Posted by: The Simple Guy | April 11, 2010

3 sons in this story

Jesus was teaching, and some undesirables were gathering around.  The pharisees grumbled among themselves, why does he welcome sinners?

Jesus turned and told them this story.  (not 3 stories, 1 story)

There was a shepherd who lost one sheep.  He left the 99 sheep in the fold and searched for the one.  When he found it, he brought it back.  I tell you the truth, there is more celebration in heaven for the return of one lost sheep, than for 99 who don’t need to be found.

There was a woman who had 10 silver coins, but she lost one.  She went through her whole house and cleaned it.  She finally finds the coin, and when she does, she calls to her friends and they celebrate because she found it.

There was  a father who had 2 sons.  The younger one came to him and said,“I don’t want to wait for you to die before I get my inheritance, I want it now.” (in essence, I wish you were dead)  The father gave it to him.  He didn’t have to.  In fact, such dishonor of the father could have resulted in the son being stoned.

The son took his inheritance and went to a far country.  He squandered it all, and then there was a famine in the land.  He wound up feeding pigs, and was making so little for this, that he envied the pigs’ food.   At this point, the light comes on in his head and he realized that even his father’s slaves were better cared for than this.  He determined to go to his father and acknowledge that he had sinned before God and his father.  He would ask to be one of his father’s slaves.

As he was returning, his father recognized him from far off, and ran to him.  The son begins to say what he has been rehearsing to himself the whole trip back, “I have sinned against God and you, would you let me be one of your slaves?” The father doesn’t even let him finish.  He pulls him to his feet, hugs him, kisses his face and neck, and calls to his servants, “Bring him new clothes and shoes.  Put a ring on his finger.  Kill the fatted calf, because we are going to celebrate tonight!  My son was dead, now he is alive, he was lost but now he has been found!”

As they are celebrating, the older son came in out of the field.  He asks one of the servants what is going on.  The servant answers that his father is celebrating the return of his brother.  The older brother is incensed and will not even enter the house.  His father hears he won’t come in, so he goes out to his son.  “What’s wrong?”

“Your son (notice he doesn’t say ‘my brother”) dishonored you and wished you were dead.  He took your goods and squandered them on riotous living.  I have stayed home and worked for you.  You never even gave me a little goat to feed to my friends!”

“Son, all that is mine is yours.  But your brother was dead and now he lives!”

(My loose paraphrase of Luke 15)

Which son dishonored the father?  The one who wasted his inheritance, or the one who lived with him, but was not touched by his grief at losing a son, and accused him of playing favorites?

The answer is: BOTH

In reality (not the story, but actual reality) there are 3 sons.  One is blatantly rebellious and wishes the Father was dead.  One is outwardly obedient, but does not love what the father loves.   Both sons grieve the Father.

But one Son pleases him.  One Son recognized that both of his brothers deserve death for their sin.  He was moved by the Father’s love, and His own love to die to pay for the sins of His brothers.  The Son who pleased the Father told the pharisees that while they had enjoyed the blessings of outward obedience, they did not love the Father.  You cannot love God without loving what He loves.  Then He died to save BOTH brothers.  Now each of us can live for the Son who pleased the Father.

Just my thoughts.

– edited post – Let me be clear, I realize that Jesus said the man had 2 sons.  I am not trying to change Jesus’ story.  But I think we get it wrong when we say Jesus is the father in this story.  In fact, Jesus is the Son.  The only Son who pleased the Father and understood His heart.  In fact, the Only Son of the Father was telling the self-righteous “good son” Pharisees that their dishonor of the Father was no less painful or atrocious than that of the younger son.  In fact, if unrepentant, it is worse, as we are all unrighteous and need to come back as the younger son did.  The Father will come out to us, He will recognize us from afar and the forgiveness will be ours before we can finish asking for it.




  1. I have to say the “3 sons” perspective is new to me.

  2. Your perspective is new, but you’re certainly right that Jesus is not the Father. All three stories tell of something lost and found: a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. Each was precious. Each was treasured. Each was lost. There was celebration when each was found.

  3. What really jarred me was when I realized that in reality the Son who pleased the Father was using these stories to tell those who thought they were pleasing to the Father how far off they were, and how dishonoring their attitude toward the repentant sinners was to the Father. This is the same Son who told them , Matthew 12:7 MKJV
    (7) But if you had known what this is, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned those who are not guilty.

    There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

    They didn’t want their Messiah to be a forgiver of sinners. They did not realize they were sinners, too. They needed Him to be the Forgiver of Sinners, we all need Him to be.


  4. Craig, you’re right that Jesus, the Father’s obedient son, was telling the story about two disobedient sons, and that we need to see ourselves in it.

    Yet I think the main point of the story is the nature of the Father’s love.

  5. I agree Jim, thanks 🙂
    We cannot love God if we don’t love what (or who) He loves.
    1 John 2:8-11 MKJV
    (8) Again, I write a new commandment to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true Light now shines.
    (9) He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now.
    (10) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no offense in him.
    (11) But he who hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because darkness has blinded his eyes.


  6. Do we really understand the “super-abounding” depth of the grace of God?

  7. Some goodies and some baddies gathered around Jesus. (Luke 15:1ff) The goodies hated that Jesus welcomed baddies and ate with them. So Jesus told three stories – the final one was all about a man who welcomed a sinner and ate with him and the ‘goody’ hated it.

    I think the father is very straightforwardly Jesus. Of course Jesus reveals to us the Father’s heart and so there are implications about God the Father. But if you ask me, the father in the story clearly represents Jesus in his approach to sinners on the one hand and Pharisees on the other. I think the only thing that makes people think otherwise is simply the name ‘father’. But of course if you applied that kind of logic throughout the chapter Jesus would have to also literally be a shepherd and a woman!

    That’s my take anyway. 🙂

  8. Still chewing on the “third son” concept.

    It does make sense, though that this parable places Jesus as the Father in the story.

    I once read someone’s explanation that the “treasure in the field” parable was an illustration about how Jesus is the treasure and how He is worth everything we would give up in order to get Him.

    I agree that He’s worth everything, but found myself thinking “No way, this is about how Jesus gave up everything, purchased the ‘field” for Himself so He could get what He wanted out of it”. I know that’s a little off topic, but my point is that I can’t think off hand of any parable He told in which He is not a main “character”.

    On the other hand, Jesus did say “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”, and “I and the Father are one”

    You might be able to create an illustrative application concerning the Son who truly pleased the Father….As long as you qualify it as being your own musing.

  9. I want to be careful not to appear to be splitting hairs here. I realize that Jesus and the Father would have the same attitude toward repentant sinners. I also realize that the most direct interpretation of this story is that Jesus is represented by the Father in the story. After all, He is the one Who is “in the hot seat” with the Pharisees for welcoming sinners.

    But let me put a different perspective out for your review.

    This is one story, not 3. (Shepherd, woman, and Father)

    Jesus had claimed to be the Good Shepherd. (by implication the Pharisees were not good shepherds)
    Ezekiel 34:8 MKJV
    (8) As I live, says the Lord Jehovah, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock,

    In Jesus’ day I am told a married woman would wear 10 silver coins as a necklace sort of like we wear a wedding ring. If she was to lose one of those coins, she would be in a very difficult position. She would have to explain why she even took the necklace off. I believe this part of the story is an implied rebuke – you are missing a coin, you will be in a very unenviable position if you don’t find it. What coin – you are not searching for my flock.

    Then He “shows them the Father” with a familiar story they often used in their own teaching. However, in the familiar story, there was only one son, and when he returns, the father rejects him in honor of tradition. What Jesus did to their own story is change the Father’s reaction, and add a “good son” who displeased the Father.

    This is information I gleaned from various sources, Ray Vander Laan, and others. I am not an expert in Jewish tradition.

    Just some thoughts for the mix.

    By the way, Glen, I am honored that you came to my site. Thanks for your comment.


  10. Craig,
    I love your story. I accept it at first reading, without reading all the comments. I got stuck. The song you chose is beautiful. I could not listen to it.
    I am that prodigal son. Having known the Lord truly, I fled from His presence for several years. When I returned to Him empty and broken, He welcomed me back, just as in the story (actually He never left my side, I just did not know that). A Christian dj in Erie Co. PA turned me on to this song when I told him my story. It is by Bennie Hester. Phillips Craig and Dean who cover the song would reject your take on it our of hand. Phillips Craig and Dean are oneness pentacostals – self defined as believing in (what did Bobby call it?) anyhow they roundly reject the Trinity. They believe in modalism, God is in one mode of Father or son or spirit. They reject God become Flesh Jesus Christ. Craig, I adjure you to take down this video, and replace it with someone elses cover. Here’s one:

    God’s Peace

  11. Duane,
    Thanks for your comment and your testimony.
    I am not aware of PC&D’s theology to be perfectly honest with you. I went to their website, and can’t find it there. They link to several organizations with varied theology. Not to argue, just that I cannot verify what you say. Would have preferred a Benny Hester version, but could not find one that I thought was suitable either. So how about a compromise. My comment rules do not allow links, and your comment has a link. I will leave both the PC&D video and your comment. My reason is that I read the subheading on your blog. (copied below) 🙂

    “THIS IS a place for us to break bread and fish in fellowship. This is a place for us to eat the bread and drink the wine of communion with Jesus our Lord. Here we cease fighting over doctrine, dogma and theology. Here we share the love of Christ through sharing our hearts, our loves, our hopes and dreams, our struggles and trials, and troubles and cares. If I do blog here, it will just be to stimulate conversation. Our purpose here is to share conversationally, so we will remain open topic. We will remember that Jesus came to break bread with us, and serve us that bread, and was raised up to draw all to himself. A bruised reed would He not break nor a smoking flax would He quench. Jesus could make worshippers out of stones, to wit: the Palm Sunday entry. What He made us for, is a relationship, an intimacy with Him. One place to carry that out is in fellowship in the Spirit with brothers and sisters of that same one Spirit.I have seen this Spirit carried out in several places in Blog-world, in topical blogs, an incomplete list includes KC’s “Just So You All Know”, Rose’s “Roses Reasonings”, Michele’s “Sanctification”, and special thanks also to Bobby Grow’s “Evangelical Christian”. We can even share favorite music and vids. Make yourself a cup of coffee, make yourself at home and say “Hi”. ”

    Fair enough?

    Thanks for stopping by, not my intention to offend you.


  12. Craig,

    I apologize for leaving links.

  13. Duane,
    Apology accepted. I hope I didn’t seem to harsh, as that was not my intention. I am glad for your comment and for your testimony as well.
    I probably could have been clearer about my reason for leaving the video up as well.
    My thinking is this,
    I have videos up from Paul Washer, John Piper, Tim Conway, and Vodie Baucham. I would bet that I don’t agree with all of their theology, but I do appreciate the details of what they have to say in the clips that I have posted.
    As far as music goes, I have several artists’ video’s up and I know less about much of their theology as well. However, I do like the songs – and the words in those songs. Since PC&D’s view on the trinity is not something on their site that is “in your face” I felt it was ok to leave it up.
    However, I do appreciate you bringing it to my attention, and would welcome such “FYI” type communication in the future as well. Be it about them or some other video I post. I don’t want to be needlessly offensive.
    We all have blind spots, and I would hate to appear to agree with something that is blatantly wrong.

    I have considered deleting the link rule, by the way, It was a hold over from my “blogger” blog where some not too good links got posted in the comment section one time. However this wordpress site allows me much better control of those sorts of things, and so the rule is probably unnecessary. My reference to it in your case was intended to be sort or tongue and cheek.

    Please forgive me if I embarassed you.


  14. Hi Craig,
    I was and I do. And back atcha brother, please forgive me if I embarassed you. I looked at my dictionary today, and was suprised to find the 1st definition of the word I used “adjure” was not what I thought. I used it in the sense of the strongest possible request, without begging, nor demanding. ‘Nuf said.
    I am still praying for your father often. It seems strange, we have eternity to be with the Lord, and yet the best remedy even when time is short is to cleave to Him like….well what do ya know, I’m short an analogy.

    God’s Peace!

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