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Bible Commentaries
Luke 15

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-10

  1. Intro:
    1. Theme: is the Grace of God from beginning to end.
    2. The celebration of something lost being found.
      1. Example: My sun glasses mailed to me this week; my dogs a few weeks back; joy when you find the cars keys.
      2. How do these ever compare to a soul plucked from the fire?
    3. Here we have one of the greatest chapters in the bible.
      1. What light, color, & glory shines on God’s matchless beauty here!
      2. The 3 parables(lost: sheep, coin, son) seem to form a triptych(3-fold) as they are linked to each other.
      3. The early church Fathers declared this was not 3 parables, but 1 parable in 3 movements!
      4. Note progression: 1st was one of a 100(1%); the 2nd was one of 10 (10%); the 3rd was one of 2(50%).
    1. TWO GROUPS! (1-3)
    2. Here we have Christ’s defense for His ministry to sinners.
      1. This “unwashed promiscuous crowd”.
      2. He even ate with them…He might contract their defilement! /
      3. But just the opposite was true, Jesus was afraid of others contracting the Pharisees “Religiously Transmitted Disease”. (actually a book title)
    3. (2) This Man receives sinners –
      1. Uttered in condemnation…Yet, hits the mark beautifully!
      2. Here is the Gospel in a grumble! [Griffith Thomas]
    4. This Man, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, this Man receives sinners. [He did! He does!]
    5. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces, this Man receives sinners.
      1. The offended God, against whom the sin has been committed, should take upon himself the form of a servant, and bear the sin of many, and should then be willing to receive the vilest of the vile, this is marvelous.
    6. This Man receives sinners - not for them to remain sinners, but He receives them in order to pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and enable them to serve him, to show forth His praise, and to have communion with Him.
      1. He receives sinners, & plucks them as brands from the burning, & preserves them as costly monuments of his mercy.
      2. So, He expresses His heart toward this unwashed crowd; & explains why He was not polluted by His contact with them.
    7. Jesus’ theme is Grace; & thus Grace is what the rulers were criticizing; & yet Grace was what the crowd precisely needed.
      1. The rulers wondered, “how He could bring a common salvation, by a common faith, to the common people?”
        1. But the very genius of the gospel lies in this.
    8. LOSING! (4a) [The Wanderer]
    9. He saw them as sheep that had gone astray, & needed a Shepherd to bring them home.
    10. SEEKING! (4b)
    11. He saw what they could be. The sheep could be brought back to the flock & bring joy to the Shepherd.
    12. Love was shown in His Perseverance “until he finds it”.
      1. His search was spontaneous & persistent & unwearying.
      2. The Good Shepherd sought for 33 years!
    13. How far would He travel to find the lost? How about as far as heaven is to earth!
    14. What was the Lord’s journey to find the lost? [Poem]
    15. But none of the ransomed ever knew, how deep were the waters crossed; Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through, Ere He found his sheep that was lost.Out in the desert He heard its cry – Sick & helpless, & ready to die.Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way That mark out the mountain’s track? They were shed for one who had gone astray, Ere the Shepherd could bring him back. Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent & torn? They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn. (G. Campbell Morgan; Luke; pg.182)
    16. God in His Son, suffering, the journey rough & rugged & steep.
      1. Q: How far did He travel for you?
    17. FINDING! (5a)
    18. Love was shown in His Care “in his shoulders”. [what tenderness]
    19. On his shoulders - He didn’t ask a servant to carry it, but love and joy made the labor sweet to Himself.
      1. The “Good Shepherd” is a favorite subject in early Christian art.
      2. The catacombs are full of carvings of it. It’s in the collection of ancient Christian monuments. We know from Tertullian that it was often designed upon chalices. We find it ourselves painted in fresco upon the roofs and walls of the sepulchral chambers; rudely scratched upon gravestones, or more carefully sculptured on sarcophagi ; traced in gold upon glass , molded on lamps, engraved on rings; & represented on every type of Christian monument that has come down to us. (Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (1:383). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)
      3. It was selected because it expressed the whole sum and substance of genuine Christianity!
    20. REJOICING! (5b-7)
    21. Rejoice with me – Celebrate with me!
    22. Love was shown in His Joy “rejoice w/me for I have found...”.
    23. So we have the Shepherd’s concern over one lost sheep; His diligence in seeking it; & His joy in finding it.
      1. Jesus says this is my attitude & affections toward sinners!
      2. And thus it was for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame, the Joy of finding that lost sheep!
    24. Joy over just one! – What must have happened on Pentecost? (or, times of revival)
    25. (7) Jesus was not saying the other 99 sheep were not important.
      1. He was emphasizing that the 1 sheep not in the fold corresponded with the sinners with whom Jesus was eating.
      2. The 99 righteous persons refer to the Pharisees who thought themselves righteous, and therefore in no need to repent. (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B; The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:244).)
    26. Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham - For all who knew the shelter of The fold, its warmth and safety and The Shepherd’s care, and bolted; choosing instead to fare out into the cold, the night; revolted by guardianship, by Light; lured by the unknown; eager to be out and on their own; freed to water where they may, feed where they can, live as they will; till they are cured, let them be cold, ill; let them know terror; feed them with thistle, weed, and thorn; who chose the company of wolves, let them taste the companionship wolves give to helpless strays; but, oh! let them live - wiser, though torn! And wherever, however, far away they roam, follow and watch and keep Your stupid, wayward, stubborn sheep and someday bring them Home!
  3. LOST COIN – THE LOSS OF GOD! (8-10)
    1. LOSING! (8a) [A Lost Value]
    2. He saw them as lost coins stamped with the image of God, needing to get back in circulation.
      1. And no matter how much the coin has been defaced, it still bears the image & superscription! [Show - old coins.]
      2. Though man is damaged by sin, he still is “made in the image of God!”
    3. Some see these 3 parables representing the Trinity. The 1st the Son, this one the H.S., & the last of course the Father.
      1. Here then in this picture the woman would represent the H.S. pointing to the “Motherhood of God”.
      2. The 1st mention of the H.S. in Gen.1:2 “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” {fluttering, brooding(to cover young birds for warmth)}
    4. This missing coin was probably from her headdress – explain 1 we saw in Jordan.
      1. One coin missing would be an awkward gap. (Like a hole in your jacket)
      2. One coin missing often represented her Dowry.
    5. Man is Valuable to God!
    6. Though it’s lost, it is made of silver, something of value.
    7. And it still has the superscription of the King & the mintage, but it is lost.
      1. It has no purchasing power. It is of no current value.
    8. This makes me think of eBAY! Why? Because what one man considers junk, is another mans treasure! [Ex: Dean’s $400 Pot; or Mikes airplane gauges]
      1. Thus, whom the religious leaders considered unsalvageable, the Savior of Sinners says, “priceless”!
      2. Only God’s love knows true worth of a human soul.
    9. I have found the piece which I lost(9) - Through her own carelessness.
      1. Of the sheep, Jesus says “was lost”(6).
      2. A sheep strays of itself; but a piece of money could only be lost by certain negligence on the part of such as should have kept it. (Trench)
      3. With the lost sheep - the attention is fastened on the condition of the thing lost.
      4. Here, with the lost coin - the attention is upon the sorrow of the one who has lost. (Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (1:384). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)
    10. SEEKING! (8b)
    11. He saw that the coin could be found.
    12. Love was shown again in her Persevering search – by lighting a lamp, sweeping the house, & “searching carefully until she found it”.
      1. Amy Carmichael in expressing her desire to become like the Lord Jesus, said this:
      2. If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.
      3. If I have not the patience of my Savior with souls who grow slowly; If I know little of travail till Christ be fully formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.
      4. If I avoid being 'ploughed under' with all that such ploughing entails of rough handling, isolation, uncongenial situations, strange test, then I know nothing of Calvary Love."
    13. God’s loss was so great because of sin that he gave the highest price “to seek & save
    14. FINDING! (9a)
    15. Again until she finds it!
    16. REJOICING! (9b-10)
    17. Over one sinner who repents – see the issue is moral not intellectual.
    18. (10) In the presence of the angels of God – That’s to say, the joy of God himself. The angels are in a sense the neighbors of God. (Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 (Lk 15:10).)
      1. It is a circumlocution for “God”(indirect way of saying something) (See 12:8)
      2. The angels see the joy of God when sinners repent. What’s better than that?
      3. Jesus wept over these sinners, but now He rejoices over them.
    19. Q: Does it ring the bells in your heart when one person gets saved?
      1. Early in WWII, when Paris fell, Hitler ordered all the flags to fly throughout Germany for 7 days, & all the church bells to be rung non-stop for 3 days. (J. Sidlow Baxter; Awake my heart; pg.30)
        1. May the flags wave & the bells ring in our heart when sinners are saved!
    20. End: This Man receives sinners – Yes, isn’t that so attractive?
      1. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces, this Man receives sinners!
      2. This is what makes our Jesus so attractive!
      3. Q: Have you been lost & found?
      4. Q: if so, then are you trying to reach other valuable souls, till you find them for God?
    21. Prayer: May the thermometer of our heart immediately rise when souls are won to you Lord God.
    22. Challenge: Let’s go look for lost sheep & missing coins in our Valley, & celebrate finding what was lost!

Verses 11-32

  1. Intro:
    1. The Greatest Story ever told!
      1. Some call it, The Prodigal Son? - Maybe better titled The Parable of the Gracious Father - That’s the true focus.
      2. It’s an emotional study.
    2. The Pharisees are “still trying to get it!”
      1. Jesus is answering the indictment of eating with sinners(2).
      2. “When I eat with sinners it’s like going after lost sheep; it’s like finding a costly lost coin; it’s like experiencing a prodigal returning.”
    3. Q: See who do you best relate with in this story?
    1. DIRTY LIL SINNERS! (11-20a)
    2. The portion of goods - The older son would get 2/3rds, the younger 1/3rd.
    3. Pods – carob pods when ripe these pods are filled with a dark honey like syrup.
      1. They were then collected, ground up, and fed to animals.
      2. They were also eaten by the very poor.
    4. So what did he do wrong? – How about disregarding his responsibilities as a son toward his Father. - Misusing his God-given freedom to seek freedom from a responsible relationship to God. (Shepherd’s notes; pg.57)
    5. It feels Free…for a time!
      1. How many a college students have moved away to a distant land, away from mom & dad, away from accountability, away from watchful eyes, enjoying there new felt freedoms; that often landed them right on their faces. [doesn’t mean don’t ever move out...just a motive check!]
      2. It is like sky diving, wind in your face, living fast,…with no shoot!
      3. They felt restrained by home, & attracted by the world.
      4. The beginning of all sin is when we no longer enjoy God’s presence, love, & ways.
        1. We become restless when we can’t find satisfaction in God.
    6. (13) Prodigal – wasteful. No thought of responsibilities.
      1. So, sin always wastes; living for self is waste.
    7. (14) Fortune goes & Famine comes.
      1. Life within & circumstances without often agree!
    8. (15) If you don’t attach to God, you can be sure you’ll attach to someone/something
      1. It may be drugs, alcohol, money, illicit sex, an employer, a spouse, a sport, hobby, TV show, computer, could be something crude or a refined thing. [Whatever it is it is swine food in the end!]
      2. Ok, you’re free; you are your own lord.
    9. Why some prodigals don’t come home! – What will my friends say? What will my dad, mom, brothers, sisters say? What will my church friends say?
      1. Come home! - From sin, from a broken relationship, from the sting of this world! Come Home!
    10. He came to himself – like awaking from a dream, he came to grip with reality.
      1. He finally saw himself as he really was & remember his father’s home
      2. At this point no hope of restored son-ship, but hopes for a servant position.
      3. It was not the badness of his life that brought him to his senses, but the goodness of his father! [Oh yah!]
      4. Rom.2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
    11. Note his progression – He thinks; remembers; owns it; decides/determines; turns around; & repents.
    12. THE PARDONING FATHER! (20b-24)
    13. The suffering heart of God!
    14. Releasing!(12) sometimes you have to let them go & let them find out the hard way!
      1. Let them learn for themselves how good Father’s home is.
      2. This is the parent toughest decision.
    15. Saw him a long way off! – watching continually, recognizes quickly.
    16. Compassion! – When a son is lost, who suffers most? (Fathers/mothers can answer that 1)
      1. Oh the suffering heart of God. (we’ll never understand)
      2. Humanity is suffering because it is away from God.
    17. Running! – an apparent sacrifice of dignity! No hesitation. Quick reconciliation.
    18. The father rushed to welcome his son & wouldn’t even let him finish his well rehearsed confession. (How many times did he rehearse it?)
      1. “Um Lord”, “Yes you are forgiven”! {this helps me with the women caught in adultery, & the thief on the cross}
    19. Slow are the steps of repentance, but swift are the feet of forgiveness.
      1. God can run where we can barely limp.
      2. But, if we are limping toward Him, He will run toward us! ☺
      3. “The Father may be out of breath, but never out of love!” (Spurgeon)
      4. Could I forgive so quickly? No hesitation, w/o rebuke, not waiting to see if they’ll really stick around.
    20. Kissing! – smothered him with kisses.
      1. But wait…he’s not clean! (That’s what he Pharisees were saying about this unwashed crowd! Vs.2)
      2. Can’t you wait till he’s washed? - Until those rags are removed? Until he’s decently clothed?
      3. Shouldn’t you wait and see how he does?
      4. Shouldn’t he be put on probation & see if he does well?
      5. No way!!! – Let me get my arms around him! - Let me pillow his head in my chest.
        1. The village could have stoned him to death for the disgrace upon his family & village. (Deut.21:18-21)
        2. But if they threw any stones they would have hit the father!
    21. Best Robe! – Wait! Isn’t this the #1 sons? (Isn’t everything?)
    22. Ring! – Full welcome. Indicate proof of son-ship.
    23. Sandals! – Entire restoration. Again indicate son-ship was restored, not a servant.
    24. Fatted Calf! – Veal!
    25. Eat & be merry! – I’m sure the prodigal was happy to be home…but never to be compared to the joy the Father has of him coming home.
      1. An unending party? – they began to be merry…(24)
    26. CLEAN SINNERS! (24-30)
    27. You may think the elder son has a pretty good beef! [Speaking of beef, that’s mine isn’t it?]
      1. Then you’ve missed it completely!
    28. One younger son was an open sinner; the older brother a hidden one. One an unrighteous son; the older a self-righteous son. One extremely wicked; the other extremely moral!
    29. Don’t miss it…the elder brother IS the Pharisee!
      1. This is for those who come to church week after week & think the Scriptures are for everyone else!
    30. This son was devoted to his fathers law, & his fathers service, but entirely out of sympathy with his fathers heart!!!
      1. Listen to him speak directly to the Pharisees & Scribes, with such compassion. (This comes before the Woe unto you’s)
      2. They were so devoted to the law & service of God but completely missed His heart! “If you had the heart of My Father, you couldn’t look with contempt upon these men outside, with who I’m mixing.”
      3. He should have imitated his father’s heart toward the returning prodigal; instead he turned into one…hard, cold, & unforgiving!
    31. Wouldn’t go in – Pouting on the porch!
      1. Was really an issue with dad! (not brother)
      2. A problem with dad’s forgiveness, resentful towards mercy, angry towards grace…thus he wouldn’t go in.
      3. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Mt.23:13)
      4. They wouldn’t understand the death bed conversion of the thief on the cross; nor the forgiveness shown the woman caught in the very act of adultery.
      5. Q: When you see sin, do you react with discuss & not compassion?
    32. So what’s this sons issues?
    33. [1] His relationship with his father was as if it was Master-Slave! (29a)
      1. (NIV) “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you.”
      2. Exposed: It had been years of grim duty not of loving service!
      3. I’m looking for a son not a slave!
      4. Acts 17:24,25 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”
    34. [2] His relationship was that of a Commander-Subordinate! (29b)
      1. I never have transgressed your commandment at any time!
      2. Oh my…how about NOW! (not coming in house)
      3. I’m looking for a son not a subordinate!
    36. His response was so gracious & patient. The patient heart of God!
      1. Again, he helps this son with just as much compassion & love.
    37. [1] His father came out – He didn’t get mad. He came out.
      1. This father came out of the party…Jesus came out of heaven!
    38. [2] Pleaded with him – Didn’t command him to come in. He could have demanded the servant to drag him in there, instead he pleads.
      1. Come in son & rejoice with me(6,9)– but the Pharisees couldn’t rejoice.
      2. The imperfect indicates “he kept on beseeching him”! (LKGNT)
      3. See, Jesus came to save hypocrites! ☺
      4. He doesn’t want to hear “I’ll come to church”, “I’ll keep clean”, “I’ll be good”, that’s not what He wants! – He wants relationship with you.
    39. [3] Son – not my servant, not my slave, he never joins him on his turf.
    40. [4] You are always with me – we eat together, we live together.
      1. But, you never gave me a young goat! A goat? (you’re the heir!)
      2. I don’t want you father, I want a goat feast with my friends!
      3. He’s a prodigal without the guts to leave! (John Piper)
      4. He isn’t home. He doesn’t love being w/his father.
      5. We old Christians are so vulnerable to this!
    41. [5] All that I have is yours – His is an inheritance to sons; not wages to slaves.
    42. (32) It was right – the story is left open-ended
      1. The curtain fell w/o hearing the older son’s response to his father’s entreaty.
    43. End:
    44. You don’t have a choice to sin or not to sin, only what category it will be in!
      1. Outside of Christ, you either fit into the category of the prodigal or the elder brother.
        1. Prodigal symbolizes tax collectors & sinners; Elder brother symbolizes Pharisees & Scribes.
      2. Either extremely wicked or your extremely moral!
        1. There are sins against the flesh & some against the spirit. (2 Cor.7:1)
        2. One guilty of gross things; the other guilty of a critical & unloving spirit, pride, & an unwillingness to forgive.
      3. Q: Are you the open sinner or the hidden one? [I think I was both!!!]
      4. Q: Who do you best relate with in this story?
      5. There is no case hopeless, no situation too dire!
      6. Come out of the pig sty, or Come off the porch…but Come!
        1. Come prodigal sons, prodigal daughters; prodigal husbands, prodigal wives; prodigal grandmothers, prodigal grandfathers Come!
    45. Illustration: Once Lincoln was asked how he was going to treat the rebellious southerners when they had finally been defeated & 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.”
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Luke 15". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/luke-15.html. 2017.
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