Summary: An examination of the introduction to the parable of Luke 15.
Jesus’ entire ministry was only about three years long. He preached that the kingdom of God has come near, and he called upon people to enter the kingdom of God through faith and repentance (Luke 10:9; 12:31; 18:17).
Jesus was now on his way to Jerusalem and only had a few months left to live. He was determined to fulfill God’s purpose for him by dying as a penal substitute for sinners. Luke portrayed Jesus as focusing his attention on fulfilling God’s purpose by saying that “he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Luke showed the growing drama in Jesus’ life by his increasing confrontations with the Pharisees and the scribes. The Pharisees and the scribes did not understand the person and work of Jesus, and Jesus consistently clarified the good news of the gospel of God’s salvation for sinners. That good news is beautifully clarified in the parable in Luke 15.
Commentator William Barclay puts it this way:
There is no chapter of the New Testament so well known and so dearly loved as the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. It has been called “the gospel in the gospel,” as if it contained the very distilled essence of the good news which Jesus came to tell.
Let’s read the parable in Luke 15:1-32, although today we will focus only on the introduction in verses 1-3:
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So 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? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And 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.’ 7 Just 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.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And 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.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And 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. 13 Not 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. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.