What can we learn from luke 3 15 22? ›

Gospel: Luke 3, 15-16.21-22.

I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

What is the main lesson of the parable? ›

We Must Put Our Talents into Action

This is evident not only in this particular parable, but in several other Bible stories. God rewards those who put considerable effort into bettering their lives and the lives of those in their community. He does not command us to bury our talents and sit back, awaiting salvation.

What is the central message of the parable? ›

Although the meaning of a parable is often not explicitly stated, it is not intended to be hidden or secret but to be quite straightforward and obvious. The defining characteristic of the parable is the presence of a subtext suggesting how a person should behave or what he should believe.


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