"'Now [the father's] older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 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." But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, "Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!" And he said to him, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive. He was lost, and is found."'" - Luke 15:25-32
In some ways, the parable of the prodigal son is easy to interpret. God loves and welcomes lost sinners who realise they are in a hopeless situation and make the decision to return to him. But in other ways, this parable is difficult to interpret. Who does the older son represent, and what is the main point of the parable? The focus seems to be on the reaction of the older son to the father's grace and generosity toward the younger son.
Perhaps the older son represents believers from among Israel's upper and religious classes, while the younger son represents sinners-turned-believers from Israel's lower and secular classes. Another explanation is that the older son represents Jewish believers while the younger son represents Gentile believers. Still more broadly, the older son could represent outwardly moral persons in general, while the younger son represents outwardly immoral persons.
Whoever the sons represent, Jesus' primary point seems to be that it is right and appropriate to rejoice greatly when tax collectors and sinners draw near to Jesus for salvation. Those already saved should rejoice when one lost sinner repents and is saved (vv. 7, 10).
Father, thank you that you welcome all types of sinners to be saved through your Son. You are a merciful and compassionate God. If we take one baby step in your direction, you run a 1000 steps in our direction. The next time we see a sinner repent and draw near to you, may we celebrate much. We pray that we will have lots of these types of celebrations in the near future. We want to see people saved and have an eternal, personal relationship with you. In Jesus' name, amen.
- Jeff Coleman