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The Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Prodigal Son | Sunday School Solutions

Sep 14, 2023 | Sunday School Solutions

by Emily Hechler

We all have a perception of God’s love, but our perception needs to be grounded in biblical truth. Think about the children in your Sunday school class. Do they have the correct perception of God’s love for them? Do they think they have done something so bad that God wouldn’t love them? Do they believe God must love them because they are good kids? You can teach them the correct perspective of God’s love through the parable of the prodigal son.

First, read the parable of the prodigal son to your class from Luke 15. After reading this, the children might be a little confused about what this means. Let’s recap the story in words that’ll be easier for them to understand:

“When the younger son asked his father for his share of the property, it was like the son wished his father was dead so he could have the money that he would have gotten after his father passed away. The younger son did not respect his father and wanted to go far away so he could live however he wanted. He spent all the money he had because he was not responsible.

You can teach them the correct perspective of God’s love through the parable of the prodigal son.

In that time, it was offensive for Jews to be around pigs. They were considered unclean, a kind of animal God did not allow them to eat. This time, the son wasn’t being around pigs to be rebellious. He did it because he was desperate for money. But he realized how much better his life could be if he went back to his father. When he went back home, he expected his father to be upset and not let him back in the family. He was ready to become one of his father’s servants. However, the father was so loving that he ran to meet him and welcomed him back with open arms. He even threw a party to show how happy he was that his son had returned home.”

Now, since your Sunday school class can better understand the story of the parable of the prodigal son, let’s tell them more about the characters in the story:

The prodigal son represents all the people in the world who haven’t accepted Jesus. These people have rebelled against God and want to live life their own way. They try to leave Him behind. Yet they need Him so desperately.

In the story, the son realized how much he needed his father, so he came back home. The father was waiting for his son to come home. The father represents God, our Heavenly Father. He is always there, waiting for His people to come home to Him–that means you. If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior, God is waiting for you to do so. He is running to you with open arms. You need to turn to God. Luke 15:10 says, ‘Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’ There is a party in heaven whenever someone accepts Jesus as Savior and joins God’s family!”

Isn’t it wonderful how God is waiting for sinners to come to Him?

There is a party in heaven whenever someone accepts Jesus as Savior and joins God’s family!

A lot of people will stop reading here. But there is more to the story. The father had two sons. The second son had been at home the whole time, working for his father. He was loyal to the family. When the younger brother came back, the older brother did not welcome him like his father. He was angry. How could his father throw a party for the younger son who had run away and lived so recklessly? The father reminded his older son that he was always with him. They were family! They could talk anytime. They shared meals together. They could have a stronger relationship since they are always together. It wasn’t like that with the younger son because he left and wanted to be away from his family.

When Jesus first told the story to his followers, the Pharisees were also present. They often critiqued and questioned His teachings. They thought they could have a relationship with God just by being good people and following all the rules from the Old Testament. They didn’t love Him. The Pharisees were upset at Jesus welcoming sinners. How could they have a relationship with God after living such sinful lives?

Sometimes, people today have the same attitude. They think they will earn God’s love through doing good deeds. But He will save them only when they trust in Jesus alone as their Savior, instead of relying on their ability to follow a list of rules.

You can use the attitudes and behaviors of both the sons in the parable to present the Gospel. Do the children in your class think that they are saved because they are good people? Have one of them read Romans 3:10-12 out loud: “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

Have the children in your class been running from God, like the prodigal son? Tell them that He is ready for them to come and have a relationship with Him. You can share 1 John 4:10, which says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

You can present the Gospel to them using The Wordless Book or Wordless Book wristbands. These can both be found on the CEF Press® website.