The parable of the man with two sons (aka 'the prodigal son') is one of the most famous of all Jesus' parables. But what was his point?
Was it simply to let Israel know that God was loving?
Was there a message about the Gentiles in there?
Which one, if any, is Jesus?
Which one, if any, is us?
The parable is not too difficult to understand at a basic level, but my contention is that as we read this profound story, we do so with assumptions.
Many Christians understand it as God wanting to tell sinners he loves them no matter what - and then stop there. But there's so much more to it.
AND, there is a sting in the tail. How do you think the story of this family would have ended had Jesus continued the narrative? My conclusion might surprise you (as it did the congregation on the day of recording).
For further reading, I highly recommend Tim Keller's book The Prodigal God. I refer to it several times throughout this series. If you're looking for a commentary to help in understanding this parable, I can't go past Hendriksen's New Testament Commentary on Luke and Joseph A. Fitzmyer in The Anchor Bible series. Read all of these and you won't need to listen to me!
May God richly bless you as you study his word, as he did our congregation who laboured through 10 weeks of this parable with me!