Luke 15
People's New Testament
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
15:1 Joy of Repenting Sinners


The Publicans and Sinners. The Pharisees and Scribes. The Lost Sheep. The Lost Coin. The Lost Son. In the Far Country. Feeding on Husks. Coming to Himself. The Father's Welcome. The Elder Brother.

Then drew near unto him. At the period of his ministry these classes were flocking in great numbers to hear him.

Publicans. Gatherers of the Roman tribute, generally corrupt, universally despised, usually Jews by birth.

Sinners. Persons excommunicated from the synagogues and usually held as outcasts.

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
15:2 Pharisees. The orthodox leaders.

Scribes. Primarily copyists, but also the great theologians.

Eateth with them. That he should be on social terms with sinners the Pharisees could not overlook.

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep? Three parables spoken in succession to show how cordially God receiveth sinners (Lu 15:2). The shepherd who loseth one sheep out of the flock of a hundred will leave the rest and go to seek the straying one.
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
15:5 Layeth it on his shoulders. A common custom with Eastern shepherds.

Rejoicing. So every servant of God should rejoice at the return of a sinner.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, 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.
15:7 Joy shall be in heaven. The Father rejoices and the Son and the angels with him.

Over one sinner that repenteth. That comes to himself, decides to leave off sin and to serve God. Repentance means a change of mind or heart.

Than over ninety and nine righteous persons. Over those who are already in Christ, safe, and need no repentance. It is the saving of the lost that brings the greatest joy.

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?
15:8-10 What woman having ten pieces of silver? It is the custom of the East to have a string of coins for a bracelet, necklace, or headdress. The joy of finding the lost piece again illustrates the joy of heaven over the lost sinner.

Light a candle. Because Eastern rooms, often only lighted by the doors, are very dark.

And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
15:8-10 What woman having ten pieces of silver? It is the custom of the East to have a string of coins for a bracelet, necklace, or headdress. The joy of finding the lost piece again illustrates the joy of heaven over the lost sinner.

Light a candle. Because Eastern rooms, often only lighted by the doors, are very dark.

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
15:8-10 What woman having ten pieces of silver? It is the custom of the East to have a string of coins for a bracelet, necklace, or headdress. The joy of finding the lost piece again illustrates the joy of heaven over the lost sinner.

Light a candle. Because Eastern rooms, often only lighted by the doors, are very dark.

And he said, A certain man had two sons:
15:11 The Parable of the Lost Son (Lu 15:11-32). The two preceding parables represent Christ seeking for the lost; this, the sinner seeking for the Father's house; all three, the rejoicing over repentance.

A certain man had two sons. There is something in this inimitable parable which goes straight to every human heart. It is almost impossible to refuse an entrance to it. It storms the strongest fortress of the soul, by its appeal to the latent sensibility to impression, that dormant or sepulchered humanness which underlies in every man his surface of passion or pride; it makes its way to the sympathy of the rudest, and surprises the most callous into the emotion which finds its best relief in tears. The child loves to hear its simple and affecting story, and many a criminal whom crime has done its worst to harden has been subdued by some stray hearing of its experience, it seemed so like his own. (Punshon). In this parable the father is the Heavenly Father; the elder son, the self-righteous, in this case the Pharisees and scribes; the younger son, the sinful, in this case the publicans and sinners.

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.
15:12 Give me the portion of goods. A selfish and unfilial demand, suitable to the sinner who demands of God to give, but returns no gratitude.

He divided to them his living. The elder would receive two shares and the younger one (De 21:17).

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.
15:13 Into a far country. Wandered far away from the Father's house, from God.

Wasted his substance. All do in that far country. The worldly life is a wasted life. It is more baneful to waste our spiritual opportunities and resources than to waste earthly goods.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15:14 There arose a mighty famine. There is always one afar from God. The world cannot satisfy the soul.

He began to be in want. Many a lost one who has wasted all feels the want so deeply as to destroy his life. Byron is said to have died of wretchedness.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
15:15 To feed swine. The lowest possible occupation for a Jew.
And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
15:16 With the husks. The pods of the carob tree. The husks of animal pleasures cannot satisfy the soul.
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!
15:17 When he came to himself. Sin is an infatuation, a craze. When the blinded eyes of the soul are opened no man is content to abide in sin; that is, in destruction.

How many hired servants. The son was now himself a hired servant; so are all sinners, and the service is a hard one.

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
15:18 I will arise and go. This resolve is repentance, the change of purpose and heart. He is led to it by his sense of need, the burden of sin.

Father, I have sinned. His change of heart, or repentance, must be followed by confession.

And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
15:19 Am no more worthy. His own claims of worth are gone. He has proved worthless. He is willing to take the humblest place in his father's house. Humility and consecration follow genuine repentance.
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.
15:20 He arose, and came to his father. The sinner comes by faith, repentance, and obedience to Christ. The spirit must come. To come he must turn, leave the far country, sinful associations, and enter into spiritual union with Christ by baptism (Ga 3:27 Ro 6:3,4).

His father... ran. No sternness, no need of prayers; the father no sooner saw the wanderer coming than he rushed to meet him. How often is it written of Christ.

Had compassion. So, too, of the Father for the penitent sinner; the father does not even wait for the confession the son had resolved to make. Love cannot wait when it recognizes the purpose.

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:
15:22 The father said. He interrupted the confession of the prodigal.

Bring forth the best robe. He had returned in rags. The best robe is the white robe of the righteous Christ.

A ring on his hand. A ring with a seal was a symbol of authority, of sonship.

Shoes on his feet. Servants went barefoot, but the shoes were a symbol of freedom.

And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
15:23 Bring hither the fatted calf. For a feast of welcome. To make such preparations was common in the simple life of the East. See Ge 18:6-8.
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
15:24 For my son was dead, and is alive. See Eph 2:1-6. It was a spiritual resurrection.

They began to be merry. Gladness should be manifested by all saints at the repentance of sinners.

Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
15:25 Now his elder son. The Pharisees had complained of Jesus that he receiveth sinners (Lu 15:2). So the elder son complains that the father had welcomed the prodigal.

Music and dancing. In the dance of Judea the sexes did not intermingle. It was usually performed by hired professional dancers.

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 intreated him.
15:28 He was angry. So the Pharisees were with Christ for receiving sinners. So, too, the eminently respectable self-righteous in the church often are still when the publicans and sinners, the despised and outcast, are converted.

His father came out, and intreated him. So God in Christ still entreats all such to join in the welcome of the impenitent. It shows his long suffering.

And he answering said to his 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:
15:29 Neither transgressed I at any time. Here is the very spirit of Pharisaism, a self-righteous spirit. His charges show while nominally with the father, he was far away from him in spirit.
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.
15:31 Son. The father pleads with the envious brother and tries to bring him to a better frame of mind, as Christ pleads with Israel.

All that I have is thine. If a son, then an heir, and a joint heir with Christ (Ro 8:17).

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.
15:32 This thy brother. If a son, then the returned sinner is his brother. Unless he, too, can welcome him, then he is the lost son. Stier says:

Those who object to all use of fiction must explain, as best they may, this story, for such it is. There is not even an application attached to it; the reader is left to make that for himself. As a representation of redeeming love it has been well called the Gospel in the Gospel. In comparison with others, it is the Crown and Pearl of all parables.''

The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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