Luke 15 Notes


Jesus made God the Father figure. This was new to the listeners.

Jesus changed the view of God – to that of a Father.

Jesus always prayed Father – sometimes even using Abba.

No one ever talked about God like this.


Jesus is trying to communicate why he hangs out with sinners.

He’s looking for a way to talk about God.

No word describes God.

The best metaphor is Father.

Find a word to try to explain the universal pain that every parent feels when it comes to their children.


Most parents love their kids so much it hurts.

Everyone else in your life it takes time to love – but not with your children, its instant love.


Nobody is prepared for the joy or pain of parenting. If you’re a father and your child is lost, you have one agenda.

Jesus is trying to explain why he spends so much time with sinners.

Because their fathers’ heart is going to stay broken until all of his kids are back home.


The father didn’t have one lost boy – he had two. They had more in common that what you might think from a surface reading.

  1. Both boys resented their fathers’ authority. Because both wanted their fathers’ things more than they wanted their father. They both wanted a party with their friends and neither had their father on the guest list.


  1. Neither boy thought a relationship with their father was enough. They misunderstood the type of relationship that their father wanted.
    1. Things motivated the younger boy’s obedience. Things motivated the older boys’ obedience.
    2. Goodness is a weapon and a way of gaining control. They want the fathers’ blessings. You can tell that when times get hard, they get mad at God and the Church.


  1. Both boys saw their relationship as something to earn. The younger boy thought that he could not be at the Fathers’ table because he did not earn it. He thought he blew it. Father said he didn’t earn his place at the table in the first place. The older boy said that he had been slaving all these years for the father. He wasn’t there because a love or devotion. It was duty. He thought his work obligated the father. He thought his father owed him because of what he had done.
    1. Does any Dad want his kids to see him primarily as a task master.
    2. Merit didn’t cost the son his sonship. Merit didn’t earn the older boy his sonship.
    3. He never asked for a party because he didn’t see himself as a beloved son.
    4. How does it make the father feel if your boys talk to you like an employer with a labor shortage?


A father is a man who carries photographs where his money used to be.


The boys say I want this. The Dad says I want you.


Ever since the time in Genesis ch3 God has been asking the question, where are my kids? He came in person, in the form of Jesus to find his children; because God wants a relationship with his children. The bigger question is, what kind of a relationship do I want with God?


This story says that you can live right under the father and still be lost. Some people avoid the father by being very bad. Some people avoid God by being very good. God doesn’t want the dutiful service of slaves. He wants the willing joyful affection of sons.


Arms of God – folded (angry), up in the air (exasperation), wide open (love)

How do you see God’s arms?


Story ends on a sad note with an angry young man. Older brother was so mad and was willing to disgrace his father because of his perception of justice. Why was he so mad?

  1. Didn’t care about the lost.
    1. Easy to brand him as a self-righteous person. But, you can only grow self-righteousness in the soil of a community that values righteousness. Only when righteousness is valued that self-righteousness can grow.
      1. His reaction was consistent with his theology: people are either good and thus valuable or bad and therefore are worthless. Why should you care about people who are bad and are worthless?
      2. That’s what the critics were asking Jesus. He gave a new understanding as righteousness. He said all people are bad and valuable. Totally new paradigm. He was saying that they had no idea the value that God has placed on the people that they wanted to discard.
      3. Older brother didn’t want his brother back because he didn’t think he was worth it.
  2. He did care about the cost. Justice is required.
    1. Everything left in the diminished wealth belonged to the older brother. He’s already blown his part and now we’re spending it on my part of the money.
    2. Forgiveness always comes with a cost. And to the older brother it wasn’t worth the cost. He didn’t want to pay the price for reconciliation.
    3. It cost him a soured soul, missed joy. Cost his father the opportunity to stop grieving for a lost son. The older boy became a prodigal and he never left home.
    4. The story ends on a sad note. Jesus is trying to say that it’s sad because people are constantly trying to replace goodness for grace.
      1. He was a goodness had become a bigger barrier to a relationship with his father than his little brother’s badness had been. He was estranged from his father not in spite of his goodness, but because of it.
      2. Sad because there is a father who is full of grace that you are willing to disgrace him because you are determined to live your life by the goodness grid. Pay such a high price for it. What has it cost us?
        1. Become judgmental.
        2. Become angry. The good life we think we’ve lived doesn’t always result in the good life we think we deserve. Become bitter at church, family, neighbors and God.
        3. Become anxious. Because contentment is always based on achievement and acceptance is always based on performance.
          1. The father told him that everything he had was his. You can have a party, why haven’t you thrown yourself a party. Because he didn’t think he deserved a party. He didn’t think he had earned it.
          2. Not sure where you stand with God. Even though you are judging where others stand with God.
    5. How do you cope with “dropping the ball.”


Similarities and differences between the two brothers:

They know they have dropped the ball and they are in desperate need of grace. The older brother thinks he’s good. I hope that we would be a church full of younger brothers.


Every person that comes through the door is someone else’s son. Are we looking out for them so that we can meet them at the door, put our arms around them and hug them?