When Jesus told the story, it was more about the legalistic son who stayed behind than the pleasure-seeking son who left. This becomes clear when we examine the details of the returning son’s repentance.
- The son “comes to himself” and realizes how stupid he is being by living separate from his father
- The father does not seek after his son, only keeps an eye out for him with loving expectation
If the story was truly focused on paralleling the salvation experience, the son would realize how unhappy he was with the pigs, but because of his pride he would rather stay with them than return home. His father would come and rescue him out of his prideful despair before the son had even considered going home.