Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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LUKE - Chapter 15

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Luke 15

Supplemental Commentary:

Note.  Only those parts of the Third Gospel that are peculiar to it are commented on here.  For all other parts the reader should consult the Commentaries on the parallel passages in the other Gospels.

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  3-21 (continued)

5. Ministry on the Journey to Jerusalem  9, 51 -- 18, 34 (continued)

15, 1-7:  The Lost Sheep.  This whole chapter forms one logical unit.  Vv.1 f state the occasion: the accusation of the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus acts too friendly towards sinners (cf. the same accusation of consorting with sinners in 5, 30; 19, 7; Matt. 9, 11; Mark 2, 16).  Christ defends His action in this regard by teaching that God rejoices over the conversion of one sinner and it is therefore pleasing to God to lead sinners to repentance, even though this may necessitate a certain consorting with them.  Our Lord demonstrates His point by comparing God's joy in this to man's joy in finding some precious object that was lost.  This He does in three parables, all of which teach the same fundamental lesson, which is directly stated only by the first two parables (7.10).  But Christ goes further and states that God rejoices more over the repentance of one sinner than over the virtue of the just.  According to some interpreters this is not to be taken too strictly but is merely based upon analogy with joy among men, with whom the greater the preceding sorrow, the greater the subsequent joy, as, for instance, the joy of a mother over the recovery of a sick child is greater than her joy would be if the child had never been sick.  But perhaps in speaking of those who have no need of repentance, our Lord means those who think they have no need of repentance.  Underlying our Lord's words is the thought that, because of Adam's fall, all men are sinners (cf. 1 John 1, 10).  The self-righteous who refuse to humble themselves before God for the sins they have committed, even though these be few and venial, are less pleasing to Him than those who have sinned much and grievously but have then repented sincerely.

3-7.  This parable is also recorded in Matt. 18, 12-14 but in another context to accentuate God's loving care for the "little ones."

15, 8-10:  The Lost Coin.  Drachma is the Greek word for the same coin which was called by the Romans a denarius.

15, 11-32:  The Prodigal Son.  This is universally considered the most beautiful of all the parables of Christ.  Its principal moral is the same as that of the two preceding parables.  Hence in keeping with the titles given to these, this parable should be called more aptly "The Lost Son," for the prodigality of the son is not an important part of the story.  But besides the main lesson of this parable, to show God's joy over the return of a repentant sinner and the unreasonable attitude of the self-righteous who are offended by this, many of the details of the parable were probably intended by Christ in an allegorical sense, especially to portray the fall and repentance of the sinner.

11.  And he said: Christ's audience was undoubtedly the same as that mentioned in 3 where the them refers directly to the Scribes and Pharisees.  But the publicans and sinners (1) were no doubt also present, and our Lord's portrayal of God's tender mercy for repentant sinners was also intended for them, to encourage them to return to their loving Father in heaven.    12.  On inheritance customs among the Jews see Commentary on 12, 13.  The father was under no obligation during his lifetime to comply with his son's request.    15.  The feeding of swine was the lowest depths of degradation to which any Jew, especially the son of a respectable family, could sink.    16.  Pods: the fruit of the carob tree, which resembles the locust tree, whose long, fleshy pods are still used in the Orient for cattle fodder and even for human consumption by the poor.    17-20.  Misery brings the young man to his senses.  He prepares his confession beforehand, lest his embarrassment prevent him from saying it aright to his father.

21.  His father lets him begin but not finish his prepared confession.    22.  Robe: literally "stole," i.e., the festive garment; cf. Mark 12, 38; 16, 5.  The ring was not only a token of honor but if, as was usually the case, this was a signet-ring, used in sealing documents, this bestowal of the ring signified that the father made his son the administrator of his property (cf. Gen. 41, 42; Est. 3, 10).  Sandals were the marks of freemen, since slaves went barefoot.    24a.  In his joy the father breaks forth into typical Semitic poetry, in balanced parallelism (cf. 32b).    30.  The elder son shows his meanness in his speech.  He does not speak of "my brother" but of "this son of thine," throwing the blame for his wickedness upon the father.  With harlots: Christ had not used this expression in describing the loose living of the younger brother.  In any case, the older brother could not have known this.  He was guilty of rash judgment, just as the self-righteous often are.    31 f.  The father overlooks this meanness but insists upon his right to receive back the prodigal son.  No one, least of all a self-righteous hypocrite, has the right to murmur against the infinite mercy of God.

Confraternity Bible:

The Lost Sheep  1 Now the publicans and sinners were drawing near to him to listen to him.  2 And the Pharisees and the Scribes murmured, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

3 But he spoke to them this parable, saying, 4 "What man of you having a hundred sheep, and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?  5 And when he has found it, he lays it upon his shoulders rejoicing.  6 And on coming home he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.'  7 I say to you that, even so, there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance.

The Lost Coin  8 "Or what woman, having ten drachmas, if she loses one drachma, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully 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 drachma that I had lost.'  10 Even so, I say to you, there will be joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The Prodigal Son  11 And he said, "A certain man had two sons.  12 And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.'  And he divided his means between them.

13 "And not many days later, the younger son gathered up all his wealth, and took his journey into a far country; and there he squandered his fortune in loose living.  14 And after he had spent all, there came a grievous famine over that country, and he began himself to suffer want.  15 And he went and joined one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his farm to feed swine.  16 And he longed to fill himself with the pods that the swine were eating, but no one offered to give them to him.

17 "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many hired men in my father's house have bread in abundance, while I am perishing here with hunger!  18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.  19 I am no longer worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired men.'  20 And he arose and went to his father.

"But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him.  21 And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.  I am no longer worthy to be called thy son.'  22 But the father said to his servants, 'Fetch quickly the best robe and put it on him, and give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet; 23 and bring out the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 because this my son was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and is found.'  And they began to make merry.

25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  26 And calling one of the servants he inquired what this meant.  27 And he said to him, 'Thy brother has come, and thy father has killed the fattened calf, because he has got him back safe.'  28 But he was angered and would not go in.

"His father, therefore, came out and began to entreat him.  29 But he answered and said to his father, 'Behold, these many years I have been serving thee, and have never transgressed one of thy commands; and yet thou hast never given me a kid that I might make merry with my friends.  30 But when this thy son comes, who has devoured his means with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fattened calf.'

31 "But he said to him, 'Son, thou art always with me, and all that is mine is thine; 32 but we were bound to make merry and rejoice, for this thy brother was dead, and has come to life; he was lost, and is found.'"