Luke 15

Luke 15:1

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

(a) Tax collectors and sinners; see entry for Matt. 9:10.

(b) Coming near. Grace attracts sinners. Those who had been judged as outcasts and pariahs were received by Jesus and they loved him for it.

Luke 15:2

Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

(a) Pharisees; see entry for Matt. 3:7.

(b) Scribes; see entry for Matt. 5:20.

(c) Grumble. Like the Israelites who murmured against Moses (e.g., Ex. 15:24), the Pharisees and scribes complained about Jesus.

(d) Receives. The original word (prosdechomai) is a strengthened form of the word for receive (dechomai). Jesus welcomed and accepted sinners.

(e) Eats with them. To eat with sinners was the greatest scandal of all. To share a table with the unclean was defile oneself, or so thought the religious. In their mind, holiness meant keeping one’s distance from sinners. But Jesus befriended them and ate with them. They did not understand that Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). To help them understand, Jesus told them three stories.

Luke 15:3

So He told them this parable, saying,

(a) Them. The Pharisees and scribes (see previous verse). Although Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners, it’s the religious men watching on who need to hear these stories about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

(b) Parable; the same parable is told in Matt. 18:12–14.

Luke 15:4

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

(a) Lost. The sheep is lost because it belongs to the shepherd. In the same way, all who are lost belong to the Father. He made them. He ransomed them. He does not want any to perish but desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4, 1 Pet. 3:9).

The religious Pharisees called them sinners, but Jesus said they were lost and that he had come to save them (Luke 19:10).

(b) A hundred sheep. A man with a hundred sheep is a wealthy man who hires shepherds to watch his sheep. Such a man would never go looking for a lost sheep – that would be the job of the shepherd. In context, the Pharisees and scribes represent the shepherds of Israel who neglected their flock, while Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was sent to find the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:6).

(c) The ninety-nine sheep are the self-righteous (e.g., the Pharisees and scribes) who saw themselves as righteous and not sinners in need of repentance (Matt. 9:11–13). See entry for Luke 15:7.

(d) Finds it. Because the shepherd values his lost sheep, he searches for it. Because God so loved you, he sent his Son to save you.

Luke 15:5

“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

(a) Shoulders. The Good Shepherd does not beat us or scold us for wandering away, but he carries us back to the place of safety.

(b) Rejoicing; see next verse.

Luke 15:6

“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 which was lost!’

Rejoice with me. These words are directed to the grumbling Pharisees and scribes who are disgusted that Jesus is dining with sinners (Luke 15:1–2). “Come and join the party.” The three parables of lost things (a sheep, a coin, and a son) all end with rejoicing.

Luke 15:7

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

(a) Sinner. If the original language did not lack punctuation marks, the word “sinners” would be in quotation marks. Religious people called them sinners; Jesus called them lost sheep and said that he had come to save them (Matt. 10:6, 15:24, 18:11).

(b) Repents. To repent means to change your mind. In context, it means changing your mind about the goodness of God and joining the party (Rom. 2:4). See entry for Repentance.

(c) Ninety-nine righteous persons. The so-called self-righteous who do not see themselves as sinners in need of repentance. In reality, we are all lost sheep and in need of saving (Is. 53:6).

Luke 15:8

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

(a) Woman. Jesus, the champion of equality, tells a story about a man searching for sheep then follows it with a story about a woman searching for a coin. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd in the first parable, he is the Good Woman in the second.

(b) Coin. The shepherd lost one percent of his sheep, but this woman lost ten percent of her coins. It is a greater loss, but still less than the loss of a son in the following story,

(c) Lamp and sweep. She was intentional in her searching, and determined to find that which she had lost.

Luke 15:9

“When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’

(a) Rejoice with me; see entry for Luke 15:6.

(b) Lost. A coin on its own is just a coin, but this coin is a lost coin because it belongs to the woman. In the same way, all who are lost belong to the Father. He lights the lamp of the gospel and sweeps away the dust of our transgressions so that we might be found.

Luke 15:10

“In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

(a) Sinner; see entry for Luke 15:7.

(b) Repents; see entry for Luke 15:7.

Luke 15:20

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Ran and embraced him. God is like a father watching for your return, who runs when he sees you coming, and who falls on you with hugs and kisses. As a dearly-loved child, you can rest in your Father’s love knowing you have nothing to prove.

Luke 15:28

“But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.

He became angry. The self-righteous man is hostile towards grace. Indeed, he detests grace for it undermines everything he has worked for. When he hear the happy sounds of the party, his prideful anger is aroused. See entry for Self-righteousness.

The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got a suggestion? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.

Leave a Reply