Luke 15

Tax Collectors And Sinners

Jesus is surrounded by the outcasts of Jewish society who eagerly listen to everything this Rabbi has to say concerning the kingdom of God. Jesus welcomed sinners and regularly shared meals with them which was an outrage to the religious leaders. The Pharisees and scribes considered themselves the religious elite and thought it necessary to segregate themselves from these types of individuals. They would speak ill of them openly and encourage others to segregate themselves. They would never associate with tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus received them. The grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes resulted in three parables to show that the gospel is for everyone. Jesus came to seek the lost so he would associate with the dregs of society. He engaged those who had made a mess of their lives or failed to meet society's standards. Jesus' parables challenge the beliefs of the Pharisees. It is not strange to think that a shepherd would do everything within his power to find a lost sheep and yet the Pharisees are offended when Jesus goes in search of the lost. When the shepherd finds his lost sheep, he rejoices and calls his friends to celebrate with him as well. Jesus declares that there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. Jesus applies the same idea in the parable of the lost coin. The woman who lost one coin took every action necessary to locate the lost coin, and she too celebrates when she finds what was lost. Jesus describes the joy in heaven before the angels of God.

The Prodigal

The last parable in the triad is about a man with two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance early which was not typical, but it was not unheard of either. The inheritance for a younger son would be one-third unless there were daughters and then it would be reduced further to provide for dowries. The father consents and gives the son his share of the property. The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves for a far country where he wasted his property in reckless living. As soon as the young man lost everything, a severe famine struck the land, and he began to suffer. He becomes the servant of a Gentile and is reduced to feeding pigs. The son is so desperate that he longed to eat what the pigs were eating, but he was given nothing. He finally came to his senses and remembered the way his father cared for his servants and provided more than enough while he suffered from starvation. He decided to return home, and he began to practice what he would say to the man who gave him his inheritance. The son had dishonored his father, and so he thought he would confess his sin and take on the role of a hired servant. He must have wondered what his father would say and whether or not he would be welcome. The son thought whatever he faced would be better than where he was so he made his way back home from the far country. As he neared the home of his father, the father saw him when he was still a long way off, and he was filled with compassion. The father ran toward the son, hugged him, and kissed him. The son began the speech he had prepared, but the father interrupted him and instructed the servants to bring the best robe, a ring, shoes, and prepare a feast. This was a day of celebration because the son that was dead to his father is now alive and the whole house began to celebrate. The older brother returned from a long day in the fields, and when he got close to the house, he heard music and dancing, so he called one of the servants and asked what was taking place. The servant informed him that his brother had returned and his father had made a feast for him because he was home safe and sound. The older son was angry with his father, and he could not understand the father's pleasure for the return of a son that wasted his property. The older brother refused to enter the house. He would not even be found in the company of this pariah. The father came out to the son and invited him to join in the celebration. Instead, the older son recites his work as a servant and complains that the father has never done anything for him. He rebukes the father for the way he treated the younger son who had devoured his property with prostitutes and when he returned was given a feast in his honor. The father makes an affectionate plea to those listening to these parables as the father reminds the older son possesses all the property that remains. Jesus explains that the tax collectors and sinners who come into the kingdom of God are made family, children of Abraham, and this is cause for celebration.

Things To Consider:

  • Jesus came to seek the lost. Who is lost?
  • How are the lost like wandering sheep (Isaiah 53:6)?
  • How do you picture God rejoicing?
  • Why is repentance necessary?
  • Why is sin so costly?
  • How does God work through our suffering?
  • What does the younger son recognize about himself?
  • What does the younger son understand about the father?
  • How does the father's response picture the gospel?
  • Why wouldn't the older brother celebrate?
  • Why is self-righteousness so dangerous?
  • Why does Jesus pursue rebellious creatures?
  • Have you thanked him for seeking you?