Luke Series- Session 15- The Tale of the Compassionate Father

Session 15- The Tale of the Compassionate Father

Luke 15:11-32

Lesson Resources:

Subject: God the Father

Central Theme:  God’s the Father’s relationship with sinners

Objective Statement:  We can understand God’s relationship with sinners by observing three pictures found in the parable of the compassionate Father.

Keyword: Picture

  1. A Picture of Repentance- The Prodigal Son.
  2. A Picture of Forgiveness- The Father
  3. A Picture of Resentment- The Elders Son



  • Growing up in church, there were times where we would give people the opportunity to give a testimony.
  • Do you remember that? Did they do that in your church?
  • People would stand up, and would say something about what God was teaching them at the time, or how God had blessed them, or answered some kind of prayer request.
  • I remember people often saying, “Well, first I want to thank God for my salvation.” I think that was always a good thing.
  • I remember hearing people’s salvation testimonies, some of which told about overt, rebellious, “really bad” sins, and how that God had rescued them out of that kind of a life.
  • I loved hearing about those kinds of testimonies, and seeing them first hand.
  • And I remember thinking that my testimony wasn’t exactly like that.
  • I remembered thinking that maybe that those people had a different relationship with God than I did, because I had never done those kinds of things.


  • In our human thinking we categorize sins and we categorize kinds of sinners.
  • This went on in Jesus day, too.
  • People would categorize people into the good and the bad.
  • Jesus came to teach something very different about how God sees sin, and how He sees sinners.

We can understand God’s relationship with sinners by observing three pictures found in the parable of the compassionate Father.

  1. A Picture of Repentance- The Prodigal Son



  • In today’s text we are going to focus on the first of three characters in the parable. All three of the main characters are related to us in verse 11:


(11)  And he said, A certain man had two sons:


  • The first son, known as the prodigal son, shows us a picture of what repentance looks like.


(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.


  • Many have made the observation that in a Jewish context this would have been the utmost dishonor.  Asking the Father to give Him his inheritance would be akin to wishing He was dead. Even in our context that would be a dishonorable thing.  Yet the Father went along with the request.


(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.


  • He uses His dad’s inheritance to live a life that was completely opposed to the Fathers values.  He was bringing shame to His Father’s name. For the Jewish listener, the fact that He was going into gentile lands to live like the worst of the gentiles was highly dishonorable to His parents. To waste the inheritance showed that the son did not respect what it took for His Father to acquire what He had.  Thus the inheritance was “wasted” on “riotous living”.


  • The word “wasted” in the original language has the idea of scattering. It is the picture of irresponsibly throwing goods and objects of value away.


  • We all have a good idea on what “riotous living” means.  Not much has changed over time.  He spent his money on food, drink, drugs, promiscuous sex, ungodly entertainment, and other sinful pursuits.  This was the worst kind of living.  We know that in the end he had nothing of value to show for it.


(14)  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.


  • He probably made plans to figure out how he would be ok financially, and yet, the unexpected happened.  There was a famine.  The economy changed, and he was out of money.  He had spent in a short time what it took his dad’s lifetime to achieve.


(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.


  • He had to get the kind of job that would have been among the most dishonorable, even for him. He wasn’t even able to watch sheep.  He had to watch pigs.  Pigs were ceremonially unclean.
  • He didn’t even get paid enough to feed himself.  He was at the lowest of low points, looking to eat what the pigs were eating. No man gave to him.  He had not made one friend that was loyal to him. When he had money there were people around, but now at his lowest point, no one was willing to help.

(17)  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my fathers have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!


  • “And when he came to himself” is an incredible expression.
  • He hit bottom and it helped him to think correctly.  It’s almost as if good, common sense was finally a part of his thinking once He got to the lowest point.
  • So, He makes a plan.

(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.


  • Notice the nature of repentance here.


  • There was a change of mind.  “He came to himself”.
  • There was a confession.  “I have sinned against heaven and before thee”.  This was a right estimation of what He had done.  Sin is always against God before it is against anyone else.
  • There was a right evaluation. He said “and am no longer worthy to be called thy son”.


(20)  And he arose, and came to his father.


  • His thinking lead to not just a confession, but to a decision, and behavior.
  • He came to himself, then he thought write, then he came to a decision, then he followed through and returned.



  • There are several truths about sin and repentance we can observe in this part of the story.
  • First, there is pleasure in sin for a season. The prodigal was tempted by “freedom” that he thought was available by riotous living.  Sin seems as though it will bring freedom and fun.  We tend to think that we will be immune from any of the negative effects of sin, and just enjoy the


  • Yet, sin cost him more than he thought. Which leads to the second truth.  There is always a cost to sin.  There is an old saying which has some truth to it.  “Sin will take you father than you wanted go, cost you more than you wanted to pay, and makes you stay longer than you wanted to stay.  When the prodigal asked his dad for the inheritance, there is little evidence that He thought it would end in him eating in the pigpen.


  • Thirdly, we see that repentance begins with a change of mind. The prodigal “came to himself”.  You can see the evidence of this thinking in the 18.  He recognizes that what he has done is sin, and even recognizes who he has sinned against.  He sees his actions as sin against God and against his father.  For us there is this truth that nothing changes until there is a change in thinking.  Changing your thinking isn’t enough, but nothing changes until that changes.  We must have a renewed mind.
  • Lastly, we see that a change in mind that is true repentance leads to a change in behavior. In the coming verses we will see that the change of mind leads to a return to the Father.

We can understand God’s relationship with sinners by observing three pictures found in the parable of the compassionate Father.

1.    A Picture of Repentance- The Prodigal Son

  1. A Picture of Forgiveness- The Compassionate Father

(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.



  • The second character we will look at is the father. He is a picture of the forgiveness of God. 
  • Once the son came to himself, action preceded. He got up and went to his father.  When we see the response of the father it is incredible.  There is so much significance in his actions in this one verse.
  • His Father saw him at some distance. This means that his father was looking for him.  The parent with the wayward child may understand this circumstances.  There must have been a lot of praying and a lot of watching.  And now, after all of this time, he finally sees what he has been praying for happening right in front of him.  Finally, he sees his son walking down the road.
  • Let the actions in this verse play like a video in your mind. The father saw his son, had compassion, ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him.
  • It has been noted by many commentators that it was undignified for a Jewish man to run. It was not typical.  The imagery here is of a father who does not care what people think.  His son is home!  He isn’t waiting for his son to come beg for forgiveness, although his son is prepared to beg.  No, this father runs out to him.
  • The repentance shown in just coming home was enough for the father to do the undignified thing by running, hugging, and kissing his prodigal, pig smelling, long lost son.



  • The father forgave his son. This is a picture of God’s heart to forgive repentant people.  He wants people to repent.  He is looking to forgive.  When repentance leads to return, it always results in forgiveness.  Look at what Peter said about God’s heart for people:


2 Peter 3:9
(9)  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


  • The Father’s heart is for people to repent and return to Him. The apostle Paul said something similar to the men of Athens on mars hill.


Acts 17:24-27

(24)  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

(25)  Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

(26)  And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

(27)  That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:


  • God places people when they are and where they are so that they would seek Him and find Him.
  • This is God’s heart of forgiveness.
  • Now his son goes into the sincere, preplanned speech that he wanted to tell his dad.

(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.


  • He says what would have been true. He did sin against heaven and against his dad.  But he cannot even finish the speech.  The rest of the speech is, “can I be hired on as an employee?”.
  • Yet that Father doesn’t even let him get there. Notice the next word, “but”. It’s an interrupting word here.


(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.


  • His father has already forgiven him. It is time for my son to be treated like my son yet again.
  • It is time to throw a party. The forgiveness is elaborate.  Robe, Ring, Shoes, Party- Bar-b-q!
  • The prodigal thought he wanted to get out and party in the world. I’m sure this is the best party he would ever attend.
  • Why the elaborate forgiveness?


(24)  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.


  • The reason for making merry was not a celebration of the sin of the son. It was not a celebration of the dishonor that he did to his dad.
  • It was a celebration of restoration. It was a celebration of forgiveness.
  • There were many sleepless nights not knowing if his son was dead or not. There were so many moments where the dad wished he could go get his son, but he had no idea where he was.  There was a resolution here.  His son, who was dead, is alive again.  His son, who was lost, is found.
  • The party was not about sin. The party was about salvation. It was about redemption.




  • We celebrate all kinds of things in our culture. We celebrate talent.  As a sports fan I appreciate watching what people can do physically when they set their mind to a certain discipline and skill set.
  • We celebrate success. This can be good and bad.
  • Unfortunately our culture has begun to ask us to not just accept sin, but to celebrate it. Too often we are seen as intolerant if we do not accept, and worse, celebrate the sinful lifestyles of others.  This is often the judgement of God where people are given over to a reprobate mind, which sees the good as bad and the bad as good.  We ought not to celebrate sin, no matter the cost.
  • If there is anything that ought to be celebrated it should be repentance. It ought to be salvation.  It ought to be forgiveness.  We ought to strive to see people lovingly yet firmly confronted with the consequences of their sin, no matter what it is.  We must help them to know that there is a loving Father who has made it forgiveness possible.
  • When the prodigal comes home, we ought to party!

We can understand God’s relationship with sinners by observing three pictures found in the parable of the compassionate Father.

1.    A Picture of Repentance- The Prodigal Son

2.    A Picture of Forgiveness- The Compassionate Father

3.    A Picture of Resentment- The Elder Brother



  • It would be nice if the story ended there. Yet in the next few verses we see the story continue with yet a different kind of prodigal.  We see the elder son, who is a picture of resentment.

(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.


  • Here comes the elder son. The elder son had never left home, and had witnessed the whole circumstance.  The elder son had watched his younger brother disgrace his dad.  The elder son had watched the praying, the sleepless nights, and the pacing on the front porch looking down the road.
  • Notice where he comes from. He comes from the field.  Why would he be in the field?  He was working.  He was responsible.  He had outward conformed to the social norms and honored his parents.
  • He heard the music, saw the lights and the people enjoying themselves. So he inquires.  “Hey, why the party?”
  • This wasn’t on the company calendar. I didn’t get the invite to the facebook event!  What gives?

(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.

  • You can just imagine anticipation of a good time changing to frustration and anger.
  • He did not have the fathers heart. Look at his response.


(28)  And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.


  • The elder son was not happy that his brother was alive. He was not happy that he was repentant.  He was not happy that he was back.  He was definitely in no mood to party.  He refused to even go in and see his brother.
  • Notice that the father had run to the prodigal when he came back. Now the father is going to his elder son, a prodigal of another kind.
  • There is another speech by another son.


(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:


  • The elder son claims that his service was to his father. He claims that over the years he had never disobeyed his dad.  He claims that there was no sin on his part.
  • Notice the contrast in attitude.
    • The younger prodigal was penitent. The older prodigal was self-righteous.
    • The younger prodigal recognized his sin. The older prodigal denied he had ever sinned.
    • The younger prodigal saw his sin the way that the father saw it. The older prodigal did not want to spend time with his dad.  He wanted to “make merry with” his friends.
  • The speech continues.


(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.


  • Notice what he called his brother. He called him “thy son”.
  • He did not accept His brother’s forgiveness.
  • He says that his brother “devoured” his father’s living. He consumed it.
  • The father, whose living was wasted, was exemplifying extravagant forgiveness. The older brother was accusing his father of celebrating sinfulness.  He was accusing his father of unfair treatment.
  • The fatted calf was typically a grain fed animal, fattened up for celebration, and usually slaughtered and prepared for a religious holiday.
  • The extravagant forgiveness was seen as unjust and unfair by the elder brother. The accusation being made bordered on a questioning of the character of the father.



  • In this exchange between the elder brother and his father, we see a son that is resentful. His resentment reveals several attitudes that are problematic.
  • First, we see an attitude of unforgiveness. The father, who was the primary one sinned against, forgave more readily and earnestly than did the son, who though he was sinned against, was not sinned against like his dad.


  • In my ministry I have seen this played out many times. Sometimes it is easier to forgive those who sin against us directly than it is to forgive those who sin against a loved one.  Yet we must learn to forgive.  Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive?  Do it.  Right now, from the heart, make the decision to forgive.  Don’t grow bitter.


  • Second, we see an attitude of self-righteousness. He does not have the same heart as his father for his brother.  He does not believe that he has done any wrong.  His resentment is causing him to have no love for his brother and less love for his father.  He states passionately that he has never transgressed at any time.  This is unlikely, yet it reveals that he thinks he is better than the treatment he is getting.


  • Over and over again, we see the pattern of the message of Jesus. Those that acknowledge their sinfulness and confess it are forgiven.  Those who refuse to own their own sinfulness are not.  Blessed are the poor in spirit!  Blessed are those who acknowledge their own sinfulness and repent.


  • Third, we see an attitude of entitlement. When you read the words of the brother what posture and body language do you picture?  Were there pointed fingers?  Is his voice elevated or quiet and controlled?  There is an air of accusation in his tone.  “You didn’t even give me a goat!”.  It’s almost as if he is saying, “Dad you owe me?”.  The scripture says that the borrower is slave to the lender.  In a sense the elder son primarily has a problem with his father more than with his brother.


  • An attitude of entitlement comes from a person who is not thinking rightly about themselves. God owes us nothing but an eternity separated from Him because of our sin.  Yet God in His mercy gave to us His Son.  He has committed Himself to us by promising us salvation, forgiveness of sins, adoption, an inheritance, the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and eternal life for those who repent and trust in Him.  Have you done that?


  • The picture of extravagant forgiveness, the father, extends to this son as well.
  • The Father’s heart isn’t just for the prodigal, wandering sinner, but for the self-righteous, hypocritical sinner as well.

(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.


  • After hearing his sons accusations, and seeing the attitudes of resentment that were expressed in unforgiveness, self-righteousness, and entitlement, the father addresses the elder son.
  • The father went out to the first son, and the second son.
  • The father listened to the words of the first son, and the second son.
  • The father responded in a loving way to the first son, and this is an expression of love to the second. Look at what he said:

(31)  And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.


  • The father did acknowledge that this elder son did not leave. He acknowledged that his son is still his son.  He also acknowledged that the son will still get an inheritance.
  • The elder son was complaining to the dad about not getting a goat, when the dad was working for the whole estate to be passed down to His son.
  • So, there is a sense in which His dad was trying to help him think rightly again.

(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.


  • The father is telling the older son that it was appropriate to party.
  • Why? The theme from verse 24 is repeated again here.
    • Your brother was lost and dead. Now he is alive and is found with the family.
  • Notice, the father did not call him “my son”, but rather called him “thy brother”.
    • The elder brother had called the prodigal “thy son” before. The father’s response to that was to call him “thy brother.”  The father makes it clear that mercy, grace and forgiveness are not unjust.  There is nothing owed to the elder son that the father would not do for him.


  • Notice that the story ends here without a response from older brother. It is left open ended.
  • Like last week’s passage, there is an unresolved chord. There is an unfinished scale.
  • Why? Well, let’s remember to whom this whole narrative is directed.  Look at Luke 15:1-3, at the beginning of this story.


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 them.  (3)  And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

Luke 15:1-3


  • This story was directed to the self-righteous.
  • Jesus was lovingly and directly pointing to their attitudes of resentfulness, unforgiveness, and entitlement.
  • One sinful son had gone off to a far country, sinned openly, come to his senses, and returned to the father.
  • The other sinful son stayed home and resented his father with an attitude of self-righteousness and entitlement. He had never sinned as openly and overtly, but he did not have a right relationship with his father.
  • Jesus loved and died for these self-righteous people who saw themselves as better.
  • Jesus wanted them to know that the sin that will not be forgiven is the sin that is not confessed.



  • This is a parable to the “good person”, and not just to the rebellious.
  • This is a parable to the person who thinks they are good enough to get to God on their own.
  • God loves everyone, and desires that everyone be saved.
  • The person who will not be saved is the one that does not confess their sin to God, and acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only Son of God who died on the cross for sins.



  • Are you poor in spirit, confessing your sin to God, or do you see yourself as better than others and not needing God’s forgiveness?

5 thoughts on “Luke Series- Session 15- The Tale of the Compassionate Father”

  1. I just wanted you to know that I never remember to comment, but look forward to reading your take on these lessons every week. On the weeks when I teach, it really helps me to form a healthy perspective on the scriptures.

      1. I substitute teach the adult ladies class. I love our regular teacher, and truly believe God has called her to guide us. I’m blessed with the honor of allowing her to feel less burdened when she needs to take time for her husband, grown children, or even vacation. She is very committed to our class.

  2. What a powerful reminder of how much our beloved Lord loves us ✝️
    And how we are to extend that same love to others❤️

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