Lesson 82: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 82. Welcome! Luke ch. 15 is made up of three parables: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son or sometimes called the Prodigal Son which someone has called the pearl of parables. These parables have a strong spiritual message. All three parables teach that the lost CAN BE found. They teach that we can be lost in different ways, and many, many lessons have been extracted from these parables. But in this study, we would like to keep them in their p roper context as Jesus taught them. To do this, we must see them first in light of v.1-2-3. So, let's read Luke 15:1-3. Are you ready? Let's read! "Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying,..." Again, the place where this teaching took place was undoubtedly Perea, some place in the Jordan valley. We've talked about publicans before. They were for the most part, Jews employed by the Romans, i.e. they held public jobs. By far the most common job was tax collecting, a job like Matthew held before becoming an apostle, you'll remember. "Sinners" in v.l were any who flagrantly disobeyed or disregarded the Law of Moses. You will notice that the Jews always classified the publicans and sinners together. Jesus had no prejudice toward such people. The Pharisees on the other hand, the largest sect of the Jews that went heavy on the traditions of the elders are mentioned in v.2. The Scribes, were educated in the Law of Moses and took the name "scribe" from their occupation of copying the law which was done by hand in those days. Scribes were almost always Pharisees. Luke ch. 14 started by telling us that Jesus went into a chief Pharisee's house and ate bread. Chapter 15 starts off by telling us that Jesus ate with publicans and sinners; but, the scribes and Pharisees murmured, i.e. criticized Jesus for eating with publicans and sinners. So, v.3 says, Jesus spoke this parable unto the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus. And it would appear that all three parables go together. Thus, we're going to read all three parables: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, all at one reading. That takes us to the end of Luke ch. 15. Let's begin reading in Luke 15:4. Are you ready? "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of the, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost,until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found, it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into the fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and
will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to him father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."
O.K. let's go back and discuss these parables one by one and try to find the spiritual meaning. Remember these are parables and the major objects in the parables have parallel counterparts in real life. Each of the three parables deal with being lost and being found, i.e. lost and restored. Some people are lost in different ways. First, the coin, an inanimate object was lost through the carelessness of others. The coin did not know it was lost and it did not know the way home. It's rescue was strictly at the mercy of others. Some people are like that. They don't know they are lost and, of course, don't know the way home. Secondly, the sheep that was lost, knew it was lost; but, DID NOT know the way home. Not knowing the way home, thus kept the sheep lost, kept it away from the fold, and kept it away from the flock. But, that sheep was part of a flock, some place. But, fortunately the shepherd of that flock cared enough to leave the ninety and nine and find the lost sheep and restore it to the fold and to the flock. Some people are like that! They know they are lost but they don't know the way home. Thirdly, the lost son knew he was lost AND he also knew the way home. But, excuses and other distractions kept him lost. Some people are like that! They know they are lost and they know how to return to the fold, or the flock, or the heavenly Father. And some like this young prodigal, come to themselves and return to safety.
Now, these parables are about sheep, coins and men. But, v.7, and v.10 makes a spiritual application to people that are lost. "Likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine JUST PERSONS, which need no repentance." You see, God's love for the sinner is a supreme love. That does not mean that God loved one more than the ninety and nine. The point is that god loves all with a supreme love. Notice that v.7 and v.10 at the conclusion of both parables mentions "one sinner that repenteth." You need to see THAT in relation to the accusation the Pharisees made back in v.2, that Jesus "receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." In other words the parable relays to us that Jesus was saying in essence that some of those sinners Jesus was receiving into his presence were repenting but the Pharisees were not. Verse 6 establishes that neighbors and friends knew about the loss and rejoiced when the sheep was found. Verse 9 mentions this with respect to the coin. V.7 establishes that repentance is required in coming back and being restored and also THAT repentance is noted in heaven and there is great joy in heaven and in the presence of the angels of God and possibly even more so than was true with the friends and neighbors.
I trust you remember that Jesus gave the parable of the lost sheep once before, recorded in Matt. 18:12-13, when Jesus had the session with the apostles at Capernaum after returning from Caesarea Philippi. But, the other two parables are recorded only by Luke. I think it is significant to notice that the first parable about the lost sheep and the second parable about the lost coin were both introduced by questions. Those questions were directed to the Pharisees and scribes, according to v.3. Would they not do the same if the property belonged to them, the sheep and the coin? If it was one out of a hundred, they would do it, in the case of the sheep. If it w as one out of ten, they would do it, in the case of the coin. How much more should it be done in the case of the son, one out of two.
Finally, the parable of the lost son or the prodigal son as it is sometimes called; although that term does not occur in the context; this parable was directed at the scribes and Pharisees, who were "murmuring" i.e. criticizing. You see, the scribes and Pharisees made great claims that they knew the Old Law or as we would say the O.T. Thus, they had departed form God's way as the parable suggests even though they had stayed at home in a sense. Thus, the scribes and Pharisees are depicted in this p arable as the elder brother. The elder was usually looked upon as a teacher of the younger. It was through their arrogance that many of the sinners and publicans, depicted in the younger son, had been led astray. Thus, the so called elders of Israel had departed form God's way although they were still on the old homestead, so-to-speak, as the p arable of the prodigal son illustrates. They knew they had departed and they knew the way back. But, it was the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees, with their traditions and commandments of men, that in some instances had kept the prodigal Jews from returning.
Now, there are many truths and implications embodied in all of Jesus' parables that apply to us in an individual way. They make beautiful sermons and illustrate many points very nicely. And, there is certainly nothing wrong with using them in that way; so long as God's word is not perverted. But, we need to see these things first in the actual setting in which Jesus gave them and take our lessons from that context. One of the elder here at Pleasant Grove said that he remembered hearing sermons about the prodigal son fifty years ago. Back then he said, the emphasis was always put upon the younger son and his fling with the world, but, he said in the last few years, every time he hears a sermon on this parable; the emphasis is placed upon the bad attitude of the elder son. Well, actually, there is a great lesson in this parable to us from both the elder son and the younger son. Jesus did not condone the action of the younger son. It's a beautiful story of love, that helps us to see much of the evil and suffering in this old world is brought upon us by ourselves. Jesus was a master at bathing every parable in the elements of human nature and appealing to human interest. And there are many angles from which you can view any parable. But, we must guard against assigning meanings to the drapery of the parable to teach the doctrines and commandments of men. That is the very reason for which Jesus gave the parable in the first place. For example, some years ago a brother tried to convince me that the parable "of the prodigal son teaches: it is alright to use instrumental music in worship. His argument went something like this: the father in this parable represents the heavenly Father and the father's house in this p arable represents the church. When the elder son came near to the house he was coming near to the church and he heard music and dancing (v.25). Thus, he concluded that this parable justifies and approves the use of instrumental music in worship. Well, if the p arable approves instrumental music it approves dancing in worship also; for music and dancing are joined by the coordinating conjunction "and" in v.25. I pointed this out; but, the man said that was figurative for spiritual dances. You see, when one tries to make it teach THEIR hobbies and their doctrine; it ruins the whole parable. This is the only time in the whole N.T. that the word "music" is used. In every other scripture, the N.T. ALWAYS speaks of singing or some form of the word "sing." And, obviously this passage is not teaching on the subject of congregational worship. In this parable, music and dancing are simply part of the drapery of that parable to get us to visualize the occasion. It does not approve (or disapprove) of singing or instrumental music in the worship service. Couldn't I, with the same thinking, justify the use of a fatted calf in the worship? So, as I said back when we were talking about parable interpretation and the two model parables, (the parable of the sower and the parable of the tares); to make a parable teach too much is to pervert the parable. Jesus told Satan back in Matt. 4:4, "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." To live, in that verse means spiritual life. But, "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God:" does not include the amendments made by men to teach their doctrines. You see, that's the very thing the scribes and Pharisees had done in adding their traditions of the elders. It smacks at the very basis for which Jesus gave these parables to start with.
For the time we have left, instead of going into the drapery of the parable, which you can read and study yourself; let's look at the basic teaching of the parable, i.e. repentance and restoration. These parables teach that the lost can be found. It teaches that with the right attitude on the part of ALL CONCERNED, all can be found and saved, spiritually speaking. For those that don't know they're lost (the parable of the coin) and for those that know they are lost but don't know the way (the parable of the lost sheep); their fate depends much upon others finding them and b ringing them into the fold. For those that were once at home and have departed knowingly through their own lust, greed and desire for the world; can be restored to the fold of God. And, God is just as anxious for them as for those in the fold. Finally, the parable teaches that those religiously at home can be arrogant and sinful and be lost through an attitude of NOT carrying their cross as Jesus taught back in Luke 14:27 "whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." Luke ch. 15 ends by the father pleading with the elder son to change his attitude and accept penitent sinners; which in effect, was Jesus' message to the scribes and Pharisees. So, you see, the teaching of Jesus here dovetails into every other teaching that Jesus gave. Until our next lesson, have a good day.