Bible Study: Luke, Chapter Fifteen
Transcript: Today we are going to continue our Bible study and we are going to cover Luke Chapter 15. After the meeting today, or sometime this week, please take the matching Quiz that I have prepared for you on the website. For those that are having problems with the quiz, we are now going to include the questions at the bottom of the teaching. Thanks to everyone that has participated. Let’s get started:
Luke Chapter 15 beginning in verse 1 reading from the World English Bible: Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him.
Jesus spoke the truth in love, and though He had just spoke a very strong word about the cost of being His disciple, all the social outcasts came closer to hear more. It does not mean that they trusted Him yet, but His strong words did not drive them away, instead it attracted them.
2 The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”
The scribes and pharisees murmured about Jesus welcoming the sinners and eating with them because they themselves did not associate with the “lesser” people.
Who were the scribes?: In ancient Israel, the ability to read and write was not widespread, so professional secretaries were hired to keep accounts, record military data, to read and write correspondence, they were a bit like lawyers.
Legal information (Jer 32:12)
Military data (2 Chr 26:11)
Public documents (Jgs 8:14; Is 50:1)
Personal correspondence (Jer 36:18)
They were court recorders (1 Kgs 4:3; 2 Chr 24:11)
They were advisers (2 Sm 8:16–17; 2 Kgs 18:18; 22:12; 1 Chr 27:32; Is 36:3)
They were financial overseers (2 Kgs 22:3–4)
They were recorders for temple affairs (1 Chr 24:6; 2 Chr 34:13–15).
With the restoration of Judaism under Ezra and Nehemiah, the term “scribe” begins to be associated more narrowly with those who gathered together, studied, and interpreted the Torah (Jewish law). They became, in essence, a separate profession of teachers, able to preserve accurately the law of Moses and interpret it to meet conditions of the times. Ezra himself appears as the ideal “scribe who studied and taught the commands and laws of the LORD to Israel” (Ezra 7:11). Basically they were caretakers of Jewish law.
Who were the pharisees?: The pharisees were a sect of Judaism that were very strict and usually opposed Jesus. Most Bible dictionaries and similar works of reference depict the Pharisees as greedy, hypocritical, lacking a sense of justice, overly concerned with fulfilling the literal details of the law, while being completely insensitive to the needs of the people and the spiritual significance of the Old Testament.
Before 70 AD the Pharisees constituted only a small movement in a highly diversified Jewish society, so they should not be viewed to represent Judaism in general. Multitudes of Jews followed Jesus around. Jesus was born as a Jew, and so were all of His apostles. The people that He healed mostly were Jews, and the ones that wrote His teachings down for us were Jews. We should not associate Jewish people in general with the small, strict sect of pharisees that opposed Jesus.
The Pharisees were committed to a “two-fold” law as they had the written law of Moses, the Pentateuch. Then they added an “oral law” to it which were the traditions that had been passed down through many generations of rabbis. These traditions sought to regulate the lives of the people, and they became more and more detailed over the course of time. This was their main argument with Jesus. They expected Jesus to live by the laws they had created and they became upset when He did not. Eventually this oral law was written down as a single document called the “Mishna” about 210 AD. It began to be said that the oral law had been given to Moses by God as well as the scriptures, and that their “Mishna” shared divine authority with the scriptures.
There were other Jewish sects as well, like the Sadducees who strongly opposed the oral torah and accepted only the authority of the books of Moses. The Sadducees argued that the importance that the Pharisees attached to the oral traditions represented an unjustifiable innovation. The oral law was just something the pharisees had created themselves, and then expected others to follow, even God. They even placed their traditions before the commandments of God. In that light, think on these verses in Mark:
Mark 7:5–9 (WEB) The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?” He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “For you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things.” He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”
So the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man welcomes sinners, and He eats with them.” This sentence is what the rest of Luke chapter 15 is based on.
3 He told them this parable. 4 “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? 5 When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 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!’ 7 I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
Jesus tells a parable about a man with a hundred sheep. Sheep and shepherds were common in the land, so everyone knew what He was talking about. I have never cared for sheep, but I have a friend from England who did, and he says there is not a dumber animal on the earth. They can put their head down grazing, wander behind a tree and be completely lost, while only twenty feet from the rest of the flock. Then it will start bleating for the flock, while running away in the opposite direction. Once the sheep was lost, they would never save themselves, or ever find the shepherd again. If the shepherd did not take action, the sheep was doomed and would be eaten by wolves.
The rabbis of the time believed that God received sinners who came seeking Him, but Jesus taught something new: that God actively seeks out the lost, instead of grudgingly receiving them when they repent. What a stark contrast Jesus told in this parable.
When the shepherd found the lost sheep, he carried it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Now I have heard people teach that if a sheep wandered off a lot, that the shepherd would break its leg, and that is why he carried it on his shoulders, but after some research, that is absolutely made up garbage. Besides the shepherd here is “rejoicing” that he found the lost sheep.
What stands out in this parable to me is that God actively sought the lost sheep until He found it, and He rejoiced when He did. The pharisees and scribes that were complaining were not happy that the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to hear Jesus, instead they murmured about them. “Over one sinner who repents”: repent means to turn around, to stop sinning. That is the one that heaven rejoices over.
I want to tell you from experience that religion overall does not understand the heart of God, or the love of God for the sinner. I learned what I know in the field because they did not teach me that in church.
When I was younger, I played music in the local clubs in various bands. At some point I went through a personal revival, that is the best way that I know to explain it. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, I began to fast a lot, studied the Bible, went to church pretty much every night. I sought out churches in the area that were having any event or “revivals” looking for His presence. Then I enrolled in Bible college. I was still playing in a band, and the money helped pay for my schooling.
I felt ashamed, dirty, and I didn’t want anyone to see me in a bar, but at the same time, if I quit, I couldn’t afford school. I prayed about quitting the band and surprisingly felt the Holy Spirit say: “No.” I thought that must have been the devil, so I went to my pastor, who moved in the prophetic, but I didn’t want to taint his word with prior knowledge, so I basically told him that I have to make a decision and I need a yes or a no. My unspoken question was “Should I leave the band?” He prayed about it a moment and said: “No. Not at this time.” So I stayed in the band, pretty much against my will.
It was a conflicting time, playing music in smoky bars on Saturday night and then in the praise and worship team on Sunday morning. Sometimes we got in so late that I didn’t even get to sleep, I just showered and went on to church. Then they would preach about people that were in the bars on Saturday night. It was like a lived a secret life of sin. Time marched on.
One Saturday night I was playing in a bar in Mullins, South Carolina, and about midnight I felt the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit come down on me in the middle of a song. It was so strong that I staggered. I had never felt that in church. Suddenly scriptures started pouring into my mind and the guitar player to my right, “lit up” with a glow. I could feel such compassion and I knew that these scriptures were for him. He was in his forties and had never been to church. His wife and parents had tried for decades to reach him, but he had no interest in their religion. I was never preachy, I was just one of the band, but they all knew that I was going to Bible college.
I told the Holy Spirit that break time is coming up, and the band will go to the bar for a beer. I would go out and sit in my car. If you want me to witness to this guy, send him out to my car. Well break time came and I went out to my car, sat down and opened my Bible to the scriptures that He had give me. In a couple of minutes, there was a tap on the window and it was the guitar player, and he started asking me questions about Jesus - and I had my Bible open to the right verse. When I began to read the verses to him, he began trembling and shaking all over. I have never seen anyone come under that much conviction. I preached a very anointed message in the parking lot of that bar and introduced that guy to Jesus.
I just want to say that we greatly undervalue the lost and the lengths that God will go to find them. By and large the church gets so cleaned up and religious that we sit in our little social clubs and praise each other, while the world goes to hell around us - and when the lost do come in seeking acceptance, we murmur and complain instead of welcoming them. I learned more about the love of God in that bar, than I did in our church and something is wrong with that picture. I was leading more people to Jesus in my secret “life of sin” than our church was, and I couldn’t tell them about it. It is no wonder that many churches through out the country are shrinking because we are not properly displaying the love and compassion of God as Jesus did.
8 Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn’t light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.’ 10 Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner repenting.”
Luke follows the parable of the man that lost the sheep, with a parable of a woman that lost a coin. He gives women an equal place in his writing, which was something unheard of at the time. Jesus healed a centurion’s servant and then a widow’s son (7:1–17). On different Sabbath days, Jesus healed a woman who was “bent double” (13:10–17) and, in the next chapter, a man suffering from swollen arms and legs (14:1–6). Similarly, we read of a farmer who plants a mustard seed and of a woman who works yeast into her meal.
The Greek text in this parable speaks of ten drachma coins which were equal to a full days pay at the time. It was a small silver coin similar to these:
This particular silver coin was quite possibly part of her dowry. Women of the time wore these around their head or neck attached to a silver chain, it was the cherished ornament of a married woman. This parable paints a picture of a woman that lived right on the edge of poverty, which would have fit the time. Rome occupied Israel and heavily taxed the people, even the fish they caught. The parables of Jesus reflect the real life conditions of the time. Much of the land was owned by wealthy absentee landlords who exploited the local farmers that rented the land from them.
The woman lit a lamp and carefully swept her house, because it would have had a dirt floor and the coin would not have been easy to see. Still she kept searching until she found the coin because it was very valuable to her, and she rejoiced when she did.
Something that these parables tell us is the extreme value of one soul to God. There was one lost sheep that the man searched for until He found it, though he still had ninety-nine. There was one lost coin that the woman searched for until she found it, though she still had nine others. He searched for one sheep. She searched for one coin. God searches for one lost soul, and when He finds it, He rejoices.
We don’t often think of God as rejoicing, but these parables tells us that He does, and in what circumstances:
(Isaiah 62:5 WEB) As the bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
(Zephaniah 3:17 WEB) Yahweh, your God, is among you, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.
God sings… and I bet it is beautiful. Many of the religious people of Jesus’ day believed that God hated sinners, and they even had a saying: “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God.” We must be careful that we do not give people the same impression. Jesus said love, and He welcomed the sinners and tax collectors. While the highly religious scribes and pharisees looked down at them and complained. Many of our churches are full of this attitude today.
11 He said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them.
Jesus tells a parable about a man that had two sons. Most of it is about the youngest son, who was the black sheep in this family, but the ending is about the older son. The younger son wanted his inheritance while his father was still alive. Which all the village around them would translate as: “He wishes that his father was dead.” He made a greedy and foolish request that was obviously self-centered and seemed only concerned with me, me, me. He said “Father give me MY share of YOUR property.”
The father would have normally kept his possessions until he died so the younger son’s request basically said: “To me you’re already dead”. The Father gave him what he asked, and though he knew the son was making a bad decision, He allowed him to go his course because that is what the son wanted.
13 Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living.
When the father gives him the money, the son immediately leaves his father’s house and journeys into a far country in order to get as far away from his father as possible. There he lived life in the fast lane until he ran through all that he had.
14 When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs.
When he had foolishly spent all of his inheritance, a famine came - famine often follows foolish spending. When his money left, so did all of his friends. He began to starve and no one gave him anything. He finally got a job feeding pigs, which to a Jew was unclean and detestable. He had sunk as low as a Jewish man could. He had hit rock bottom.
16 He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any.
Carob pods can be found in the Mediterranean and southern Europe. They are high in fat, and they provide a cheap means to feed pigs that were being prepped for slaughter. In this parable, it is a sign as to how far off-track he really is when he longed to be fed with the pods, a food that had strong associations with unclean animals. Though in hard times, they were sometimes eaten by the poor.
17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger!
Then it tells us that “when he came to himself”. In other words, “party boy” was not who he really was. The spirits that had taken him for a ride were now gone along with his money. He remembered how good it was back at his father’s house. It is amazing the clarity that hitting rock bottom will bring. On the way down, we can usually think of nothing except what we are caught up in, but when our face finally hits the sidewalk, the party is over, and what we thought were friends are gone, then we tend to wake up.
18 I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. 19 I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.” ’
He began to be sorry for his actions. He could clearly see how foolish that he had been. This was entirely his fault, and now all that he had was gone. He decided to return home to his father, apologize, and become like a hired servant. He put together a long speech about how he had sinned and that he was no longer worthy to be His son, pulled himself together and headed home to face his father.
The son had to come to his senses and return home. The father patiently waited and hoped for his return, but he did not go hunt him down and force him to come back to His house. He was considered dead and lost until he returned.
20 “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
When the wayward son came in sight of his father’s house, but was still a great way off, the father saw him and ran out to meet him with open arms. The father had been waiting for his lost son to return home. He threw his arms around his son, hugged him, and kissed him. He was so happy to have his son come back home.
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let’s eat, and celebrate; 24 for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ Then they began to celebrate.
The son began making the long-winded speech that he had prepared about how unworthy that he was, while the father was busy dressing him in the best robe that they had, putting a son’s ring on his finger, which was a sign of authority, and shoes on his feet because he was bare footed. The the father then threw a celebration and brought out the fatted calf, which was saved for extremely special events. The father’s actions convey “I thought that I had lost you forever, but now here you are!”
The son looked so down on himself because of his actions, but the father was so happy to have him back that none of that mattered. The son had behaved badly, but now he had turned away from that life, came back home, and apologized. After this, He was fully restored to his father as a son, not as a servant. The father completely accepted him knowing full well what he had done in the past, and he threw a celebration with singing and dancing.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. 27 He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ 28 But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this your son came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
The older brother had stayed with his father the whole time and was working in the fields when he heard the party starting up. He asked a servant what all of the noise was and learned that his younger brother had returned home and that his father was celebrating with music, dancing and feasting. He became so angry that he would not even go to the party. Even though his father came out and pleaded with him to come to the party, he would not go inside.
The father was so overjoyed to have his younger son back, but the older brother could not accept him. He had a vindictive attitude and wanted his brother to pay for what he had done. He also felt slighted and jealous that the father would show so much love to someone that clearly did not deserve it, when he himself had worked so hard to earn it.
31 “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ ”
The father did not love the older son less, nor the younger son more. He was happy to have them both with him. The father forgave because he was filled with love. The older son could not forgive because he was filled with bitterness and resentment for his brother. The story ends with the wayward son in the father’s house celebrating, and the older son outside bitter and angry wanting his own party. But see God is only throwing one party…you are lovingly in it, or bitterly outside of it.
In context Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders, ever claiming how hard they had “slaved” for God, by attempting to keep a thousand rules and regulations, many of which God never even demanded. They had the Father’s love, but chose to reject it in favor of hard work and self-denial. So when God eagerly welcomed the sinful, common people, and even tax collectors into the kingdom, the religious leaders refused to join the celebration. While God rejoiced that these sinful people had come “home,” and He invited the religious leaders to join the party as well, but they only responded with only anger and resentment and whined that they who worked so hard should get their own private party.
In reality I have seen this happen so many times in church. The worst of sinners get saved and suddenly zoom by people that have sat there for twenty years. One of the most anointed women that I have ever seen minister was a former prostitute. People who just wake up in the pigpen, come to their senses, then return to the father and apologize, get to go into the feast and celebrate. While the others who feel they are working hard for God, if they are not filled with love, will stand outside and bitterly watch. There is only one party to go to, and love gets you in the door. The highly religious, but bitter, people missed it, while the broken and humbled celebrated, sang, and danced with the Father.
To summarize all of this, the scribes and pharisees murmured and complained about the sinners and tax collectors that were coming to hear Jesus, so He told them three parables in response to their attitude, and I believe it shows us the heart of God towards the lost, towards the back slider, and the religiously snooty.
In the first parable, the sheep was lost and the Shepherd sought it diligently until He found it. In the second parable, the woman lost a silver coin and she sought it diligently until she found it. Then in the third parable, a son who was with his Father, decided to leave and go party for a while, and the Father let him. When he returned, the older brother who stayed behind felt that he deserved more of his father’s love than the sinful brother should get.
In the first two parables, they sought what was lost diligently, but in the third parable the Father did not go after the wayward son. The son had to return on his own accord. So what’s the difference? I believe the first two parables are those who have never known the Lord or they become lost in their life maybe not through their own choices, maybe hurt by others and driven away. The Father seeks them out.
The third is quite possibly the one that has lived in the Father’s house but chooses to leave knowing full well what they are doing. David did Bathsheba, but he paid the price for it. God underwrites a man’s choices - meaning if you are sure that is what you want, nothing else will do, then you can have it - and He doesn’t come looking for you. The Father in the parable said this when His youngest son returned: “My son who was dead, is alive again. He was lost, and is now found.”
The Father’s door is open the moment that you “come to your senses” and return. He will restore you to “full sonship”, put a ring on your finger, and shoes on your feet once again.
That concludes our Bible study on Luke Chapter 15. Thank you for watching and being a part of Refreshing Hope!
Quiz Questions on Luke 15: