Mission

Invitation (Mobile)

This chapter covers the fourth point of the Gospel presentation: Jesus' invitation into relationship.



UNDERSTANDING

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PASSAGE?

Read Luke 15:11 – 32

 

Goal

The goal of this chapter is to present the fourth step of the Gospel: an invitation into a relationship with Jesus and His Church.

 

Context

Last week, we looked at why Jesus died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ death, we now have an opportunity to go to heaven through a relationship with Him. This week, we will look at what this invitation is and how we can respond through the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11 – 32. The Prodigal Son is a classic story and probably the most famous of Jesus’ parables. While many know the general premise of the story, few understand the key details that make it so remarkable.

 

Premise

The story begins in Luke 15:11 – 16 with a son asking his father for his inheritance. This appears to be a simple request, but in Jesus’ time, to ask for your father’s inheritance before his death would have been a profound insult. The son is, in effect, saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.”

Despite this, the father surprisingly gives the inheritance to the son. The son not only takes the inheritance, but then he quickly squanders it on loose living — that is, on sexual immorality and prostitution in a foreign land (Luke 15:30). Notice that, while 2,000 years may have passed, sin doesn’t look all that different today than it did back then. Rebellion, partying and sex have been temptations for people throughout history.

Penniless and far from home, the son hires himself out as a laborer. Notice the spiral of sin: Before, he was a son; now, he is a mere servant. At first, the son’s rebellion was all about fun and excitement. Now, he is enslaved by his current situation — so much so that he must serve pigs, animals that repulsed the ancient Jewish people. He has officially hit rock bottom.

 

Repentance

The younger son starts to repent of his decision to leave home. Notice the stages of repentance that he experiences in Luke 15:17 – 24:

1. He realizes what is going on: “He came to himself” (Lk 15:17). The first step of repentance is realizing your mistakes and the consequences of your actions. He no longer ignores his mistakes and is willing to examine his life anew.

2. He recognizes where he could be: “How many of my father’s hands…” (Lk 15:17). The son contrasts his current situation with what his life could be. He remembers his life in the father’s house and what it was like to be a son. He’s willing to repent because he knows it’s better to be a servant in his father’s house than a slave in a foreign country.

 

Climax

Now let us examine what the father — the true hero of this story — does:

1. The father sees his son at a distance (Lk 15:20). He has been waiting for the son to return, actively watching for him. This wasn’t just to see if the son would return, but to protect him. In Jesus’ day, it was common for someone like the prodigal son to be punished upon his return home. The village would perform a kezazah ceremony to banish the son from the village forever. The father in the story runs not only out of a desire to see his son, but to make sure no one gets to him first to perform this ceremony.

2. The father runs to him (Lk 15:20). How often do you see old men run? This act would have been even more undignified in the culture at the time.

3. The father embraces him (Lk 15:20). Think about this: The father loves the son even before the son has made any confession whatsoever. The father loves the son for who he is, not what he’s done.

4. The father celebrates (Lk 15:22 – 24). The robe, the shoes, the ring and the fattened calf: These are all signs that the son is back in the family. The father tells everyone, “My son was dead and is alive again.”

 

The Older Son

In Luke 15:25 – 32, the story turns to our last main character: the older son. Just as with the father and the younger son, the details surrounding this character are essential. Be sure to watch the father in this scene as well.

1. The older son refuses to join the party (Lk 15:28). He protests his father’s ability to forgive and does not recognize his brother as being back in the family (Lk 15:30). The older son tells his father, “This son of yours.”

2. Despite living in the father’s house and being obedient, the older son doesn’t truly live like a son either. The son views his relationships with the father like a servant expecting to be paid for his services: “These many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (Lk 15:29). The father reminds the son who he is by calling him “son” and then telling him that “all I have is yours” (Lk 15:31).

 

Application

This story can come alive for your Bible study members as they identify the character or characters that they can relate in the story. As we relate to these characters, we can begin to further understand our relationship to God and how He views us. How does He react to sin and forgiveness? Does the picture of God in the parable match the picture we have of God in our hearts and minds?

As we understand who we are and what our relationship is to God, it’s important for us to know what steps we can take next. No matter which son you identify with, the younger son’s confession to his father gives a great model of repentance. He not only thinks about repentance, but he acts on it. He asks his father for forgiveness and changes his life by leaving the situation he is in.

This is a great moment to invite your group to confession (assuming they are baptized Catholics). In confession, we can truly experience the mercy of Jesus. As Pope Francis has said, “Everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’ And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!” (General Audience, 19 Feb. 2014).

Confession is essential because we can’t have reconciliation with God without reconciliation with the Church. As the Catechism states, “Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God” (CCC 1445).

Finally, schedule a time with each member of your study this week to review the Gospel presentation and ask them where they think they are now and where they want to be. If you have any questions about how to present the Gospel to others, ask your discipler or a FOCUS missionary for help. Also, see the additional resources below.

 

Additional Resources

For non-Catholics wondering about the necessity of the Church, see “Scriptural Apologetics” Chapter 2: The Kingdom, Authority, and the Papacy.

For more on how to make a good confession, see this Short Guide to Confession: http://stjosemaria.org/short-guide-for-confession/

 

 [Note to leader: These resources are to help you share the Gospel with your group.]

The Ultimate Relationship Booklet: https://store.cco.ca/products/the-ultimate-relationship

FOCUS’ “How to Evangelize” series and Gospel Invitation article: https://focusoncampus.org/content/how-to-evangelize-individual-chapters

 

 

DISCUSSION

DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR YOUR BIBLE STUDY

Luke 15:11 – 32

 

Notes to the Leader

• Reminder of the goal of this chapter: The goal of this week’s chapter is to present the fourth step of the Gospel: an invitation into a relationship with Jesus and His Church.

• Instructions for this chapter: After this study, you’ll want to meet with each member of your study one on one to share the Gospel and allow them to respond. Take a look at your schedule over the next two weeks and be ready to offer some times when you are available to meet or be prepared to organically make invitations throughout the next week.

• Challenge check-in: Last week, the challenge was to find moments, big or small, to give grace to others in our lives, whether it be to a friend, a family member or a stranger. Also, note times when others gave you grace. Consider asking your group how this challenge went.

 

Opener

1. Have you ever had to apologize to someone? How did you feel about it beforehand? What were your feelings afterwards?

 

Context

 

Read Luke 15:11 – 32.

 

2. At the beginning of the story, what happens between the father and the son?

Answer: The son asks his father for his inheritance before his father is dead. In a sense, he is saying to his dad, “I wish you were dead.”

 

3. Why do you think the son asks for the inheritance, and why do you think the father gives it to him, even though he does not have to do so?

Answer: The son wants to use the money to live a life of sin. Notice that, while 2,000 years may have passed, sin doesn’t look all that different today than it did back then. Rebellion, partying and sex have been temptations for people throughout history. A normal response at this time would be for the father to hit his son. But the father loves the son enough not to force the son to have a relationship with him. Instead, he lets him choose what he wants.

 

4. In one or two words, how would you summarize the scene when the younger son is living in a foreign land during the famine?

Answer: The younger son has hit rock bottom. To understand just how bad things got, the son longs to eat what the pigs eat, and because of a law against eating pork, the Jews traditionally despised pigs. Spiritually, the son is in even worse circumstances. Later the father remarks, “for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15:32). This means that spiritually the son was dead.

 

5. In verses 13 – 16, what goes through the son’s mind that convinces him to return?

Answer: He remembers his life in the father’s house and what it was like to be a son. He remembers that relationship. He’s willing to repent because he knows it’s better to be a servant in his father’s house than a slave in a foreign country.

 

Climax

6. In verse 20, it says, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.” What do you think this says about the father?

Answer: The father sees his son at a distance (Lk 15:20). He has been waiting for the son to return, actively watching for him. This wasn’t just to see if the son would return, but to protect him. In Jesus’ day, it was common for someone like the prodigal son to be punished upon his return home. The village would perform a kezazah ceremony to banish the son from the village forever. The father in the story runs not only out of a desire to see his son, but to make sure no one gets to him first to perform this ceremony.

 

7. In verses 25 – 32, we get the older son’s reaction. How would you feel if your younger brother received this kind of welcome after spending his inheritance on prostitutes?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

8. What does the older son’s reaction and language say about how he views his relationship with his father?

Answer: Despite living in the father’s house and being obedient, he doesn’t live like a son either. The son views his relationship with the father like a servant expecting to be paid for his services: “These many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (Lk 15:29). The father reminds the son who he is by calling him “son” and telling him that “all I have is yours” (Lk 15:31).

 

Application

9. Who do you most identify with most in this story and why?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

10. If God is the father in the story, what does this say about who He is?

Answer: Just like the beginning of the story, God gives us free will to choose what we do with our lives. Also, rather than waiting in judgment of us, God is waiting with compassion to forgive us. He wants to forgive us if we would only ask, and He is willing to run to us and embrace us.

 

11. Do you view God in this way when you’ve sinned?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

12. No matter which son you identify with, the younger son’s confession to his father gives a great model of repentance. What are some of the things the younger son does? How can we live out some of these steps today?

Answer: He not only thinks about repentance, but he acts on it. He asks his father for forgiveness and changes his life by leaving the situation that he is in. One of the most concrete ways for baptized Catholics to repent and receive God’s mercy is through the sacrament of reconciliation. As Pope Francis has said, “Everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’ And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!” (General Audience, 19 Feb. 2014). Confession is essential because we can’t have reconciliation with God without reconciliation with the Church. As the Catechism states, “Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God” (CCC 1445).

 

Summary

(Share aloud with your group.)

As we’ve seen during this study, Jesus not only provides us salvation through His death on the cross, but He also invites us to receive this gift by changing our lives. Next week, we will look at how to live out this life.

 

Challenge

The challenge this week is to present the Gospel with each person in your group individually. Note that this challenge is primarily for you as the leader. If you want to offer an additional challenge to your group, consider the challenge below.

(Share aloud with your group.)

The challenge for this week is to take at least 10 minutes to read and pray with the story of the Prodigal Son on your own outside of Bible study. Think about where you are and where God is calling you to be.

 

Additional Resources

For non-Catholics wondering about the necessity of the Church, see “Scriptural Apologetics” Chapter 2: The Kingdom, Authority, and the Papacy.

For more on how to make a good confession, see this Short Guide to Confession: http://stjosemaria.org/short-guide-for-confession/

 

[Note to leader: These resources are to help you share the Gospel with your group.]

The Ultimate Relationship Booklet: https://store.cco.ca/products/the-ultimate-relationship

FOCUS’ “How to Evangelize” series and Gospel Invitation article: https://focusoncampus.org/content/how-to-evangelize-individual-chapters