Luk 15: "The Master is harshly criticised for associating with
publicans. Significantly, Luk 14 concluded with the statement: 'He that hath
ears to hear, let him hear,' and now Luk 15:1 records that the publicans and
sinners came to 'hear him.' It was an encouragement when the leaders of the
ecclesia ignored him. The word 'sinners' seems to apply to irreligious people
who lived like Gentiles. In their contempt of God they could be guilty of
immorality, having thrown off the restraints of religion. But now, they came to
hearken to the voice of wisdom, and heard the parable of the lost sheep (vv
3-7), then the lost silver (vv 8-10), and the lost son (vv 11-32). It is in
reality only one parable: a parable of restoration. It taught that the Shepherd
(Christ) tended the straying sheep; the Woman (Ecclesia) sought the lost coin;
and the Father (Yahweh) restored the wayward son. Christ was extending mercy to
those who the leaders of Israel considered as 'sinners' (Gentile-minded) (v 1).
The attitude of the leaders ultimately caused them to exclude themselves (Luk
11:52), and opened the way to Gentiles (Rom 1:16). The way to restoration --
even for the elder son -- is the way of humility, for in refusing to enter the
house, he repeated in a different way, the error of the younger son"
MUTTERED: Making excuses for not coming (Luk
THIS MAN: "Receives sinners" (Luk 15:2). "Never man
spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41). "Has somewhat to
offer" (Heb 8:3). "Through this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38). "Is worthy of
more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12). "Continues forever"
(Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).
THIS MAN WELCOMES SINNERS: "Observe the condescension
of this fact. This Man, who towers above all other men, holy, harmless,
undefiled, and separate from sinners -- this Man receiveth sinners... Not,
however, that they may remain sinners, but he receives them that he may pardon
their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts by his purifying word...
and enable them to serve him, to show forth his praise, and to have communion
with him. Into his heart's love he receives sinners, takes them from the
dunghill, and wears them as jewels in his crown; plucks them as brands from the
burning, and preserves them as costly monuments of his mercy. None are so
precious in Jesus' sight as the sinners for whom he died. When Jesus receives
sinners, he has not some out-of-doors reception place, no casual ward where he
charitably entertains them as rich men do passing beggars, but he opens the
golden gates of his royal heart, and receives the sinner right into himself --
yea, he admits the humble penitent into personal union and makes him a member of
his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. There was never such a reception as
this! This fact is still most sure this evening: he is still receiving sinners:
would to God sinners would receive him" (CHS).
"The key to Luke 15 hangs at the front door" -- ie, the
purpose of the parables in Luk 15 is to be found at the beginning: to counteract
the attitude of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
Vv 4-7: Christ's work in finding the lost: 1% lost, away from
DOES HE NOT LEAVE THE NINETY-NINE...?: It is not
necessary to assume that he left them unattended; they could have put in the
care of another shepherd temporarily.
ON HIS SHOULDERS: The shepherd puts the little lamb on
his shoulders, and so Christ put the cross upon his shoulders! Christ the bearer
of our sins (Isa 53:6; cp Exo 28:12).
REJOICING IN HEAVEN: As in Rev 5:7-14.
RIGHTEOUS PERSONS: The "just" or "righteous ones" of
Luk 5:32. Of course, there are -- in reality -- no such persons. The point:
those who think themselves to be "righteous" and in no need of repentance or
salvation... -- so long as they retained that attitude -- could not be saved by
the Good Shepherd anyway!
Vv 8-10: Spirit's work in finding the lost. 10% lost, still in
"house". Cp Luk 19:20: the pound hidden in a napkin.
TEN SILVER COINS: A bride's dowry, 10 pieces silver
sown into headdress of married woman, very precious (cp modern wedding ring):
HVM 128. Here, sym the devotion of the woman (the ecclesia?) to her husband
The shepherd (Christ) loses and finds "MY sheep". The woman
(ecclesia) loses and finds "THE coin".
Vv 11-32: Father's work in finding the lost. 50% lost, by
straying from "home". But really, both sons are "lost". It is a solemn thought
that God has given us the power to grieve him (Eph 4:30; Isa 63:9).
OT background of parable: Jer 31:18-21: setting up waymarks
for son to return. Hos 5:11-115, 6:1; 7:8-10: Ephraim went to Assyria: 'Come,
let us return.' Pro 29:21-23: lives wantonly (LXX), brought low by pride (HAW,
GIVE ME: One kind of prayer; cp with v 19: "Make me",
the other kind of prayer.
SO HE DIVIDED HIS PROPERTY BETWEEN THEM: Why did the
father give this to him? He wasn't required to do it. Because this parable
teaches the doctrine of free-will!
The younger son, in 7 stages: careless (v 13), awakened (v
14), convicted (v 17), confession (v 18), conversion (v 19), acceptance (v 22),
and rejoicing (v 23).
GOT TOGETHER: A technical term signifying "to realize",
ie to convert to ready cash.
SQUANDERED HIS WEALTH IN WILD LIVING: Cp the steward in
Luk 16:1: "accused of wasting his [his rich master's] possessions". Anything not
directed toward seeking the Father is "squandered". "Blessed are the poor, for
their circumstances restrict their capacity to indulge in the natural,
universal, fleshly tendency to make unfaithful fools of themselves. But, alas,
with 'easy' (!) credit, even the poor can play this fatal game. And waste of our
(God's) time can be even more wicked than waste of our (God's) money" (GVG). The
son had impulses and desires to pursue things far from the Father's house; he
needed freedom and money, and once he had them -- off he went!
It is no coincidence that the famine arrived as soon as the
young man had spent all his money: the father allows for freewill (v 12), but
there is also scope for God's providence.
HIRED HIMSELF OUT: "Joined himself" -- as the righteous
Jehoshaphat joined Ahaziah (2Ch 20:36).
TO FEED PIGS: How far could this young Jewish boy fall!
He craved pleasure, but he ends up in hunger. He sought freedom, but he only
PODS: Fleshy husks or pods of kharub tree, lined with a
gelatinous substance (LB 19).
PIGS: The son had strayed very far, to be in a land of
BUT NO ONE GAVE HIM ANYTHING: The poor are shunned: Pro
HE CAME TO HIS SENSES: Living in sin, a stranger to
sanity. Physically living can be spiritually dead (Rev 3:1; 1Ti 5:6). Suffering
is not punishment if it brings us back home!
Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina
wanted to see the world. Discontented with a home having only a pallet on the
floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in
the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother's heart. Knowing
what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria
hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop she entered a
drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth,
closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her
purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de
Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also
knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a
human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her
search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for prostitutes.
She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture -- taped on a
bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone
booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn't too long before
both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary
mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small
It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the
hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with
youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become
a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds
for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far
away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face.
She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her
mother. Christina's eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across
the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling
invitation. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't
matter. Please come home." She did (Max Lucado).
I HAVE SINNED: There is a radical distinction between
natural regret and God-given repentance. The flesh can feel remorse, acknowledge
its evil deeds, and be ashamed of itself. However, this sort of disgust with
past actions can be quickly shrugged off, and the individual can soon go back to
his old wicked ways. None of the marks of true repentance described in 2Co 7:11
are found in his behavior. Out of a list of 11 men in the Bible who said, "I
have sinned," poss only five actually repented. They were David (2Sa 12:13;
24:10; 1Ch 21:8; Psa 41:4), Nehemiah (Neh 1:6), Job (Job 42:5,6), Micah (Mic
7:9), and the prodigal son (Luk 15:18). The other (poss less sincere) instances?
Pharaoh in Exo 9:27; 10:16; Balaam in Num 22:34; Achan in Jos 7:20; Saul in 1Sa
15:24,30; 26:21; Shimei in 2Sa 19:20; Judas in Mat 27:4.
MAKE ME: One kind of prayer, in ct to v 19: "Give me",
the other kind of prayer.
HIS FATHER... RAN... AND KISSED HIM: There is a great
urgency of love and reconciliation in Christ's picture of the waiting and
watching father, as he daily and even hourly stares down the road, looking for
the familiar figure. There is not one shred of formality or legality in his
reception of his returning son. Even while he is a great way off, his father
sees him, and with compassion, runs and falls upon his neck and kisses
He did not stand upon his dignity, or remain coldly aloof --
demanding some formal or elaborate proof of repentance. He did not coerce an
apology. He loved him and he wanted him back and he was willing to forget the
past and hope for the future. He showered every display of affection and
attention upon him, in his intense joy at reconciliation.
Here is the divine example for the ecclesial attitude toward
any sinning brother who makes the first, faltering steps toward repentance. The
members should never question the sincerity of those who seek to return (for
they would not like their own sincerity to be questioned), nor should they make
the barriers to fellowship more difficult for such than for new converts. The
ecclesia should rejoice in that the withdrawal of fellowship collectively
administered has by God's grace achieved its hoped-for outcome: the reclamation
of the one who has strayed.
HIS FATHER SAW HIM: Probably his appearance was
BRING THE BEST ROBE: God provides us the best garment
to cover our sins!
Bible robes: the long robe of pretension (Luk 20:46); the torn
robe of sorrow (Job 1:20); the scarlet robe of mockery (Mat 27:28); the best
robe of righteousness (Luk 15:22); and the white robe of the redeemed (Rev
SANDALS: Only the family members wore shoes in the
house; the servants in the house were barefooted.
Note contrast: "MY son" and "YOUR brother" (v 32), ct with
"YOUR son" (v 30).
AND IS FOUND: As with Luk 15:4,8, the Father too had
SEARCHED for the lost son!
ANGRY: A cold, settled anger of policy -- instead of
one of emotion -- ie "thumos".
REFUSED TO GO IN: Absenting himself from the assembly
of brethren, but also unwittingly placing himself outside the Father's house. Cp
the Pharisees' disinterest in associating with those who were "lost" (Luk 15:2).
"The elder brother is the dark contrast which heightens the
glowing picture of the repentant prodigal. When we look at sin, not in its
theological aspects but in its everyday clothes, we find that it divides itself
into two kinds. We find there are sins of the body and sins of the disposition;
or, more narrowly, sins of the passions, including all forms of lust and
selfishness, and sins of the temper. The prodigal is the instance in the NT of
sins of passion; the elder brother of sins of temper... Let us carefully read
our hearts, lest there be any trace of this spirit in us when others are
pressing into the kingdom with joy."
ALL THESE YEARS I'VE BEEN SLAVING FOR YOU:
Exaggeration; Pharisaical reliance upon amount of works. The meticulous
obedience of a legal system. Note also: he has not served a father; he has
slaved for a master! The terrible hypocrisy of legalism, that men can discharge
duty and at the same time abhor it.
NEVER DISOBEYED YOUR ORDERS: How can he claim perfect
obedience when at this very moment he is going against his father's
SO I COULD CELEBRATE WITH MY FRIENDS: Jealousy at
inclusion of others in his previously-exclusive benefits.
...WITH PROSTITUTES: A gratuitous assumption.
FATTENED CALF: Sym Christ's sacrifice, given on behalf
of repentant rather than self-righteous.
YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME, AND EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS:
Life with the father could have been one long continuous feast. Nothing
prevented the older son from enjoying the love and fellowship of family life,
except his own attitude.
...Cp continuation of theme of parable in Luk 16:13,15;
WE: That is, "you and I".
The great unanswered question of the parable: Did the older
brother go back in?