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The Parable of the Prodigal Son


Most of us are very familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. In this story there is the outright rebellious younger son who asks for his inheritance early. By doing so he was basically wishing his father were dead. He had no regard for what was right and lived a selfish life of partying, luxury, and immorality which resulted in destruction and misery. In the end he returns home, a broken man, and is joyfully embraced and accepted by his father.

Then there is the older son who was morally upright, hard working and a rule follower. He did everything he was supposed to, outwardly respected his father, and yet his heart betrayed his good works. He was filed with bitterness towards his brother, a love of things over the love of his father and self righteousness.

The two brothers reflect the two kinds of people in the word. Those who are openly rebellious towards God and do not think they need him, and those who are self-righteous and don’t believe they really need him. One of the truths in this parable is that everyone is lost. The religious as well as the rebellious are dammed without Christ. The Pharisees, with their religious rule-keeping and the prostitute with her immorality both need to be rescued. There is no one righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10)

Can you identify with either of these brothers? I can identity with the older one. I was always the rule keeper, the “good girl” who never got in trouble. It was easy for me to try and rely on myself more than on God. It was easy to think “I’ve got this.” But there is no one good enough in the eyes of God. We all need Christ and the work he did on the cross.

Did you know that there is actually a third son in this story (Driscoll). This is the son who was neither rebellious nor religious. He was not selfish or greedy. He wasn’t immoral or self righteous. He was perfect. Actually he is the one telling the story. While we may be able to identify ourselves with one of the two imperfect brothers, it is in Christ, the perfect Son, in whom we must find our identity. It is Jesus who saves us and leads us in the right way. We need him for everything. Just like both brothers needed to be saved from the sins of self-righteousness and blatant unrighteousness so we need to be saved from our sins.

Our dependence on Jesus goes deeper than we can ever comprehend. Through his death Jesus accomplished our salvation but a person’s need for Jesus doesn’t stop there. He gives us a righteousness that we cannot earn and a power to live godly lives and overcome sin that we cannot muster up on our own. He gives us wisdom that we can’t  learn on our own, and grace for every moment of our day that we don’t deserve. He holds our very lives together by his word. He wisely and sovereignly determines when we are born and where we live. He is master over the weather and has the power to give and to take away. We are nothing without him.

Can you identify who you are–the older or younger brother? Until you can you will not be able to identify your savior who rescues you from your sin and yourself.

Check out Tim Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” as well as his free sermon series by the same title.

Looking To Jesus,


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  1. I was the younger son, and I found out that the world will rob you of everything! As someone who reaches out to other prodigals (teen moms), I have a tendency to be judgmental to those who don’t reach out to those in need. (Or don’t reach out in ways I think they should!) God has shown me that we all need His grace daily, and He uses our past and our story to impact unique spheres of influence. When we are seeking God and listening to Him, we’ll be able to offer grace and hope and encouragement to those Jesus brings our way … as only we can!

  2. Jaime McLeod says:

    I can identify with the younger son and I remember the first time I cried out to Jesus for help because I finally realized that I couldn’t go on by myself anymore. I let go or shall I say, took hold of Jesus hand, and He lifted me up. That moment that I accepted Jesus, I felt an immediate peace and happiness that I have never felt before. I suddenly knew I wasn’t alone anymore and things would be okay. Just like in the story when the father saw his son but he was still a long way off and he therefore ran to him, God filled me with His love immediately. God didn’t wait for me to be completely changed before he filled me with His love, He did it immediately even though He knew I still had a long way to go. Just like the son had a long way to go, his father didn’t wait.

  3. I have really enjoyed my daily studies with GMG, in today’s lesson (May 10) “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”

    Could you tell me where you found your resource about the third son?

    Did you know that there is actually a third son in this story (Driscoll)

    • Jen Thorn says:

      Becky, the 3rd son idea was from Mark Driscoll’s sermon called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”. It is kind of play on words. Jesus, the son of God, is the 3rd son in our text. He is the one telling the story. While the other two sons were messed up and in need of salvation and restoration, Jesus, the son of God, is the one who offers this salvation.

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    The Parable of the Prodigal Son – Good Morning Girls

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