Luke Chapter 15 Lost coin, Prodigal Son

Jul 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Luke, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Luke Chapter 15 Lost coin, Prodigal Son

Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

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

In connection with Jesus’ strong lecture of chapter 14, the scribes and Pharisees missed the point  and murmured, manifesting an evil heart condition. When sinners drew near, looking for counsel from Jesus and desiring cleansing, the scribes and Pharisees found fault. Because sinners wanted counsel, they said Jesus was a friend of sinners. The scribes and Pharisees thought they were without sin—they thought they did not need a physician.

Luke 15:3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

Luke 15:4 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?

Luke 15:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

Luke 15:6 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.

Luke 15:7 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.

Jesus now began a series of parables to drive home the point of lost and found. The Parable of the Lost Sheep has several plateaus of meaning, two of which follow:

1. The number 100 signifies perfection. There was a time in God’s universe when all sentient beings were in harmony with Him. Adam and Eve were created perfect and remained so for a little while, but when sin entered, one of the “sheep” (the human race) deflected. Jesus gave his life for the sheep.

2. Jesus’ use of the term “lost sheep of the house of Israel” implies that some of the lost ones of Israel knew they were lost back there. It was better for them to realize their lost condition than to have a false confidence in their own righteousness.

A good shepherd is very much absorbed in caring for the sheep under his charge. He knows them all by name and hence realizes if one is lost. Moreover, a literal shepherd would probably tell his neighbors about finding a lost bleating sheep. He would bring it home on his shoulders with the legs pulled in on his chest.

There is joy in heaven over even one sinner who repents. The holy angels are intensely interested in what is happening down here, and they rejoice to see people trying to do God’s will. It is humbling to think that when we made our consecration, the angels were aware of that commitment. (In the Kingdom, the Little Flock will likewise rejoice over those of mankind who consecrate.) Moreover, the holy angels are interested in the progress or decline of our consecration. And they want to understand prophecy. As prophecy unfolds down here, they gain understanding too. The first dispensation was under their control, but they could not rescue man from sin. Hence the interest of the holy angels is intensified as they see God’s plan working out.

Principle: The shepherd’s seeking the one lost sheep out of 100 shows that quality counts, not quantity or number. Another point: The 99 thought they were whole, just, and not in need of repentance (hence not “lost”). The class attracted to the truth are the poor in spirit.

Luke 15:8 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?

Luke 15:9 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.

Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Verses 8-10 are the Parable of the Lost Coin. A woman who had 10 pieces of silver and lost one searched diligently for it. When she found the coin, she told friends and neighbors. In other words, the loss was felt and made known to others. In each instance, the angels knew of the loss and then rejoiced when the one sheep and the one coin were found.

The strain of sympathy for others is a trait we must carry to eternity. And, correspondingly, if a brother goes into sin and truly repents, we should rejoice. Hebrews 12:1 tells us that “a cloud of witnesses,” the holy angels, are watching the consecrated. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

The piece of lost silver is usually likened to the doctrine of restitution, but it is a little more than that. The lost coin is the doctrine or process of restoring, of restitution in the sense of saving that which was lost, rather than just a theoretical doctrine.

Luke 15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:

Luke 15:12 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.

Verses 11-32 cover the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father, who pictures God, had two sons, one of whom was the “prodigal son.”

In the primary application, the elder son represents the scribes and Pharisees; the younger son, publicans and sinners. There are two secondary applications: (1) The older son pictures the Jews, the nation of Israel, while the younger son portrays the Gentiles. (2) The elder son represents nominal spiritual Israel; the younger son, true spiritual Israel.

Luke 15:13 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.

With the younger son spending his living in riotousness, he aptly pictures the publicans and sinners at the First Advent. In contrast, the elder son, portraying the scribes and Pharisees, felt he had been faithful all along.

Publicans were Israelites who collected taxes for Rome, a foreign Gentile power. Their fraternization with an alien power had a pernicious influence on them. In this fraternization, not only did they collect tax money from their fellow Israelites, but many wrongfully collected more money than they should have. Beginning about 43 BC, Israel was under Rome, and Rome found it advantageous to hire Israelites to do their tax collecting. The publicans were paid a commission on taxes collected, but if they collected more than was expected by Rome, they kept the difference.

The elder brother’s attitude was that of self-righteousness. The scribes and Pharisees tried to live according to the letter of the Law, whereas the publicans did not, for the Law said they should not fraternize with foreigners. This was a powerful parable for the hearers. The younger son took his inheritance to a “far country” (Rome); that is, he served Rome, an alien power. Even though the publicans stayed in Israel, they were “far” out of harmony with the Law. The Romans’ being especially in the Galilee region gave the Galileans a stench.

Tiberias was the Roman resort center for the occupying army, so Jews who lived in that area sold goods to, and had commercial dealings with, the Romans.

When the Christian gives his all to the Lord at consecration, he becomes a steward of the Lord’s goods. Israel, as a nation, was consecrated to follow Jehovah. In proportion to their obedience, they would prosper, but they misused the stewardship. Hence going to “a far country” was separation from God through business dealings with a foreign power.

Luke 15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

Luke 15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

The fraternization of some Israelites with Rome progressed to the point where they became tax collectors. Galilee was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” or “Galilee of the nations.”

When a great famine arose, the prodigal son was brought to such an extremity that he “joined himself to a citizen” of the foreign power. The wording indicates more than just going into an alien territory; it suggests a commercial and possibly a marital relationship. The “citizen” would be one of the several Roman tetrarchs in charge of Israel at that time. The “swine” are a reference to the Gentiles, who ate pork, an unclean and forbidden meat for the Jews.

Luke 15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

This verse evokes our sympathy. In wasting his living and joining himself to a Gentile power, the younger son was brought to such poverty that he would have eaten husks fed to swine— but no one would give him any husks. He was starving. (Husks are the coverings, or pods, of ears of corn.)

Progression is shown. The younger son went off and affiliated with Rome and had a good time. Then he saw the need to join himself to a citizen for employment. But the pay kept decreasing until he was in dire straits and starving. Finally, when he was feeding husks to the swine but could not partake himself, he began to wake up to his situation.

The parable fits the situation in Israel, but there are moral overtones as well, for the publican was also considered a sinner. He was in disesteem for being a tax collector and then looked down upon as a sinner. Lesson: The true Christian can be looked down upon as a cultist, as one not fit for recognition by orthodoxy. Moreover, the “husks” the world has to offer do not satisfy the spiritual hunger of the Christian. Stated another way, the Christian starves in the world.

Jesus was criticized by the scribes and Pharisees for preaching to publicans and sinners, but the distinction is that they went to him; that is, he did not go down to their level and fraternize in a sinful environment. Publicans and sinners were attracted to Jesus’ message, which contained hope that the scribes and Pharisees could not offer. Luke 18:11-14 shows the self-righteous attitudes of the scribes and Pharisees.

Luke 15:17 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!

The prodigal son came to his senses. He was a son, but he observed that even his father’s servants were better off than he. The son was now willing to return to his father as a servant.

Luke 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

Luke 15:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Luke 15:20 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.

Luke 15:21 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.

The prodigal son repented: “I have sinned against heaven and my father.” Notice that he first recognized his situation, for if he returned home without these sentiments, there would not be proper repentance. Confession of the sin was necessary. The counterpart in the Gospel Age is for one to recognize that he is a sinner in a deplorable state. Then comes the desire to find God and have a relationship with Him.

Luke 15:1 through 17:4—more than two chapters—are a lesson on repentance. It is important to note the conditions of repentance that must precede forgiveness. Before the father ran to  meet the prodigal son, the son confessed his sin privately. Then, after his father embraced him, he told his father he was not worthy to be called a son. But in the higher sense, God knows if a party is truly repentant. Thus the “father” ran and embraced the prodigal son, knowing his contrition. Remorse and repentance must precede forgiveness. The parable shows the need for repentance and confession of wrongdoing. The principle “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” applies to one with a contrite heart (James 4:8).

Comment: From the platform, it has been said that the father could not know the son had repented when he saw him afar off. Therefore, when we welcome back the one who has sinned, we do not have to see repentance first. However, that reasoning is erroneous. We must think of the father as the Heavenly Father, who would know that the son had repented.

Otherwise, there would be no point in having the prodigal son express repentant sentiments before returning home.

Reply: To show God knows the heart condition, we are made aware that the prodigal son repented and determined to return to his father as a servant, acknowledging his sins, before the actual return. In other words, the son’s sorrow and repentance were very obvious.

Let us consider the parable from the literal standpoint, from the earthly level. Obviously, the father missed the son and desired him back. A literal father would not know of the son’s repentant thoughts, but even from a great distance, the father would see the change in his son, who formerly was proud, rebellious, and confident. The repentant attitude would show in his stooped shoulders, posture, and walk. His clothing would be ragged, and he would be thin.

Thus the father could see that the son was broken in spirit. Verse 18 is inserted to show us that God looks for repentance first.

Another point. We are supposed to feed an enemy if we see him in real want. Because of his extreme need, we are to do this even if he has not repented. We would feed him because it is our duty to so treat a member of the human race, but we would not fraternize with him.

We should not be more noble than this parable. A person’s return must be accompanied by repentance, by a truly broken spirit where he cannot look us in the eye or is in tears. Then the attitude is self-evident without words. To come back without signs of remorse is not repentance but might be just prudence or worldly wisdom; that is, the individual reasons, “If I cannot get something one place, I will just go somewhere else.” The prodigal son came to his senses in the true sense—not only in regard to his pitiful physical condition but also as a son.  That was much more than just wanting clothing and food.

Jesus came as the Good Physician to heal those who felt their need of being cured. He was not seeking the self-satisfied. Publicans may have been so desperate for money that they agreed to be tax collectors for Rome. Tax collecting was seasonal, so they found themselves not only unemployed during part of the year but also in alien surroundings and wanting reinstatement to favor, even if they went to a lower level.

Comment: It is like the attitude of many prior to consecration who do not feel worthy of being called to such a high hope. But the Father encourages them little by little.

Reply: Yes, and here the father gave encouragement by running to the son, and kissing and embracing him.

Luke 15:22 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:

Luke 15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

The father told the servants to bring forth for the prodigal son the best robe, a ring, shoes, and a fatted calf to be killed and eaten. The symbolisms are significant. The “best robe” would be the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The ring symbolizes the covenant of consecration, and putting on the ring reestablishes the relationship. The shoes provide protection for the feet from contact with the earth; hence they symbolize the provision for asking forgiveness for shortcomings in our daily walk. The shoes can also picture a new standing in Christ Jesus. Just as each Tabernacle board had two tenons that fit in a silver socket, representing the Old and New Testament, so the two shoes represent the Christian’s walk according to the Old and New Testament. The fatted calf symbolizes spiritual food, especially meat in due season—the rich supply of dispensational truth contrasted with the husks of the world, the want, and the famine. During the Harvest at the end of the age, meat is served from God through Jesus.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Formerly dead, the younger son was now alive; formerly lost, he was now found. The servants’ merriness shows they had the proper spirit, the spirit of the father. This verse reflects back to verses 6 and 10, which said there is joy in heaven among the holy angels when a sinner repents.

Luke 15:25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.

Luke 15:26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

Luke 15:27 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.

The older son had been working in the field, but as he drew near the house, he heard music and dancing. When he asked the meaning, a servant said the younger son had come home and their father had killed the fatted calf in celebration.

Luke 15:28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.

The older son, or brother, was angry—and so were the scribes and Pharisees. They resented the fact that Jesus’ message was being heard and appreciated by publicans and sinners.

Luke 15:29 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:

Luke 15:30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

Luke 15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

Luke 15:32 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.

All that the Heavenly Father had was available to the scribes and Pharisees if they manifested the right heart condition. They had the Law and the prophets, and they were teachers of the Law— everything was at their fingertips—but they failed because of self-righteousness. They adhered to the letter of the Law but not its spirit. The thought is, “All that I have is thine too if you will submit and come into the right heart condition.”

Comment: In the Kingdom, this parable will be meaningful to the present religious leadership as well as to the scribes and Pharisees who are thrust out. Today some nominal Christians are angry at the thought of the world having an opportunity in the Kingdom, calling it a “second chance.” They think they should have the only reward for what they are giving up now, whereas the right attitude is to sacrifice joyfully.

Of course the parable does not mean that a true Christian can go into the world, live in riotous  excess and immorality, and then be forgiven and fully restored. All the parables in this series (Luke 15:1 through 17:4) have to be studied to understand what the conditions of forgiveness really are.

The younger son can also picture nominal Christians who come to their senses, consecrate, come into present truth, and are thus rewarded. The self-righteous older son never got the fatted calf (dispensational truth) because he did not have the right attitude—but the truth was available, nevertheless. Moreover, he resented the merriment and fuss over the returned prodigal son.

Comment: Those in Babylon who are Spirit-begotten get two opportunities to come out. If they respond, the joys of present truth and closer fellowship with the Father are theirs.

Reply: Yes, God calls His people to come out of Babylon, but many do not heed that call and thus receive the plagues. All of the Lord’s people in the church systems hear the call at some time.

The greater proportion of the disciples were individuals of humble backgrounds, and many were from the Galilee area. They were not the scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem (although some of the Pharisees did accept Jesus).

The prodigal son was restored to a former condition; that is, publicans and sinners, by receiving John’s baptism, were restored to typical favor under Moses’ Law. This made them amenable to (and thus more likely to accept) Jesus as Messiah.

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