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Jesus used parables when teaching. Parables are earthly stories that have a heavenly meaning. In using parables, the Lord was able to teach a spiritual concept is such a way that even the most illiterate person would be able to understand. Therefore, the parables are filled with symbolism.
"The Parable of the Prodigal Son" is an earthly story that shows how pleased God is when a sinner repents and comes back to Him. The father of this parable represents God who is the Father of all mankind. This "certain man" provides for his two sons; however, the younger son, the prodigal, is impatient with the restraints placed upon him. He, therefore, wants his inheritance now to spend as he pleases, to be free from the household rule of his father. This prodigal son represents the sinner who wants to go his own way without being accountable to anyone even God.
This younger son "took his journey into a far country." In this journey he spent all that was given to him in a wasteful manner. This shows that a sinner is far from God and doing whatever he wants without any though to the consequences that might come.
After spending everything "there arose a mighty famine in the land." This famine symbolizes how worldly pleasures cannot satisfy the spirit. The prodigal was then thrown into degradation and the only means of earning a living was feeding pigs, which is the lowest job a Jew could perform.
Finally this young man remembers how well his father's servants are treated and fed. He decides to return to his father's house and beg forgiveness. Upon returning home, his father who has been waiting and watching for him welcomes him back with a great feast. The return of the prodigal shows that a sinner who comes to God in faith and repentance is welcomed back with love and mercy.
However, the older son who has faithfully remained home working for his father is upset by this generous welcome. He complains about the compassion shown to his brother and how none of this has ever been done for him.
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The father asks the older to come to the feast and to be happy about the return of the prodigal son saying, "…we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." The spiritual condition of the prodigal or sinner is one of death since they are absent from God and then returning to obedience to God the spirit is alive again.
The theme of "The Parable of the Prodigal Son" is that a sinful life is not fulfilling and eventually leads to destruction. As the prodigal was determined to do what he wanted and fell into ruing so can sin lead others down a destructive path. However, God, as shown by the father, is always waiting with loving-kindness to welcome any and all into His family of believers.