Introduction: Jesus tells us in Luke 7:47 that those who are
forgiven much, love much. Those who are forgiven little, love
little. Have you been “good” your entire life? Were you obedient to
your parents, the school authorities and the state authorities? Were
you always in church and still are? If I’m describing you, then
identifying a specific time that you were converted is hard, right?
If none of this sounds familiar, were you always getting in trouble?
If you have been “bad,” but are in church now, you undoubtedly
clearly recall your conversion experience. Now that we all know who
we are, what if God told us a story whose point is that good people
are not entering the Kingdom of Heaven? Let’s dive into our Bible
study and learn more!
- The Setting
- Read Luke 15:1-2. Describe the audience listening to
- Which group came willingly and which group came with
complaints? (Jesus had no trouble bringing open
sinners to His meetings. The “good” people were
- Are open sinners flocking to your church each
- If not, are you teaching like Jesus did?
- Consider whether you would be complaining about
a big influx of sinners?
- Skim Luke 15:3-10. Jesus tells two stories about
something that was lost and found. We understand these
to be “Kingdom of Heaven” parables – stories about those
who are lost and God’s attitude towards giving them
- The Younger Son
- Read Luke 15:11-12. Contemplate this text from the point
of view of the father. What does the young son want?
What does he not want? (He wants your money. He does not
want you. He wants life to be as if you were dead.)
- Tell me, parents, how does this feel?
- How do you think the father holds his wealth? (The text
says “share of the estate” and “property.” The Greek
translated “property” is “bios” or life. When a farmer
reduces his acreage by one-third (the younger gets one-third, see Deuteronomy 21:17), his life, his status in
the community, is reduced. The land is his life.)
- Read Luke 15:13-16. If you came up to the younger son and
he asked you for a loan, what would be his story? On what
basis would he say he would repay you? (It would be
natural for him to blame the severe famine. It is not
“his fault!” He will get his money back.)
- Read Luke 15:17. What does it mean for him to “come to
his senses?” (He realized that he had failed. Whatever
the impact of the famine, he had not survived
- Is it sometimes a blessing to fail?
- Read Luke 15:18-19. Do you think the son rehearsed this
speech as he walked back home?
- Explain the son’s opening negotiating position? (Tim
Keller’s excellent Prodigal God (on which much of
this study is based) explains that the son wanted to
be a hired tradesman so that he could pay back what
he had taken from the father.)
- The Father
- Read Luke 15:20. Does the father, who has been
embarrassed and discarded by this selfish son, treat the
son as the son has treated him?
- Read Luke 15:21-24. How much of the son’s rehearsed
opening negotiation position gets out? (Only the
confession. The offer of repayment is drowned out by the
- What does a feast represent in Jesus’ Kingdom
stories? (The Kingdom of Heaven: Matthew 22, Luke
14. See also, Revelation 19.)
- When the younger son is invited to the feast as a
full-fledged son, what does that symbolize? (He is
saved. Salvation comes to Him as a free-gift when
he: a)Comes to his senses; and, b) Returns, in
confession, to his Father. The Father is not even
interested in hearing about repayment.)
- The Older Son
- Read Luke 15:25-27. We just discussed how salvation is a
free gift for the younger son. Was it really free? Or,
was it coming out of the pocket of the older son? (It was
certainly coming out of the older son’s pocket!)
- Read Luke 15:28-30. How does the older brother react to
losing his property to the younger son?
- Recall that the younger son cared about his father’s
property, but not his father. How would you describe
the attitude of the older son towards his father?
(If he loved his father, he would want to rejoice
with the father. Instead, he is very disrespectful
of the father and the father’s wishes. He viewed
his father as being stingy with him (“young goat”
not “fattened calf”). Thus, the property and not the
father was utmost in his mind.)
- How different are the younger and older sons? Do
they have the same goal (property, not dad), but
only differ as to the method of achieving their
- If you are a faithful church member, how important
to you are God’s blessings and protection?
- How would you value God’s “property” versus
- How does this work in your life: if you have
less “property” do you have more of God’s
“presence?” Are you forced to trust and rely
on God more if you have less?
- Does the older son enter the feast? (No.)
- Why? Look again at what the older son says. (He
is: a) Too good for this (“I’ve been slaving”
while the younger has been “with prostitutes”);
and, b) He is angry with the generous nature of
the Father.(“This son of yours” for whom you
“kill the fattened calf.”))
- Is the older son lost eternally, and the
younger son saved eternally? (The older son
does not enter the father’s feast.)
- Read Luke 15:31-32. What does it mean to
be “always with me?” (The issue is whether
having “God’s stuff” and being with God
(here) is the same as salvation. It is a
debatable question, and I may well be
wrong, but I vote that refusing God’s
invitation to enter the feast because you
are too good and too concerned about your
property is eternally fatal.)
- Think back to Jesus’ audience. How does this
story relate to those two groups?
- Which is your group?
- The Missing Person
- When you consider the first two stories of Luke 15, what
is the common theme in them that is missing in the story
of the two brothers? (No one is seeking to find the lost
- In the story of the two brothers, who should
naturally be the one to go searching? (The older
- Why didn’t he search? (He didn’t want the
younger brother back. He valued his property
over his brother and over the joy of his
- Before his financial collapse, would the
younger brother have taken the time to look for
the older brother? (No. He was too busy
enjoying his property. He was focused on
- Who is the missing “Older Brother” in our story? (Jesus.
He came to find us.)
- Is anyone in the story looking for the lost? (Notice
that in Luke 15:20 the father looks for the younger
son and runs to him. In Luke 15:28 the father
leaves the feast to go out and plead with his older
- If you are in church, are you a proper older brother
to the sinners and tax collectors?
- To what extent does your concern for preserving your
property get in the way of you helping “younger
brothers” in your church?
- Friend, if you are reading this, my guess is that you are
an “older brother.” Will you ask the Holy Spirit to give
you insight into your heart to answer the question: “Do I
love the blessings from serving God more than I love the
God who died for me?” “Do my good works and my concern
about myself keep me from entering into salvation?”
- Next week: The Wedding Garment.