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Bible Commentaries
Luke 15

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


One time many tax collectors and outcasts. These people came to Jesus in great numbers. Tax collector. They worked for the Roman Occupation Army, and were thought of as traitors to their fellow Jews. Most had been dishonest and made themselves rich. Outcasts. People who had been “suspended” and no longer allowed to be part of the synagogue.

Verse 2


The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Pharisees were the orthodox religious leaders. The teachers of the Law were the theologians. And even eats with them! No strict Jew could eat with Gentiles, and these people were classed in with the Gentiles. The Pharisees felt they could not close their eyes to this.

Verses 3-6


Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep. Jesus gives three parables in this chapter to show God’s love for his creation. A shepherd who lost one sheep would go out looking for it, even though the ninety-nine were safe. He puts it on his shoulders. A common custom. I am so happy! This is God’s attitude when a “lost one” is found! Every servant of Christ should share this happiness when a sinner turns to God.

Verse 7


There will be more joy in heaven. The Father, the Son, and all the angels! Over one sinner who repents. One who makes up his mind to turn from sin and give his life as a living sacrifice. Than over ninety-nine respectable people. God does not love the ones who are “safe in the pasture” ANY LESS, but the finding of the lost is cause for special joy!

Verses 8-10


Or suppose a woman who has ten silver coins. It is the custom in the East to have a string of coins for a bracelet, necklace, etc. The happiness of finding the lost coin shows the happiness of God and his angels when a lost sinner is found!

Verses 11-13


There was a man who had two sons. The parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin symbolize Christ searching for the lost sinner. This parable of the Lost Son shows the lost sinner bringing himself back to the Father’s house. All three show the happiness over the sinner who turns from sin. The story of this man and his two sons touches hearts all the way around the world! In the symbolism, the father is God; the older brother is those who are sanctimonious (sure of their own goodness and who despise everybody else); the younger son is the sinful. [As Jesus tells this, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law are the “older brother,” and the tax collectors and the outcasts are the “younger son.”] Give me now. A selfish demand. The whole human race has done this! So the man divided the property. By Jewish custom, the older son would get two shares, the younger only one (Deuteronomy 21:17). He went to a country far away. Among strangers who help him spend his money. Where he wasted his money. The sinful life is a wasteful life. It is much worse when we waste our spiritual opportunities.

Verses 14-16


Then a severe famine. The world cannot meet the deep spiritual needs of mankind. To take care of the pigs. This was just about as low as a Jew could get—FEEDING PIGS! [They were religiously unclean animals.] With the bean pods. [The pods of the carob tree.] The bean pods of sin make very poor eating!

Verses 17-19


At last he came to his senses. He could see the mess he was in, and he remembered how it was back home. This is the contrast between sin and salvation. I will get up and go. This decision to get up and go home is repentance. However, note that the younger son in this parable had no high motives in what he did. “He went home because he was hungry, and there was plenty of food at home.” I am no longer fit. Notice the hopelessness! The son has no thought of another chance, no hope of being restored. He will be content to just be one of his father’s hired workers. [Grace is undeserved favor.]

Verses 20-24


When his father saw him. Up to this point the parable tells a story that has happened many times in this world. Countless people have acted like this younger son. But the real difference in this parable is the Father who waited! The father waiting and watching and while the younger son was still a long way from home, the father saw him! And he ran. No sober dignity! No stern demands! [God runs to meet the sinner who is bringing himself home. See notes on Acts 2:36-38.] Father, the son said. And as the son confesses his sins, the Father is saying: “Hurry! Bring the best robe . . . Put a ring on his finger . . . shoes . . . prize calf . . . but now he is alive!” [God gives everyman the gift of freedom, which can be misused. He waits and hopes for everyman’s return. He runs when he sees everyman bringing himself back home. He does not say: “You are only coming back because you are hungry; go back to your pigs until you can become pure and spiritual.” It is this HUMILITY of God that the Jewish leaders could not understand. They thought one who had deliberately sinned should not be allowed to come back at all. But God was RUNNING to meet everyman in the historical ACT of the Cross. See 1 Corinthians 2:9 and notes there.]

Verses 25-32


The older son. He is symbolic of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in Luke 15:2. He is also symbolic of some Christians who fall into the trap which James speaks about (James 4:1-4). The older son is angry, because he sees no reason to forgive the younger son and welcome him back. The Pharisees were angry with Jesus, because he offered MERCY to the tax collectors and outcasts. Some sanctimonious Christians find it hard to be happy when “tax collectors and outcasts,” “notorious sinners,” and in general “people shunned by their peer group” bring themselves home to Christ. Read the message in these scriptures: 1 John 1:10; James 2:10; Romans 3:23; Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 3:27.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Luke 15". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/luke-15.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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