Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 15:23 - 15:24

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 15:23 - 15:24

(Show All Books | Show All Chapters)

This Chapter Verse Commentaries:



Luk_15:23-24. Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

THE willingness of God to receive sinners is abundantly declared in Scripture; but in no place is it so amply, or so beautifully described as in the parable before us. The reference which the parable has to the Jews and Gentiles will be more properly noticed, when we come to consider the conduct of the elder brother: at present we may view it as a lively representation of a sinner’s return to God. The text leads our attention to three points (which are also the three distinguishing parts of the parable) namely, the Prodigal’s departure from his father, his return to him, and his reception with him.

I.       His departure—

He went from his father’s house, little thinking of the ruin he should bring upon himself—

[The occasion of his departure was, that he hated the restraint of his father’s presence, and longed for independence, that he might gratify his own inclinations. Hence he desired his father to divide him his portion. But little did he think to what extent his passions would carry him. Scarcely had he received his portion, before he left his father, and departed to a distant country, where his actions would pass unnoticed. Having thus thrown the reins upon the neck of his appetites, he was carried on with irresistible impetuosity. From one degree of sin to another he rushed forward without restraint; nor stopped till he had wasted his substance in riotous living. At last he began to feel the consequences of his folly: he was reduced to a state of extreme wretchedness; yet he determined to do any thing rather than return to his father. Though a Jew, he submitted for hire to the ignominious employment of feeding swine: his wages however, there being a grievous famine in the land, would not procure him even necessary subsistence. In vain did he attempt to fill his belly with the husks intended for the swine. In vain did he solicit assistance from those who had known him in his more prosperous days. “No man,” either from gratitude or compassion, “gave him” any relief.]

Such is the departure of sinners from the presence of their God—

[They have experienced the restraints of education, but have sighed for liberty and independence. With their growing years, they increasingly abuse the mercies which God has bestowed upon them. Their reason, their time, and other talents, they employ in the service of sin. Though they do not all run to the same excess of riot, they live equally at a distance from God. At last perhaps they begin to feel the misery which their neglect of him has brought upon them. His providence too concurs with his grace to make a deeper wound in their conscience: but they try any carnal expedients rather than return to God, nor can ever be prevailed on to turn unto him, till they have fully proved the insufficiency of the creature to afford them help. Whatever they may think of themselves in such a state, they are really “dead” and “lost.”]

But the Prodigal was not gone beyond recovery, as is evident from,

II.      His return—

During his departure he had been as a person destitute of reason. At last however, “coming to himself” he thought of his father’s house.

The various steps of his return are worthy of notice—

[He first reflected on the folly and madness of his former ways, and on the incomparably happier state of those who lived under his father’s roof, and whom perhaps he once despised for submitting to such restraints. He then resolved that he would return to his father, and implore his forgiveness: having formed the purpose, he instantly arose to carry it into execution, and set off, destitute as he was, to obtain, if possible, the lowest office among his father’s domestics.]

These exactly describe the steps of a sinner’s return to God—

[He first begins to see how madly and wickedly he has acted. He feels that he has reduced himself to a wretched and perishing condition. He considers how happy are those once despised people, who enjoy the favour of his heavenly Father, and how happy he himself should be, if he might but obtain the meanest place in his family. With these views he determines to abase himself as a vile, self-ruined creature. There are no terms so humiliating, but he finds them suited to his case. He is rather fearful of not humbling himself sufficiently, than of aggravating his sin too much. He resolves that he will go to a throne of grace and ask for mercy; nor will he wait for any more convenient season, lest he should perish before the hoped-for season arrive. He is ashamed indeed to go in so mean and destitute a condition; but he despairs of ever going in any other way. He therefore breaks through all the engagements he has made with sin and Satan, and goes, with all his guilt upon him, to his God and Saviour. He now perhaps may be deemed mad by his former companions; but he should rather be considered as now “coming to himself.”]

The effect of the Prodigal’s repentance appears in,

III.     His reception—

His father, it seems, was wishfully looking out for him; and, on his first appearance, ran to testify his good-will towards him—

[The sight of his returning child caused the father’s bowels to yearn over him; nor would he suffer an upbraiding word to escape his lips. When the Prodigal began his confession, the father interrupted him with kisses; and not only would not hear the whole of his confession, but would not even hurt his feelings by saying that he forgave him. He ordered the best robe, with shoes and a ring, to be instantly put upon him, and killed the fatted calf in order to celebrate the joyful occasion.]

What a delightful representation does this give us of the reception which penitents find with God!

[God longs for their salvation even while they are at a distance from him. He notices with joy the first approaches of their souls towards him. Instead of frowning on the prodigal, he receives him with joy. Instead of upbraiding him with his folly, he seals upon his soul a sense of pardon. He arrays him in robes of righteousness and garments of salvation. He adorns him in a manner suited to the relation into which he is brought. He provides for his future comfortable and upright conversation. He rejoices over him as recovered from the dead, and makes it an occasion of festivity to all the angels in heaven. Thus do even the vilest sinners find their hopes, not only realized, but far exceeded. They come for pardon, and obtain joy; for deliverance from hell, and get a title to heaven. Their utmost ambition is to be regarded as the meanest of God’s servants; and they are exalted to all the honours and happiness of his beloved children.]


[Who would not wish to resemble this Prodigal in his reception with his father? But, in order to it, we must resemble him in his penitence and contrition. Let none think that, because they have been more moral than the Prodigal, they do not need to repent like him. All of us without exception have walked after the imagination of our own hearts, without any love to God’s presence, or regard for his authority. Let all of us then cry for mercy, as miserable sinners. The more vile we are in our own eyes, the more acceptable shall we be to God. Some perhaps may fear to return, because they have been so exceeding vile: but let none imagine that they have gone beyond the reach of mercy: the promise of acceptance extends to all without exception [Note: Joh_7:37.]. “There is bread enough and to spare” for all that will go to God. Let all then accept the Saviour’s invitation [Note: Mat_11:28.]. Let us this day afford an occasion of joy to all the hosts of heaven; then shall we ourselves be soon made partakers of their joy, and dwell, as dear children, in our Father’s house for ever and ever.]