We are studying Luke 15:11-24 for Sunday, March 17 – the first part of the story of “the prodigal son.” [Study notes for the text are here.] Here are a few questions that might help us consider what this text means for us:
The context for the story is a comment made by “the Pharisees and scribes” about how Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2) What was the problem with Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them, do we think? What in today’s world might be similar to that “welcoming sinners and eating with them”? How comfortable would we, ourselves, be with someone who does that? What would we, or might we, conclude about them? Why? What light does that response shed on what’s going on here, or why Jesus tells this story?
What do you think of when you hear the words “the prodigal son”? How familiar are you with this story, and where did that familiarity come from? [E.g., do you remember when you first heard this story? When? Where were you? Who told it or taught it to you?]
What do you usually think of the story as being “about”?
Do you think of it as having a happy ending? Why or why not?
Other usual thoughts you have about this story?
How does our history with this text affect the way we read it today, do we think?
Do we see ourselves in any of the characters in the story? Which one(s)? Why? What does that tell us about ourselves? How comfortable, or uncomfortable, are we with that? Why?
How would we describe the behavior of the younger son in the story? Do we know anyone who has behaved this way in our own lives or experience? What is our impression of that person, the story or stories that they’ve been involved in?
How would we describe the behavior of the father in the story? Do we know anyone who has behaved this way in our own lives or experience? What is our impression of that person? What has been our response to the story or stories they’ve been involved in?
How do our own life experiences and practical values seem to influence our understanding of what is going on in this story that Jesus tells?
What point do we think Jesus is trying to make with this story? To whom is he trying to make it, do we think? Who seems to be the audience for this story?
What is the point of the story for us, do we think? Why is that?
How easy or difficult is it for us to accept that point? Why is that? What concrete behavior(s) would it affect? [That is: what would accepting that point require us to do? Or, not to do? Specifically?] What would help us do that? What would stand in the way?