Exegetical study of the parable “The prodigal son” in Luke’s gospel 15:11-32
Parables and stories were crucial for Jesus’ teaching, He used them to convey hidden meanings and God’s wishes to His followers and the world. To this day, believers read these parables and try to discover the hidden meaning behind their words. Luke’s gospel offers the parable of the prodigal son, his escape, life and subsequent return to his father who welcomes him with open arms. The meaning behind this story, written by Luke (Lk 15: 11-32) is the main purpose of this study. This parable is a part of the series, beginning with “lost sheep” and finishing with “dishonest manager”. All of these parables are about ...view middle of the document...
What is puzzling about Luke’s gospel is that there is no direct reference to the author, like in other gospels, leaving the reader to guess the identity. Only plausible lead, offered by the author himself is that he is (was) a follower of another student of Jesus’, Paul.
Speaking about the meaning behind the parable of the prodigal son, and matching theme of parables in adjoining verses, scholars have suggested that they were told by Jesus to bring God’s forgiveness and reasons for sending his Son to Earth closer to people, in a way to make them understand His reasons. Central theme in this parable, but also in most other verses of Luke’s gospel is forgiveness. Jesus interacts with people who were (then) considered unholy, sinful and unworthy – taxmen, prostitutes, Pharisee and others as seen in this verse “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7: 39 NIV). This is one example of the events that led to telling of “the Prodigal son”, and Jesus’ points about forgiveness and fatherly love. It can be stated that Luke focuses on Jesus’ mission and His central role in God’s plan for humanity
Although the story about the prodigal son is an allegory, it is rich in realism and detail. Special care was placed on character detail, father – the loving forgiving elder, younger son – a sinner who realized his mistakes, older son – the faithful servant, obedient and righteous. Reading this parable is difficult, especially given the many layers of meaning woven into it. On first glance, it is a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but looking deeper raises many questions about the characters, meaning and the situation itself. This is where the main purpose of parables comes to light – to shed new light on a supposedly imaginary situation, but one that can easily be real, making the reader understand the message story teller intended to convey.
Gospel by Luke offers the parable about the prodigal son, written in verses 11 – 32. This part of the paper is devoted to a thorough analysis of the selected chapter, using commentaries and other sources, in hopes of determining the real, underlying message behind the parable. Main topics of the parable are love, forgiveness and celebration of faith (son returns). Emotions in the story range from sadness, which dominates – in the beginning the father is sad because his son left, then the son is sad because he realized what he had done, and finally the older brother is both sad and angry because in his eyes, father loves the younger son better. Ending of the parable offers celebration and unity of the family.
Beginning of the parable offers crucial information, “There was a man who had two sons” (Lk 15:11), and “The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’” (Lk 15:12). These two verses explain the...