Luke 15

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A Key Verse

But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found. Luke 15:32

 

What’s Happening?

Jesus is continuing to travel and teach, raising scandals as he goes.  Jesus is a religious teacher who hangs out with all the wrong kinds of people, prostitutes who sell their bodies for money, tax-collectors who sell their loyalty to their own people to ruling Romans.  In this chapter, Jesus teaches one of his most memorable parables, the story of the Lost Sheep and of the Prodigal, or Wasteful, Son.

Occasions for celebration

1 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. 2 The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.

A computer animated telling of the Parable of the Lost Sheep by college students in Tennessee.

8 “Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? 9 When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

Domenico Fetti. “Parable of the Lost Drachma.” 17th-century Italy.

12 Asking for an inheritance before a parent’s death could be highly insulting.  It is to take away your old parent’s means of living, and to could be read to say, ‘I wish you were dead,’ and to say it for the greediest of reasons. Sirach 33:24 advised parents, “Wait until the last moment of your life, when you are breathing your last, and then divide your property among your heirs.”

11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.

14“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need.

15 For a Jewish boy to work amongst pigs is shameful.  Leviticus 11:7 taught that they are unclean animals.  Jews who keep kosher, or follow Jewish dietary laws, do not eat pork.

15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, 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. He was lost and is found.’”

Prodigal Son on Stained Glass. The Mayer Company. In the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Charleston, South Carolina. 20th-century America.

Things to Think About
  • This chapter discusses how “good” people feel about God giving so much attention to the sinners or the irresponsible.  Do you think it’s fair for God to give so much attention to them?
  • There are three main characters in the Parable of the Prodigal Son—Father, “good” son, and “wasteful” son?  Which one are you most like?  Which one does Jesus want us to emulate or try to be like?
A Prayer

God, I can be a lost sheep, but you will find me

I can be a wasteful child, but you will welcome me back

I can be too proud, but you can teach me to love everyone

Be with me, help me find my way, help me stay at your side, help me love as you love, Amen.

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