Working every day with young people reminds me of two truths: 1. Kids are very different from how they used to be, and 2. Kids are very much the same as they always have been.
In 2019, a young person’s world is full of technology, social media, multicultural awareness, uncertain job markets and access to endless knowledge via the internet. But today’s young people also crave acceptance, exude idealism, take risks and sometimes conflict with their parents … just as they always have. However, the world a young person inhabits seems to constantly change.
Read all of Luke 15 as though for the first time. Gospel parables are commonly misunderstood as simple allegories, but are actually much more. We can think of them as the art of the profound mini-story, with Jesus as the supreme story master. I believe his magnum opus is Luke 15.
In all three parables the prominent thread seems to be something or someone lost.
What other features are common to all three parables?
Read Luke 15:11–32 again – out aloud. These stories often reveal greater depth when verbalised. You can also hear the parable told powerfully in an excerpt from the film Jesus of Nazareth at www.youtube.com/watch?v=14epxvU8XIA
What emotions do you feel when you hear this story?
Discuss which character/s in the parable you relate to. Has that identification changed in your lifetime?
Young people’s brains are still developing into their mid-20s. The last part of the brain to develop oversees impulse control and consequence prediction.
Both brothers share the same father (a mother is not mentioned). Why do you think the brothers’ lives unfold so differently?
Are their different personalities realistic representations of real-life siblings?
Read verse 17. The literal translation of this verse is ‘He came to himself’. In other words, the younger son was finally able to step outside his self-made drama and look at his situation objectively.
Recall a time when you had an ‘aha moment’ like the younger son. Did it feel like a ‘God moment’? Has a total mess-up ever motivated you to embrace grace out of sheer necessity?
Verses 17–19 reveal the younger son as not thinking primarily about his father, but about his father’s home and the abundance there. So the opposite of ‘lost’ in this parable is not so much ‘found’, but ‘home’.
In what ways is living in grace like living in a warm, loving home? Describe your understanding of the perfect home and what occurs there.
Do you think it is coincidence that both the father and the youngest son enjoy a fondness for parties and having a good time?
The older son in verses 25–32 is looked upon by many Bible readers with sympathy, in the same way as with Martha in the narrative of Luke 10:38–42. Both the older son and Martha seem to have done the right thing but ended up feeling hard done by.
Why does Jesus not seem to value duty on the same level with being in the presence of God’s love?
Conclude your study by discussing and praying for young people you care about.
Pastor Jon Goessling is College Pastor at Tatachilla Lutheran College at McLaren Vale in South Australia.
This feature story comes from The Lutheran July 2019. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.