Icebreaker: Have you ever witnessed a reconciliation? What was it like?
1. Read Luke 15. Retell the story in your own words. (In Luke’s day, tax collectors were Jews who collected--usually unjustly--from their Jewish brothers and gave tribute to the Romans, who oppressed the Jewish people. Tax collectors were disallowed from serving as witnesses or judges because they were considered untrustworthy.)
2. Jesus showed the Pharisees that they were unloving. Despite their care in the following the letter of the law, they were being exclusive. What was the Pharisees’ objection to Jesus? (Eating with a person in that time demonstrated more than mere association – it indicated acceptance and endorsement.)
3. In what ways are we like the Pharisees? In our relationships? In our criticisms? In our exclusions?
4. List the three lost things in the three parables about losing and finding something precious.
5. What is the response when the lost item is found (vs. 5 and 9)?
6. Have you ever found something that you thought was lost forever? How did you feel once you recovered it?
7. What if the father had chosen to disown the son (which he had every right to do)? What might have happened to the son had he not repented and returned home?
8. Is there anything in your past that seems like an unforgivable sin?
9. Read Acts 7:54–8:1. A) What was Saul’s (Paul’s) involvement? B) Read Phil. 3:12–14. C) What if Paul had said, “I can’t do anything – I’ve murdered Christians?” D) What was his view on the past and future? E) Is there anything in your past that you need to quit dwelling on and “leave behind?”
10. In the prodigal son story, what was the father’s response to the “lost” son (vs. 20–25)? List all the ways the father welcomed home his son.
11. Why do you think the father does not even wait for his son to finish his speech?
12. How is the father’s view of the son different from the son’s view of himself?
13. In what ways do you think you view yourself differently from how your heavenly Father views you?
14. In what ways did the son take the short view (instant gratification) instead of the long view (delayed gratification)? In what ways do we seek immediate gratification?
15. The father does not minimize the seriousness of his son’s actions (vs. 24), nor does Jesus minimize the need to repent (vv. 7, 10, 17–20). How do these two sobering realities give added meaning to the rejoicing?
16. What was the older son doing when the party started (vs. 25)? How did he find out his brother was back?
17. Why did the older son respond the way he did? Have you ever felt resentful when someone less deserving received recognition and you were “left outside”?
18. What is the father’s response to the older son’s outburst? Does the father favor the unfaithful son? What does this tell you about how much our performance factors into God’s love for us?
19. How does this lesson relate to the theme of our study, which is your worth in Christ? If you were to end this story (which Luke did not do), where would each young man’s worth be found? How would he now face his future?
20. With which person in this story do you most identify and why?
21. Peter, who was forgiven for denying the Lord, later writes to tell Christians to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 1:2). We must move from receiving grace to being like the father, who gave it away. Who needs to receive a touch of grace from you?
For further reading: Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son.