And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee. — Luke 15:17-18
Like the parable of the Prodigal Son in today’s text, the testimony of Nick Segres is a beautiful illustration of God’s amazing grace and forgiveness. Nick’s father was a preacher, and his parents reared him carefully and taught him the right way to go. However, he turned away from God’s call to his heart.
Nick related, “Drinking, smoking, stealing, and gambling became a part of my life. Though I hardened my heart, I still had no doubt that God was real. He proved that to me one night in an unmistakable way. I had my mind made up to attend a dance that evening, but to get there I had to walk past the church where special revival services were being held. As I passed the church building, I could hear people inside singing. The Lord laid it on my heart that I should go in. I looked up at the sky and told God, ‘If You want me to go to church tonight, let that star fall.’ I raised my hand and pointed out a bright star. As my hand came down, that star fell! At that moment I knew that God had heard my prayer. Fear struck my heart, and I turned around and started back toward the church. Then some friends drove by on their way to the dance. When they stopped and invited me to go with them, I didn’t have the courage to tell them no.
“Later I spent some time in the military, and after receiving my discharge, I rented an apartment in a neighboring city. My friends and I spent evenings and weekends having what we called a ‘good time.’ Often I would stay up all night, getting back early in the morning with just enough time to change clothes and go to work. Soon I even became involved in stealing.
“One day my friend and I decided to work on his car, but a storm came up. We pushed the car under a tree to keep the rain off us, and we raised the hood against a clothesline connected to the tree. I was squatting against the tree trying to stay dry when the mechanic with us said he needed something, which I went after.
“Just as I was almost back to the car, lightning hit. The current raced down the tree to the clothesline and across to the car. My friend was leaning on the car — where I had been just a short time earlier — and he fell to the ground, unconscious. In panic, we rushed him to the hospital. The mechanic drove while I crouched in the back seat and gave my friend artificial respiration, trying to keep him alive.
“We were driving fast through the pouring rain, and water was accumulating on the highway. Suddenly the car went into a spin. As we slid around, the back door flew open, and my friend started to slide out. I reached to grab him, and then I was falling too. Somehow I caught the handle of the door and managed to hold us both in as the car spun crazily in circles. When we were finally righted on the road, we went on to the hospital. But we were too late; my friend had died.
“As I went home that night, God talked to me. He asked, ‘If it had been you, where would your soul spend eternity?’ I knew the answer. At the first opportunity, I went to church and prayed, repenting of all my sins and asking forgiveness for turning my back on God for so long. He didn’t reject me the way I had Him. He saved me! What peace and joy came into my heart!”
Nick prayed on and received the experiences of sanctification and then the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He became a preacher and a pastor. Until he went home to Glory, he rejoiced in the fact that God loved him enough to save his soul and change his life.
In Luke’s parable, it was love that impelled the father to watch for his wayward son’s return, and to welcome him home with open arms. In Nick’s story, it was love that responded to a young man’s prayer for forgiveness and transformed his life. Today, the love of our Father in Heaven is extended still toward anyone who will turn His way in repentance. What a merciful and loving God we serve!
Luke 15 contains three parables related to seeking the lost: the lost sheep (verses 4-7), the lost coin (verses 8-10), and the lost son (verses 11-32). The murmuring of the scribes and Pharisees — who were wellknown for their animosity toward publicans and “sinners” — makes it likely that some of these despised individuals were in the crowd around Jesus when He gave these accounts.
In the agricultural society of the area, sheep and shepherds were a familiar sight, and thus an understandable subject for Jesus’ first parable in today’s text. Sheep are known to be somewhat senseless animals with a tendency to wander. If a shepherd did not go out and seek a lost sheep, it would not find its way back on its own. Verse 7 gives the point of this parable: God values everyone. He actively seeks those who are sinners (lost), and all Heaven rejoices with Him at each person who repents (is found).
The second parable, the account of the lost coin, presents the same truth with a different illustration. A number of coins were used in the New Testament period, but the silver coin in this parable was likely a Roman denarius. A single denarius was worth about a day’s wage, so the loss of a coin was significant. It was customary in that society for a woman to receive ten silver coins as a wedding gift. These coins held sentimental as well as monetary value, so if one was lost, a search would certainly ensue.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son, as verses 11-24 have traditionally been called, is one of Jesus’ best-known parables. Through the centuries it has been portrayed in numerous world-famous paintings, in musical pieces, and in literature. This parable appears only in the Gospel of Luke. While the first two parables in this group were reflective of the lower class of Jewish society, this parable was woven around an upper class family that enjoyed significant wealth and influence.
The younger son’s share of the inheritance typically would have been one-third of his father’s estate (see Deuteronomy 21:17). Normally he would have received his share upon the passing of his father, although it was not uncommon in Jewish society for the father to retire from active management of his estate and distribute at least a portion of his resources earlier.
The “far country” in the parable illustrated that the environment was very different from the Jewish home in which the young man had grown up.
Although the Jews were allowed to raise pigs and sell them to Gentiles, according to Mosaic Law, pigs were unclean animals and were not to be touched, eaten, or used for sacrifice. Thus, working with the swine was a reversal of both the young man’s former social position and his religion.
The second part of the parable — the response of the elder son when his younger brother was welcomed back into the home — was directed at the Pharisees and scribes who were listening. The elder brother exhibited the attitude of judgmental legalism like that of the Pharisees, who considered themselves righteous and faithful but in reality were self-righteous and selfish. The prodigal younger brother represented the publicans and sinners who were denigrated and despised by the Pharisees. It is noteworthy that the father’s love for his elder son was in no way lessened by the loving mercy and forgiveness he extended toward his wayward son.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VI. The instruction of the Son of Man
D. Instructions concerning the Kingdom of God
2. Instructions concerning the nature of those in the Kingdom
a. Instructions before the religious leaders
(3) The basis for the invitation (15:1-32)
(a) His search for sinners stated (15:1-2)
(b) His search for sinners illustrated (15:3-32)
 The lost sheep (15:3-7)
 The lost coin (15:8-10)
 The lost son (15:11-32)
Each individual is precious to God, and He is continually searching for those who have wandered away from Him.