For a son to ask for his inheritance before the death of his father was a severe cultural offense, equivalent to wishing for the father’s death. The lost son ended up in the worst of circumstances from a Jewish point of view: a place where even unclean pigs were faring better than he was. The father’s extravagant mercy turned out to be as far-reaching as the son’s offenses. The story turns near the end, when the older brother refused to join the party, revealing that he was as lost as his younger brother. This parable probably was meant to illustrate the self-righteous attitudes of observant religious people who felt entitled to the kingdom because they “never disobeyed” (Luke 15:29). Jesus left the parable unresolved, forcing his listeners to see themselves in the story.
What did this parable teach you about mercy?
Taken from NIV First-Century Study Bible