The Bible is meant to be read in context. After all, how often do we only read single lines, passages, and chapters from other books when we’re seeking a complete understanding of the entire book? No one would read one sentence or even a chapter from The Hobbit and expect to understand the story. At best, one would only get a partial and incomplete view of the story without appreciating the entire book. 

The Parable of the Lost, or Prodigal Son is one of which we all may have some familiarity. If you’ve not read this parable, I recommend reading it here in Luke 15:11-32. This parable is a heartwarming telling of a father’s love for his son. We can learn a lot here about God’s grace and mercy. If we read this parable in the context of Luke 15, we can see that Jesus is talking about finding those things that are lost. First, Jesus spoke about the shepherd going to find the one sheep out of the ninety-nine that was lost (cf. Luke 15:3-7). Then, He talks about a woman with ten coins who loses one and diligently searches for it until she finds it (cf. Luke 15:8-10). 

All three of these parables in Luke 15 are told in response to the Pharisees and teachers of the law who criticized Jesus, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2 NIV). Now we know the context of the Prodigal Son within Luke 15. Aside from the overwhelming love and mercy of God, we read about throughout the Bible, is there any other context within the text that relates to this parable? 

I present to you this law from Deuteronomy. 

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)

We are told that the Prodigal son after receiving his inheritance from his father, “squandered his wealth in wild living” (Luke 15:13 NIV). We know from his brother’s complaint to his father that he “squandered [his] property with prostitutes” (Luke 15:30 NIV). When we take these facts into consideration. In addition to the Prodigal son’s presumptuous behavior towards his father regarding his inheritance, we can presume that he was stubborn, rebellious, gluttonous, and a drunkard. To say the least. The prodigal son should have been taken to the “elders at the gate of his town” and stoned to death (cf. Deuteronomy 21:19,21). 

We can see the abundance of God’s mercy and grace in the situation if we consider the context of Deuteronomy 21:18-21. If we read the Parable with Deuteronomy in mind. We also have additional insight into why the older brother was so perturbed. His younger brother should have been stoned to death, not welcomed home, and forgiven. The older brother saw no place for love and mercy in the situation. We can see that the older brother clearly represents those Pharisees and teachers of the law who sought to obey the law without understanding the love and mercy of the One who had given it. 

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away. 

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.