Luke 15 Lost Sheep, Coins and Sons
Summary

This is one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible. The entire chapter should be seen as a unit. Each parable is ultimately designed to set forth God’s love for those who are lost, His great efforts to restore them to Himself, and His joy when they are returned. Each also deals with issues surrounding the contrasting despicable spirit of the scribes and Pharisees. The four parables describe different circum-stances among the lost: the lost sheep speaks of one lost because of carelessness. The lost coin addresses the tragedy of being lost by another’s fault. The lost prodigal son represents being lost by one’s willful seeking of his own will. And the lost elder brother represents those who are self-righteous.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15Now 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.

Question 1

Why was the sheep lost and why would the shepherd have to go find it?

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[1] 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.”

Question 2

How might a human being be like a coin that is lost?

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

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[2] 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.

Question 3

Who is the “father” in the story of the younger brother and what do we learn about Him?

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. 19I 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.’[3] 22But the father said to his servants,[4] ‘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.’”

Question 4

Who in that day, and who today, are like the elder brother?

Question 5

Why is there rejoicing in the first three parables but not in the last?

People
  • Those represented by the:
    • Lost sheep
    • Lost coin
    • Lost son
    • Elder brother

  • The Father!
Places
  • Jesus is in the presence of Pharisees and Scribes probably still in Galilee but beginning to go toward Jerusalem
  • These parables could occur anywhere

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15Now 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.”

Luke 15:2

The immediate incentive for these parables came from the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes.They objected to Jesus eating with “sinners” and He proceeded to show God’s love for the lost.

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.

Luke 15:4

The Lost Sheep – shepherds were also sometimes outside the social circles of the Pharisees; shepherds were almost daily ceremonially defiled, forced to work on Sabbaths, etc.nonetheless, some of most revered Scriptures picture God as a Shepherd (Ps. 23; Isa. 40,53; etc.)

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[1] 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.”

Luke 15:8

The Lost Coin – while the sheep was one of 100, the coin was one of 10.The coin was a drachma, roughly equivalent to a Roman denarius, about a laborer’s day’s wage.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

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[2] 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.

Luke 15:12

The Lost Son – inheritance was usually divided among the children with the eldest receiving a “double portion” (seeDeuteronomy 21:17). This son asks for inheritance before the death of his father.


Luke 15:13

The word “prodigal” (NKJV) is also translated “riotous” (KJV), “loose” (NASB), or “wild” (NIV).


Luke 15:15

His environment is with swine (unclean to Jews), indicating a pitiable condition apart from God.

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. 19I 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.’[3] 22But the father said to his servants,[4] ‘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.

Luke 15:17

“He came to himself” indicates a change in his distorted mentality.


Luke 15:18

This would not be easy. It would take humility.


Luke 15:20

Notice the proactive response of the father: he “had compassion, and ran” and “kissed him.”


Luke 15:21

Although the father ran to him, he said exactly what he had planned and humbled himself.


Luke 15:24

This son represents all penitent believing sinners who return to God.

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.’”

Luke 15:25

The Self-Righteous Brother – this part of the story is clearly aimed at the Pharisees’ hypocrisy.


Luke 15:29

This son’s work ethic, responsibility, and faithfulness to the father are admirable.


Luke 15:29

His attitude is disrespectful as if to blame the father for being unfair and showing favoritism.


Luke 15:30

This son accused his brother of squandering his inheritance with harlots, a despicable charge.


Luke 15:32

The last words again reiterate the joy of the Father that the lost sinful son is returned.

Perspectives

God loves all sinners and rejoices when we return to Him (seeJohn 3:16

Return to God requires humility on our part, however. We must repent (see Luke 13:3,5

Claiming to be righteous and looking down on those we think are less righteous is not what the Father wants from us.