1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
3So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
11And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.
25"Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.' 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' 31And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
In my opinion, this chapter in Luke's narrative, which contains a series of the most compelling parables that the Lord taught, is one of the most misunderstood and poorly taught chapters in Scripture.
It is always amazing to me that people are able to read a novel or a textbook and have no problem reading words on paper, but when they read a scripture passage they gloss right over the literal text.
In this passage Jesus tells three parables all in reference to the same subject; REPENTANCE.
Once again let's look back at the passages that precede these parables. In chapter 14 we see that Jesus through the use of parables castigated the pharisees. He also laid down some hard pre-requisites re: discipleship. There were great crowds following Him, more than likely due to the fact that they had heard of how He was essentially making mince-meat of the religious leadership.
This leads us to chapter 15. Tax collectors and sinners were drawn to Him and the pharisees were as ever, trying to justify themselves, and denigrate the Lord. Why He eats with the "sinful rabble" who I am sure made up the majority of the crowd following Him.
Jesus then tells the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost brother.
The premise of each story is actually very simple and understandable,
In the story of the lost sheep, we have a man with a flock of 100 sheep. One strays away and the he leaves the 99 in open country, some translations say wilderness, to find the one that is lost. We should notice here that the man has exactly 100 sheep. They are already his. When one is missing he no longer has a complete flock. He no longer has what belongs to him.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
They cannot be snatched from His hand, but they can, and sometimes do, stray.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
He leaves the 99 by themselves in the open country. That seems careless. However he leaves them because they are alright where they are. Nothing, no one, can snatch them away.
The owner then finds the lost sheep and brings it back to the flock with much rejoicing, to the extent that he calls friends and neighbors to rejoice with him.
Jesus concludes with this:
Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Jesus does not say that there is no joy over the 99. He says there that all of heaven rejoices even more over the one that repents. The one that was lost and is found again.
The same underlying principle is found in the next parable. A woman with ten silver coins loses one, lights the lamp, and sweeps the house until she finds the lost coin. Once again we are dealing with a complete set; in this case, a set of ten. Without that tenth coin the set is not the same. Now these were not just her savings, or something like that. These were the ten coins that a single jewish girl of Jesus' day would collect, and later make a necklace or head band from, to be worn at her wedding. So her desperate search is understood all the more, this coin is irreplaceable. Once again, the joyful outcome is that she finds the coin, and calls her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. Again the conclusion is;
Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Notice that Jesus does not say that the angels are the ones rejoicing,(though I am sure that they might be). He says that there is joy BEFORE them over one repentant sinner.They are witnesses.
Here is what can be understood from these first two stories.
1. The sheep and the coin were already under ownership, and part of a set. They could not be replaced.
2. The owner seeks out that which is lost:
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through.
2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.
3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.
4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today."
6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."
8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
:9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
3. The friends and neighbors who rejoice with the owner are the representation of all heaven rejoicing. Interesting analogy.
4. The owner seeks and finds the lost one, yet Jesus calls them repentant.
Let's look at repentance.
The word repent in the Greek is: metanoeō
Which means: "to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction): - repent."
So if repenting is the action, in thought and deed, of the wayward one turning back to, or reversing his course, then why did the owners of the sheep and the coin have to seek for the lost object?
Repentance is a a work, i.e. something that a man does. We are not saved by works lest anyman should boast. Eph 2:8-9
Men repent not to "get saved", but as the result of the fact that they are saved. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Then they return to the flock, because He brings them back. Not only that,they are a part of a set that was already "put together". If one is truly redeemed, then one will never be lost, and one will never be replaced. All that are HIS are kept in His secure hand.
Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;.........
Psalm 95:7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand..........
The final parable in this trilogy is somewhat different in its' construction.
This passage is called the story of the prodigal son, and while it is true that the son became prodigal, and then later returned, the emphasis in this story is on the brothers, especially the obedient brother who did not stray away. First and foremost it must be understood that they are both sons of the same father.They both receive the same inheritance.
To the younger:
And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them.
To the elder:
Luk 15:31 And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
The sons of the father have the entire inheritance at their disposal at all times.
The younger son squandered away all that his father had given him, or so it seemed.
No money, no friends, in his lowest moment, slopping pigs, (something that would be abhorrent to the jews hearing this) he decides to return home.
In true repentance one realizes his unworthy state, as does this young man. He feels unworthy to be called a son.
Luke 15:20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
The assumption could be safely made that the father was looking for, that is, expecting the son's return at anytime. The wayward son begins his speech of repentance. However his father is ready to celebrate the return, and had more than likely already forgiven him when he had first run off.
So begins the celebration and the feast. The son is given a ring and robe and the fatted calf is killed. If you are a true son, you are always a son.
It should also be obvious that there was still plenty of inheritance to be had. He did not waste all that was his, as the supply is unlimited.
Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.
The repentant ones are always "found" ones.
The story comes to its finale with the older brother hearing the commotion and asking what it was all about. When he hears that his younger brother has returned and that there is a celebration he is righteously indignant.
Luke 15:28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
The father implored the older brother to come join the feast. This is most serious. The pharisees cannot say that they were never given the opportunity. He even reminds the elder brother that he always had a share in all that the father possessed. The story ends with the father re-emphasizing the value of the repentant sinner's return.
Luke 15:32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
All three of these parables are directed toward the pharisees, who originally grumbled about Jesus being a friend to sinners. Jesus is also showing them who He is.
The first two stories present Jesus as the one who seeks and saves the lost, bringing them to repentance. The final episode showing Jesus and the father as one and the same, welcoming the returning sinner with a celebration of joy in the heavenly household. The final parable is a rebuke to the pharisees who refuse to enter into that celebration, as the sinners and tax collectors are their brothers also. The emphasis here is not the seeking of the lost, but on the reaction of those who refuse to accept the repentant ones back into the family. They failed to realize that the sinners were always family.
It should be noted that these lessons were being spoken to those who were jews, the tax collectors and sinners, as well as the religious leaders. These stories speak of Israel, the chosen people. Praise God that Jesus said He owned other sheep who were not of the "jewish fold".
Praise God that Paul later reveals that Israel is both jew and gentile, and indeed always was.
John 10:16;Romans 4:9-13; 9:6-8;and 11:25-26.
So today these parables apply as much to the church, which is Israel, as they did in the day Jesus first told them. This should give us all leave to pause in sober thought.
To God Be the Glory!
Update: One final thought; it is apparent here that only that which already belongs to the owner can be lost. Therefore in the context of the Lord's teaching, the term "lost" refers to that which is already His. The church has used the term "lost" in a general way, meaning everyone who is not regenerate. This is simply not the case, as that would be a quasi-universalist doctrine.