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The Father's Love | Part 2

September 2, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Love Verse: Luke 15:11–15:32

Part 2

III. Hearty Delight of the Father – 15:20b-24

A. The Compassion of the Father – v. 20b

  • As the younger son journeys from the distant country back to his home, he undoubtedly recited and refined what he intended to say to his father.
  • In the culture of the day, there would be an expectation of the father refusing initially to see the shameful son – making him wait weeks in a state of groveling before he would grant him an audience.
  • The Pharisees were likely all into the story – expecting the just ostracizing, punative humiliation of this rebellious son by the father.
  • It is just then that Jesus turns the story on its head – “But while he was still a long way off …” [μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος] – lit. being distant a long distance away from him – not merely physically, but this young man had been greatly distanced from any fellowship with the father. 
  • Jesus stated that “… his father saw him …” [εἶδον] – “to perceive by sight of the eye” indicating that the father had regularly been searching for his disgraceful son to come home.
  • The Pharisees likely interpreted this as having kept a wary eye out in case this son tried to come back – to protect himself from being taken advantage of by the wicked son.
  • They must have been shocked when Jesus added – “… and felt compassion for him” [σπλαγχνίζομαι] – lit. bowels churned – a reference to the internal feelings of pity, love, sympathy, excitement and nervousness all mashed together.
  • This father was so moved that he abandoned all sense of decorum and humiliated himself – “and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
  • Instead of remaining aloof in a punitive & just gesture of dignity and pride, this father did what no nobleman ever did – he “ran” and publicly showed affection for his son – “embraced and kissed him.”
  • Here is where the story finds its correlation to the previous two – the seeking shepherd, the searching woman, and now the seeking father whose lost son is restored to him.

B. The Celebration by the Father – vv. 21-24

  • The son is likewise shocked by the reception by the father and utters his prepared statement, but realizes that he had grossly underestimated the father’s grace – “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
  • However, it seemed that to ask for him “to make me as one of your hired men” was inappropriate.
  • “He did not have to crawl back one day at a time into his father’s good graces, but was instantly forgiven, given mercy, and already reconciled.”
  • It’s possible that the father interrupted him before he could finish as we are told “But the father said to his slaves, ‘quickly bring out the best rode and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate …’”
  1. Approval: “best robe … on him” [στολὴν τὴν πρώτην] – refers to “first robe” or the clothing indicating the nobility of the father himself.
  2. Authority: “ring on his hand” [δακτύλιος] – lit. refers to the seal that identified the authority of the father.
  3. Autonomy: “sandals on his feet” [ὑπόδημα] – demonstrating the freedom to move about freely.
  4. Affection: “fattened calf” [τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν] – a once-in-a-lifetime celebration – usually reserved for the most significant event in one’s life – such as a wedding or the most significant guest one thinks they’ll ever experience.
  • These gestures described by Jesus depict His own approach to sinners who come to Him in repentance and He has the joy of redeeming them and showing lavish favor – “‘Let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
  • Celebration of Christ is the only appropriate response in seeing sinners – even the most despicable of us – saved by the grace and mercy of God; realizing that not one of us merited this redemption.


  1. Is your perception of God’s eagerness to forgive you adjusted at all by Jesus’ depiction of the father running to the returning son? How so?
  2. Explore how v. 21 demonstrates the sincerity of the son’s repentance – what does it teach you? 
  3. How is God impacted by our repentance?

IV. The Hateful Derision for the Father – 15:25-32

A. The Anger toward the Father – vv. 25-28a

  • This story, if ended here, would be a wonderful story of redemption with a happy ending.
  • However, there is a sinful presence even more diabolical or fiendish than the prodigality of the younger son – whose sins took him so low that he “came to his senses.”
  • This greater sin is a sin that finds absolute contentment in oneself – the self-righteousness represented by this older son who served in this story as a personification of the Pharisees.
  • We are introduced to him as a man who was a hard-worker – “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.”
  • Remember, the father had committed to this older son the 2/3 of his wealth, and thus it technically belonged to him.
  • Yet, there was a huge expenditure of which he knew nothing – he was completely out of the loop with reference to the joy of the father.
  • The father’s “failure” to consult with him indicates the independent worlds in which both the older son and the father lived – their relationship was estranged.
  • With a degree of naivety the servant assumes that the older brother will be delighted and shares the “good news” with him – “and he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’”
  • Instead of rejoicing with the father, this older son “became angry and was not willing to go in …”
  • He immediately perceived that the young son was not going to be punished, not going to have to grovel, not going to have to work to get back into the good graces of both the father and him.
  • His assessment was that the father had lost his mind – that what was happening was not right and refused to have anything to do with it.
  • He clearly felt that if the father wanted to rejoice in a son, he ought to rejoice in him since he had always worked hard and had never squandered anything.
  • His anger toward the father was because he was not being celebrated, the good-for-nothing-brother, who was unworthy was benefitting from what ought to be given to him.

B. The Attack against the Father – vv. 28b-32

  • Someone must have informed the father that the older son was outside and unhappy so “his father came out and began pleading with him.”
  • “pleading” [παρακαλέω] – lit. “to call to one’s side” – that is to join the father in his joy.
  • This pictures Jesus’ desire to see all sinners redeemed – cp. Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 2:4.
  • But the older son would have none of it and displays a boiling bitterness and resentment for the father that came spewing out – “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends …”
  • This young man reveals that he has resented his father all along – and feels that the father owes him, that is, his faithfulness to the father was about what he would be able to get from the “old man,” and yet he has never satisfied him with any gesture that celebrate him.
  • The disrespect and lack of love for the father is seen in the refusal to enter the joy of his brother’s redemption – referring to him as “this son of yours” – refusing to even acknowledge him as his brother.
  • His selfish ambition, self-righteousness, and haughtiness is clearly expressed – “… but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’”
  • His perspective was that he was worthy of the fattened calf for his external, legalistic, slavery to commands but didn’t even get a goat; while his younger brother didn’t even deserve a goat but has gotten the fattened calf … “your insane dad!”
  • The father doubles down on what a truly righteous heart thinks – “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.’” – cp. Romans 9:1-5.
  • “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found.” - this takes us back to the point of all three of these parables – those who truly love God will rejoice in the mercy and grace that sinners receive from God – cp. Luke 15:1-2.
  • The story ends without a satisfying ending – so what happened? How did he respond to the father’s call to rejoice with him in the redemption of the young son?
  • We are not told in this story, but if we trace the people represented in the story, we find that the father (representing Jesus) was ultimately killed by the older brother (Pharisees) in part because of his love for sinners (younger brother) – cp. Matthew 12:14-15a; Acts 2:22-23.
  • But for now, they simply walk away, fully understanding Jesus’ indictment of their self-righteous, external, legalism and smug spiritual self-reliance with an apparent dismissal of the stories of the incompetent shepherd, careless woman, and push-over father.


  1. How do we know that the “faithful” son’s devotion to the father was a façade?
  2. Why would a person criticize God for forgiving a sinner? 
  3. Why does the legalist despise grace?


You have not sinned so greatly that the love of God would refuse to forgive you if you “come to your senses” and turn to him in faith and repent.

Instead of putting you out of mind because of your sin, God longs to be gracious to you, not willing for you to perish, but to come to repentance.

If you turn to God in repentance for your sin and faith in Jesus Christ, God will “run” to forgive you.

There is no greater joy in heaven than when a sinner repents.

If you think that God owes you anything – health, relationships, wealth, jobs, happiness, or whatever – you do not understand grace.

Self-reliance and sin blinds us from the overwhelming blessings that God has given to us.