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Luke 15:1-32

By Janice Brandli

Oftentimes, we view this parable as being three—the first dealing with lost sheep, the second with a lost coin, and the third with a lost son. Notice that the word “parable” in verse 3 is singular, not plural. It is one parable with three aspects-- one symphony with three movements, one play with three parts, one song with three stanzas. - The first stanza speaks of the shepherd as the Son - The second stanza speaks of the woman doing the work of the Spirit - The final stanza speaks of the father with the Father’s heart of God Hopelessly and helplessly lost, the sheep and the coin are sought by the shepherd and the woman. But the story of the prodigal, it is the son who decides to turn toward his father.

These parables introduce the importance of sinners for Jesus, and thus for disciples. The parable's drama is built on the tension of an attempt to find something that has been lost. Anyone who has lost anything or loses anything on a regular basis can identify with this tension. Luke 15:1-2 They drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured saying, This man receives sinners and eats with them.

Publicans were the Tax collectors of the day. They were considered Social outcasts of that day and were notoriously dishonest. Rome would establish a certain levy for an area. They were responsible to give to Rome that amount, but anything over that, they could keep.They had the power of Rome behind them. They were considered traitors and the most hated persons in the community.

Pharisees were religious zealots. They were outwardly religious. They spent their time debating the law and seeking to observe outward observances. They were exacting in their actions but their attitudes stunk. Hypocrites, all an act. They lived to impress each other, they sought the approval of man more than God. They were very self-righteous and manifested the common characteristic by condemning others.

Scribes were the men who spent their time copying scriptures. They were considered the experts. They knew the original language. They considered themselves only ones capable of interpreting the scriptures.

The publicans and sinners came to hear. The pharisees and scribes came to condemn. It was offensive to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus associated with men and women who, by the orthodox, were labelled as sinners. The Pharisees gave to people who did not keep the law a general classification. A Pharisee was forbidden to be the guest of any such man or to have him as his guest. He was even forbidden, so far as it was possible, to have any business dealings with him.

In Eastern culture, it was believed that a mystical union took place between those who broke bread or shared a meal together. Seen in this light, communion takes on an entirely new significance. Sometimes hearers are found in surprising places. The issue of listening to Jesus is a major one. To experience God's blessing, we need to listen to him.

Vs. 3-7 Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Matt 18:12-14 is a parallel passage)

Jesus begins with a pastoral scene that would have been familiar in Palestine. A shepherd had a hundred sheep--a count that would indicate he is modestly wealthy, since the average flock ranged from twenty to two hundred head (Jeremias 1972:133). Such flocks were an economic resource, since they provided wool and mutton.

The shepherd was personally responsible for the sheep. If a sheep was lost the shepherd must at least bring home the fleece to show how it had died. These shepherds were experts at tracking and could follow the straying sheep's footprints for miles across the hills. There was not a shepherd for whom it was not all in the day's work to risk his life for his sheep. Many of the flocks were communal flocks, belonging, not to individuals, but to villages. There would be two or three shepherds in charge. Those whose flocks were safe would arrive home on time and bring news that one shepherd was still out on the mountain side searching for a sheep which was lost. The whole village would be upon the watch, and when, in the distance, they saw the shepherd striding home with the lost sheep across his shoulders, there would rise from the whole community a shout of joy and of thanksgiving.

ANALOGIES IN THIS PASSAGE - The man with one hundred sheep = Christ the Good Shepherd - The sheep which wandered away = backsliders from the faith - Finding the lost sheep = Christ saving sinners - Elevating it to his shoulders = uplifting the fallen - The rejoicing of the shepherd = joy in heaven over the saved

The parable pictures God's desire to find sinners and bring them back into the fold. Thus the owner throws a party, asking his neighbors to celebrate with him since the lost sheep is found. In the same way, Jesus says, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. When a sinner turns to God, heaven throws a party. The prospect of such joy keeps Jesus associating with sinners.

The fact of there having been only a single sheep is not an indication of how few were lost, but of the Lord's concern even for a single lost person. As a matter of fact, the lost sheep stands for countless millions of people.

The parable also has utility as a warning. The lost sheep, separated from the flock and from the shepherd, is a warning of the state of any child of God who wanders away from the church and away from the Shepherd. Sheep, as used by Jesus, always meant followers of God, goats being the designation for the sinful and rebellious. Therefore, the lost sheep here could represent a backsliding Christian.

The lost sheep is surrounded by dangers. There are beasts of prey, poisonous shrubs and weeds, and even the elemental forces of nature are hostile to a lost sheep. Manifold and insurmountable are the dangers confronting the lost sheep; and it is no less true of the Christian who has forsaken the flock and the shepherd.

(1) Just as the shepherd left the fold and the ninety and nine to seek the lost sheep, Christ left heaven with its glory to seek the lost of humanity (John 3:16).

(2) It will be noted that there was no safety for the lone sheep. Its safety was in the flock and with the shepherd. There is safety for the Christian only in the church and with the Good Shepherd. It may be doubted that there is any such thing as a Christian who does not belong to the church, despite the fact that such a conceit is obviously deceiving millions. Of old, "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved," and he has never stopped doing so (Acts 2:47).

(3) If a lamb wandered away habitually into areas that could be potentially destructive, the shepherd would break its legs. Then, after carefully setting the bones, he would carry the lamb on his shoulders while the bones mended. When the lamb was healed, so close did it grow toward the shepherd that from that time on, it would never leave his side. Therein lies the reason for not wandering away. The Lord is not vindictive or angry, He wants to save us from danger and damnation. Just as the lost sheep was elevated to the shoulders of the shepherd, so the lost soul is elevated to new heights of eminence and rejoicing in Christ Jesus. "He shall exalt you" (James 4:10) is the promise to Christians; and just as the sheep found rest on the shoulders of the shepherd, men find rest in Christ (Matthew 11:29,30).

(4) When someone gets saved, there is great celebration! Heaven itself is concerned with the salvation of the lost. "Joy in heaven!" is a pledge that the unseen creation is interested in the rescue of fallen men. There is no one who confesses Christ that angels do not hear it; and there is none who enters the fold of Christ, but there goes forth on his behalf the angels of God, "to do service for them that shall inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). The shepherd did not leave the 99 sheep helpless and defenseless, for in those days, when night fell, shepherds would bring their flocks together into one area where all of the shepherds would watch the combined flock. The next day, they would take their individual flocks into separate feeding areas. To separate the sheep, each shepherd had a different song, chant, or call that their own sheep recognized as mentioned also in John 10:4 Jesus leaving the 99 to find one seems illogical, irrational and senseless, until that one is you. (Susie)

Souls of men! why will ye scatter Like a crowd of frightened sheep? Foolish hearts! why will ye wander From a love so true and deep? Was there ever a kindest shepherd Half so gentle, half so sweet, As the Saviour who would have us Come and gather round his feet? For the love of God is broader Than the measure of man's mind; And the heart of the Eternal, Is most wonderfully kind. Luke 15-8-10 8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Focusing in on the coins here, some have suggested that they would have hung on a veil or around a woman’s neck as part of jewelry or a dowry to wear while living if her husband died. This would add to the importance of these coins to her, but there is no direct evidence that this was the case. The monetary consideration is significant enough. According to the original Greek, the coins here were drachmas, each equivalent to a Roman denarius worth about 4 pence, which represented about a day’s wages. So let’s say that in today’s money she had $1,000 and now found $100 missing. The houses were very dark, for they were lit by one little circular window not much more than about eighteen inches across. The floor was beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes; and to look for a coin on a floor like that was very much like looking for a needle in a haystack.

An expert on ancient Middle Eastern lifestyle says that coin money was not common among such peasants: “The peasant village is, to a large extent, self-supporting, making its own cloth and growing its own food. Cash is a rare commodity. Hence the lost coin is of far greater value in a peasant home than the day’s labor it represents monetarily” Luke 15:8 It may have been a matter of sheer necessity. It does not sound very much but it was more than a whole day's wage for a working man in Palestine. These people lived always on the edge of things and very little stood between them and real hunger. The woman may well have searched with intensity because, if she did not find it, the family would not eat.

The seeming panic over the loss of a single coin, it must be understood that in Hebrew households of the time, there may have been a much more romantic reason. The mark of a married woman was a head-dress made of ten silver coins linked together by a silver chain. For years maybe a girl would scrape and save to amass her ten coins, for the head-dress was almost the equivalent of her wedding ring. When she had it, it was so inalienably hers that it could not even be taken from her for debt. It may well be that it was one of these coins that the woman had lost, and so she searched for it as any woman would search if she lost a diamond in her marriage ring.—a loss not only because of the monetary value, but because of the sentimental value. A lost coin is worthless. It is only in someone’s hand that it becomes valuable. The same is true of people. If a person is lost, if they are not saved, if they do not know the Lord, although they still have value—they are worthless outside of His hand. Therefore, the work of the Spirit is to sweep frantically in search of them. When the coin is found, great is the rejoicing indeed.

Recovering a lost sinner can take diligent effort. But the effort is worth it when the lost is found. Sinners need to know that God is diligently looking for them. Disciples should diligently engage in the search for sinners on behalf of the Master they serve. Jesus provides a clear example for us to follow. The joy of God, and of all the angels, when one sinner comes home, is like the joy of a home when a coin which has stood between them and starvation has been lost and is found; it is like the joy of a woman who loses her most precious possession, with a value far beyond money, and then finds it again. Luke 15:11-32 The Parable of the Prodigal Son - 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

The definition of PRODIGAL ADJECTIVE - wastefully or recklessly extravagant: giving or yielding profusely; lavish; lavishly abundant; profuse; luxuriant NOUN - a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

Pig slop never satisfies. Be it through career, money, material possessions, trinkets or toys, you’re trying to find fulfillment or satisfaction, you will thirst again. The Lord is the only one who will truly satisfy your soul completely.

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Under Jewish law a father was not free to leave his property as he liked. The elder son must get two-thirds and the younger one-third. (Deuteronomy 21:17.) But there is a certain heartless callousness in the request of the younger son. He said in effect, "Give me now the part of the estate I will get anyway when you are dead, and let me get out of this." The father did not argue. He knew that if the son was ever to learn he must learn the hard way; and he granted his request. Aren’t we sometimes the same way? “I have sinned” appears eight times in scripture: Pharoah (Ex 9:27) Job (Job 7:20) Balaam (Num 22:34 Achan (Josh 7:20) Saul (1 Sam 15:24) David (2Sam 12:13) Judas (Matt 27:4) the Prodigal

All of them acknowledged their sin, but only the second four had true repentance—changed direction and headed toward the Father.

Even to this day in Semitic cultures, a “sacrifice of the threshold” is made whenever someone returns from a journey—to atone for the sins he committed while he was away. So too, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was slain for our sin in order that we can be welcomed home again. What is your prayer? —Give me the goods? Or Make me a servant?

At first sight of him, the father did something Aristotle declared no man of dignity would ever do publicly: He ran. It is the ONLY time in the entire Bible where God the Father is seen as being in a hurry.

And when his son drew near, the father smothered him with hugs and kisses—not only of affection, but of protection. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 makes it clear that if a son was stubborn and rebellious, a glutton and a drunkard—as was the prodigal—he was to be stoned. By hugging his son, the father was essentially saying, “No one is going to lay a hand on him.”

“Put the best robe on him” the father said. Whose would the best robe be? The father’s. That is how Isaiah 61:10 says “we are robed in the righteousness of God.” Paul also declared in 2 Corinthians 5:21 “that we are the righteousness of God because we are robed in Christ Jesus.” The robe stands for honor. “Put a ring on his finger,” the father said—which speaks of authority. “Put shoes on his feet”—servants never wore shoes. - It really should never have been called the parable of the Prodigal Son, for the son is not the hero. It should be called the parable of the Loving Father, for it tells us rather about a father's love than a son's sin. - It tells us much about the forgiveness of God. The father must have been waiting and watching for the son to come home, for he saw him a long way off. When he came, he forgave him with no recriminations.

Once Lincoln was asked how he was going to treat the rebellious southerners when they had finally been defeated and had returned to the Union of the United States. The questioner expected that Lincoln would take a dire vengeance, but he answered, "I will treat them as if they had never been away." - It is the wonder of the love of God that he treats us like that. That is not the end of the story. There enters the elder brother who was actually sorry that his brother had come home. He stands for the self-righteous Pharisees who would rather see a sinner destroyed than saved. Certain things stand out about him. His attitude shows that his years of obedience to his father had been years of grim duty and not of loving service. His attitude is one of utter lack of sympathy. He refers to the prodigal, not as any brother, but as your son. He was the kind of self-righteous character who would cheerfully have kicked a man farther into the gutter when he was already down.

Once again we have the amazing truth that it is easier to confess to God than it is to many a man; that God is more merciful in his judgments than many an orthodox man; that the love of God is far broader than the love of man; and that God can forgive when men refuse to forgive. In face of a love like that we cannot be other than lost in wonder, love and praise.

The prodigal's wretched state, only faintly shadows forth the awful ruin of man by sin.

A sinful state is of departure and distance from God. A sinful state is a wanting state. Sinners want necessaries for their souls; they have neither food nor raiment for them, nor any provision for hereafter. A sinful state is a vile, slavish state. The business of the devil's servants is to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, and that is no better than feeding swine. A sinful state is a state constant discontent. The wealth of the world and the pleasures of the senses will not even satisfy our bodies; but what are they to precious souls! A sinful state is a state which cannot look for relief from any creature. In vain do we cry to the world and to the flesh; they have that which will poison a soul, but have nothing to give which will feed and nourish it. A sinful state is a state of death. A sinner is dead in trespasses and sins, destitute of spiritual life. A sinful state is a lost state. Souls that are separated from God,

Note the reminder that the returning son is a brother. Justice means that the son should be received back with joy and celebration. The focus should be outward, on the transformation that has occurred. The sinner should be welcomed back into God's family with joy.

The parable has two major points. First, repentance means an absolute reversal of status. The lost son has become a family member again. The father's acceptance of the penitent son is total. This is God's grace. This is why God pursues sinners. Second, others should have joy when the penitent returns. Reconciliation involves not only God and the individual but also the individual and the community.

The love of God can defeat the foolishness of man, the seduction of the tempting voices, and even the deliberate rebellion of the heart. The courts of heaven are full of praise when a sinner turns to God.

Conclusion - All three stories in Luke 15 concern the restoration of lost relationships—ultimately God seeking out human beings who were lost to Him and bringing them back into a loving relationship with Him. That is certainly the point here—and all must realize their need to be found by Him. But we should also recognize that God desires us to be like Him in seeing the importance of relationships with other people and striving to reconcile and restore fellowship with them.

Each of the three portions of the parable presented here in Luke 15 speaks of a different aspect of sin: The sheep was lost due to foolishness. The coin was lost due to the carelessness of another. The son was lost due to rebelliousness. Our Father feels compassion for all three. He runs to meet all three equally the moment they turn toward Him. That’s the kind of God we serve!

Positionally you are in Christ (2 Corinthias 5:17) and prophetically, you will one day be like Christ (1 John 3:2). The Perfect Son has made a way for you to run into the embrace of your Father.

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