Prodigal Son Bible Story - Luke 15:11-32

God's love restores the lost

1877 The Prodigal Son wood engraving depicting reunited father and son hugging.
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The Bible story of the Prodigal Son, also known as the Parable of the Lost Son, follows immediately after the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. With these three parables, Jesus demonstrated what it means to be lost, how heaven celebrates with joy when the lost are found, and how the loving Father longs to save people.

Questions for Reflection

As you read this study guide, think about who you are in the parable. Are you a prodigal, a Pharisee, or a servant?

Are you the rebellious son, lost and far from God? Are you the self-righteous Pharisee, no longer capable of rejoicing when a sinner returns to God? Are you a lost sinner seeking salvation and finding the Father’s love? Are you standing to the side, watching and wondering how the Father could ever forgive you? Maybe you've hit rock-bottom, come to your senses, and decided to run to God's open arms of compassion and mercy. Or are you one of the servants in the household, rejoicing with the father when a lost son finds his way home?

Scripture Reference

The parable of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke 15:11-32.

Prodigal Son Bible Story Summary

Jesus told the Prodigal Son story in response to the Pharisees' complaint: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Luke 15:2). He wanted his follower to know why he chose to associate with sinners.

The story begins with a man who has two sons. The younger son asks his father for his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance. Once received, the son promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his fortune on wild living.

When the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son finds himself in dire circumstances. He takes a job feeding pigs. Eventually, he grows so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs.

The young man finally comes to his senses, remembering his father. In humility, he recognizes his foolishness and decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy. The father who has been watching and waiting, receives his son back with open arms of compassion. He is overjoyed by the return of his lost son.

Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare an enormous feast in celebration of his son's return.

Meanwhile, the older son boiles in anger when he comes in from working the fields to discover a party with music and dancing to celebrate his younger brother's return.

The father tries to dissuade the older brother from his jealous rage explaining, "Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.  We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” (Luke 15:31-32, NLT).


This section of Luke's Gospel is dedicated to the lost. The heavenly Father loves lost sinners and his love restores them to right relationship with God. In fact, heaven is filled with lost sinners who have come home.

The first question the story raises for readers is, "Am I lost?" The father is a picture of our Heavenly Father. God waits patiently, with loving compassion to restore us when we return to him with humble hearts. He offers us everything in his kingdom, restoring full relationship with joyful celebration. He doesn't dwell on our past waywardness.

This third parable ties the three together in a beautiful picture of our heavenly Father. With the return of his son, the father finds the precious treasure for which he had hunted. His lost sheep was home. It was time to celebrate! What love, compassion, and forgiveness he shows!

Bitterness and resentment keep the older son from forgiving his younger brother. It blinds him to the treasure he freely enjoys through constant relationship with the father.

Jesus loved hanging out with sinners because he knew they would see their need of salvation and respond, flooding heaven with joy.

Points of Interest

Typically, a son would receive his inheritance at the time of his father's death. The fact that the younger brother instigated the early division of the family estate showed a rebellious and proud disregard for his father's authority, not to mention a selfish and immature attitude.

Pigs were unclean animals. Jews were not even allowed to touch pigs. When the son took a job feeding pigs, even longing for their food to fill his belly, it revealed that he had fallen as low as he could possibly go. This son represents a person living in rebellion to God. Sometimes we have to hit rock-bottom before we come to our senses and recognize our sin.

Reading from the beginning of chapter 15, we see that the older son is clearly a picture of the Pharisees. In their self-righteousness, they refuse to associate with sinners and have forgotten to rejoice when a sinner returns to God.

Key Verse

Luke 15:23–24
'And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. (NLT)

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Your Citation
Fairchild, Mary. "Prodigal Son Bible Story - Luke 15:11-32." Learn Religions, Jul. 4, 2021, Fairchild, Mary. (2021, July 4). Prodigal Son Bible Story - Luke 15:11-32. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "Prodigal Son Bible Story - Luke 15:11-32." Learn Religions. (accessed March 21, 2023).

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