This chapter, according to Doran, is proposed as two fold, “to show God’s willingness to receive penitent sinners and the causeless ground of the Jewish jealousy toward Gentiles”(1981, 613). Even though this parable is the longest of the three and is much more detailed than the others. Because of the setting that Jesus was in and the issue at hand, this parable that He made reference to was very powerful in the sense that the elderly son “whose only brother-not one in a hundred or even in ten –had been lost. This elderly son represents the Jews (particularly the grumbling Pharisees), who seem unable to share in the joy of God and the angels in Heaven”( Kaiser & Silva, 2007,164). Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, tax collectors and teachers as he told this parable:
There was a man who had two sons, the younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate. ’So he divided his property between them. Not long after that the younger son got together all he had, and he set off for a distant country and there squandered all his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to feed his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arm around him and kissed him.”The son said to him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants,’ Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field .When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound,’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his fathers went out and plead with him, but he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me , and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The first thing that should call our attention about a passage is the writer’s choice of words. The author of the Gospel according to Luke notes that there was a man who had duo uious (two sons). Another interesting detail within the passage is that one of the sons (the younger) said, “Give me my share of the estate.” The verb used in that context is epiballon.. This verb, in its literal translation has a futuristic intention. Coming from the word epiballw, this can be translated: place on, lay (hands) on or fall to. In the text the word is a futuristic participle.
These two very important details are necessary if we are to fully understand the magnitude of the Father’s compassion despite the indictment of the son and for us to understand the value that is placed on every human being. It is interesting to note that in Luke’s record of this parable, it was a family affair; only sons were involved. This presents an equality of every human race before God (The Father) but also makes implication for the security of one’s (a son’s) salvation since a son, will always be a son.
Furthermore, the fact that the younger son asked for what was not yet supposed to be given to him probably spoke to his defiance and disregard toward his father. This portion was to fall on him (given to him) at some later date; possibly after the death of the father. To ask for it before that allotted time might have been as good as wishing the father dead. His offense then is great, making him deserving to be disowned. Not only so, but this son defies the family traditions (not keeping the Jewish traditions; as seen in his feeding pigs).
According to William Hendriksen (1978), the theme that runs throughout this parable is not “lostness” but The Father’s love – His love for the lost. This younger son, Hendriksen claims has the conviction that freedom to live apart from the restraint of his parents would make him happy. He probably knew that one third of his parental estate was due him when his father died according to the law of Deuteronomy 21:17. Even though a father gave gifts to his children while he was alive, (Genesis 25:6) this young man knew it was not sufficient [because he had no intentions of returning]. He wanted all that he was entitled to (Hendriksen, 1978).
Furthermore, Reverend J. Willcock (1978; 417), uses the wandering, younger son as a metaphor to the human race; those who have a delusive sense of freedom. The young man who asks for his portion and goes upon his journey represents to us, our own human condition. When man goes about his own business; living in his freedom, the father’s house, “builded in purity, self sacrifice, love and service, grows dimmer...until it dips below that faint far line.” The world now becomes his home and his freedom now enslaves him.
According to Reverend J. Willcock (1978; 420), older interpretations, naturally suggested by verses 1 and 2, see in the younger son a type of publicans and sinners (gentiles) while the older son represent a type of the scribes and Pharisees. He contends that such interpretation, though it may not be false is not wide enough. He feels that the Lord was dealing not with men but with man; not with classes and nationalities but with the entire human race.