Teaching about Lostness

KEY VERSE: “My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” —Luke 15:24


OUR lesson considers the parable of the prodigal son. The substance of the account is as follows: A certain man had two sons. The younger of them requested of his father that he be given his portion of the inheritance. Then he gathered his goods and left for a far country. While there, he wasted his substance on riotous living. When he had spent all, he found himself in the midst of a mighty famine, and he began to be in want. In desperation he accepted employment as a herdsman of swine, and to prevent starvation he ate of the husks with them. In time he came to himself and realized that the servants in his father’s house had more than he, and he resolved to return to his father and ask forgiveness, and to be accepted not as a son but as a servant. When the father saw him in the distance he had compassion on the son and ran to meet him and kissed him. The father reinstated him as a son in his household and instructed the servant to kill the fatted calf for a feast.

But when the elder brother heard of these things, he was angry, his complaint being that he had been obedient and faithful in his service with no recognition. But his father said, “Son thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 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.”—Luke 15:11-32

The Pharisees were evidently represented by the elder son and the younger son pictured the irreligious and worldly of the Jewish nation. We believe that this parable is one of three teaching the same general lesson of God’s love and sympathy toward the poor, fallen and degraded, and lost. These three parables were spoken to the Pharisees and doctors of the Law, who were indignant with Jesus because he did not spurn the lower classes, the publicans and sinners.

One of the associated parables is that of a shepherd with a hundred sheep, one of which went astray. The shepherd left the ninety and nine to recover the straying sheep. When he had recovered it, he rejoiced greatly, more than over the ninety and nine which did not go astray.

The other associated parable was that of the lost piece of silver. The piece of silver had great value to the woman and shows the diligence with which the woman would search and sweep to find it and how she would rejoice at the finding.

The parable of the prodigal son seems to be more pointed toward the Pharisees and doctors of the Law and the errant Jews than are the associated parables, which seem to have a more general application. The elder brother well represents the Pharisees and doctors of the Law who outwardly were in harmony with God. The Apostle Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, was one of these. He declared that with all good conscience he had served the God of his fathers as a Pharisee. They had their good portion and were respected, and had as well the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant.

The younger son would seem to represent those Jews who were aware of the promises and of the blessings from being in harmony with God, and yet wandered off into ways of sin as publicans and sinners, and careless ones. These realized in a measure their own unworthiness and on occasion smote their breasts saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) These were all repudiated by the Pharisees and doctors of the Law, claiming that they had no part in the promises. The Pharisees refused to associate with them in any way. Our Lord on the other hand recognized God’s love even for these, and did all that he could to retrieve them, telling them of the Father’s love and the wonderful opportunity that was being extended to them to become part of the promised seed of Abraham. Because of their contrition of heart, many of them responded.

The Pharisees, pictured by the elder son, noted this favor to the publicans and sinners and were angry. They rejected the message of the father spoken by the son and would not go in to the same feast. We know that in the reality, because of their hardness of heart, they themselves were cast off from the promises as a nation, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”—Matt. 23:37-39; Rom. 11:25-27

Dawn Bible Students Association
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