Sermon on the Gospel according to Luke | Prodigal Son-Patient Father | Luke 15:11-24

Prodigal Son—Patient Father (Luke 15:11-24)

When I was nearing graduation from International Bible College, I wanted to be a French-speaking missionary in Montreal, Quebec. On Christmas vacation of my senior year, I flew to Montreal to spend a few days looking over the city.

The morning I flew back to the States, the weather forecast was calling for the snowstorm of the century to start that afternoon—and it did! The snowstorm was so bad that my plane had to circle the airport for several hours before it could land. In fact, my flight was the last flight allowed into Bluegrass Airport for a few days.

When I deplaned, there stood Mom and Dad. The 45-minute drive from the airport took 2-3 hours because you could barely see the Interstate for the 2 feet or so of snow. Dad patiently drove in the ruts left by the car in front of him; we slowly and painstakingly made it home. Even with a massive snowstorm, Dad was not about to leave his son stranded at the airport.

Couldn’t each of you tell comparable stories about when your dad showed up in a big way? Maybe you ran out of gas or had a flat tire or had a fender-bender, and your dad showed up to help. Maybe you were on a sports team, and your dad never missed a game. Maybe your dad worked a lot overtime, but he made sure to attend every recital. There’s a great blessing when dads show up.

This morning’s text is about a dad who showed up in a big way—his younger son left home and lived in grievous son, but the father patiently waited for his son to come home. Jesus told this parable to the Pharisees and scribes who were grumbling that Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners (Lk 15:1-2). Jesus then told two parables—the lost sheep and the lost coin—to emphasize how much God rejoices when sinners come home. The star of this morning’s parable is really the elder son who refuses to rejoice when his younger brother comes home; that elder son clearly stands for the scribes and Pharisees.

While that was Jesus’s main point, he held up the father in this parable as an example to fathers everywhere. That example? “A godly father loves with patience.

Scripture (Luke 15:11-24)

verses 11-12:

The younger son’s going to his father and asking for his share of the inheritance would have been beyond rude. In Jesus’s day, this son would have been saying to his father, “Dad, I wish you were dead. You don’t mean anything to me. I just want your money.” Can you fathom this father’s hurt?

The father then divided his property between his two sons. The younger son would have received one-third of the father’s inheritance.

verses 13-16:

The prodigal son wasted his inheritance, and he ended up hungry, so hungry that he wanted to eat the food of the unclean pig.

verses 17-19:

The prodigal’s motivation for returning to his father was not remorse for what he had done. Instead, he was hungry. He wanted to be welcomed back into his father’s well-to-do household as a slave so that he could eat.

verses 20-24:

While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. The implication is unmistakable: The father was watching and waiting for his son to return. He would not go and live in sin with his boy, but the very moment the son came back, the father would welcome him home.

The father “ran and embraced [his son] and kissed him.” It wasn’t considered dignified for an elderly Jewish man to run, but this father didn’t care; he ran anyway.

The son began to give his spiel to his father, but his father cut him off; the father didn’t care what the son said—he simply wanted his son home.

The father told his servants, “bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” The best robe in that house would have belonged to the father. The ring would likely have been a family signet ring, a sign of reinstating sonship. Shoes—sandals—would have shown that this boy was still his son, for the slaves went barefoot.

The slaves were to kill the fattened calf so that they could “eat and celebrate.” Ancients only ate meat on special occasions. That demonstrates just how much this father was rejoicing that his son had come home.


The father in this passage just exudes love, compassion, and patience. We obviously understand that the father in this text represents our heavenly Father who has love, compassion, and patience in perfect abundance. While we fathers do not have love, compassion, or patience in perfect abundance, we must strive daily to live like our Father in heaven: “You . . . must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).

And it’s not just fathers who need to emulate the patience of our heavenly Father—all of you need to live in patience. God expects his people to be patient. “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (Eccl 7:8). “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast” (1 Cor 13:4). “Put on . . . as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12). “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thess 5:14).

How can you develop patience?

One: Look to the Father.

If you want to develop patience for others, just think about how patient God is with you. You know God is perfectly patient. “For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off” (Is 48:9). “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim 1:16). “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him” (2 Pet 3:15).

Think for a moment about what would happen if God were not patient toward you. What sins would he not have forgiven? How many times would he have struck you dead? What great punishment would he have meted out in his righteous judgment?

Think about where you’d be without God’s patience. It’s far easier to be patient with others when you realize how patient God has been with you.

Two: Look to your Friends.

If you want to develop patience for others, just think about how patient others—your friends—have been with you. Jesus told a parable to that effect: Matthew 18:23-34. Yes, Jesus was making a point about forgiving your brother, but notice what he actually said in the parable. The servant who had been forgiven ten thousand talents should have been patient with the one who owed him a hundred denarii because the king had been patient with him.

Think for a moment what would happen if your friends were not patient toward you? What harsh word would have turned into a falling out? What foolish action would have led to separation? Where would you be if your friends weren’t patient with you?


As this morning’s text makes clear, our heavenly Father has great patience toward you. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Why keep the Lord patiently waiting? Come to him right now!

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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