AN OUTLINE FOR THE STUDY OF THE PARABLE OF THE LOST
Text: Luke 15
I. The Setting of the Parable (Mark A. Copeland):
A. Tax collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus (Luke 15:1).
1. The tax collectors (publicans) were considered extortioners and traitors by the scribes and Pharisees.
a. Extortioners, because they often collected more than was required, for personal gain.
b. Traitors, because while Jews they represented an occupying power (Rome).
2. The “sinners” were other people of bad reputation.
a. Perhaps people excommunicated from the synagogues (B.W. Johnson).
b. Perhaps including harlots, who were known to be receptive to the preaching of the kingdom (cf. Mat. 21:31,32).
B. The Pharisees and scribes murmured about Jesus’ receiving sinners (Luke 15:2).
1. The Pharisees and scribes were among the Jewish religious leaders at that time.
a. The Pharisees were Jews who belonged to the strictest sect of the Jews.
b. The scribes were Jews who followed the Pharisees around to write down what they said.
2. Jesus had often been seen in the company of “sinners.”
a. He selected a tax collector to be one of His disciples, and did not hesitate to dine with other tax collectors (Luke 5:27-29).
b. Sinners would often linger around Him, to the consternation of the religious elite (Luke 7:36-39).
C. Jesus will mention 4 types of people who are lost.
1. The Sheep ~ One who has wandered away.
2. The Lost Coin ~ One who is lost because of someone else’s carelessness.
3. The Prodigal Son ~ One who chooses to leave.
4. The Elder Brother ~ One who is lost because of self-righteousness.
II. The Parable in 3 parts:
A. The Lost Sheep (vv. 3-7) –
1. Note that this parable was said “unto them;” i.e., unto the scribes and Pharisees (vs. 3).
a. Thus, Christ asked, “what man of you? (vs. 4).”
b. The Pharisees, supposedly, were the shepherds of the law.
2. One sheep wandered away from the flock.
a. Not the he wandered away; i.e., a slow process (cf. Psa. 1:1).
b. This process may begin by missing a worship service, etc.
3. The shepherd noted that the sheep was gone.
a. Elders are to be attentive of the flock (Acts 20:28).
b. The Pharisees should have been attentive of the flock.
c. Each Christian should look out for each other (Gal. 6:1,2).
d. Note his attitude:
(1) He didn’t say, “I still have 99.”
(2) He went after the sheep.
(3) Once he found it, he rejoiced and lifted it up on his shoulders (vs. 5).
4. There was great rejoicing when the sheep was found (vv. 6-7).
a. We should rejoice when one who was lost is found.
b. There will be rejoicing in Heaven.
B. The Lost Coin (vv. 8-10) –
1. Background information (Copeland):
a. The silver coin, like the Roman denarius, was equivalent to a day’s wages.
b. The home of the poorer classes were usually small, with dirt floors and few windows.
c. Finding a lost coin in a dark and dusty place would not be easy.
2. The coin was lost by the woman’s carelessness.
a. People can be lost by another’s carelessness.
b. Another’s carelessness may be false teaching, bad influence, etc.
c. Note Paul’s attitude toward causing one to stumble (I Cor. 8:13).
3. The coin was valuable because of the inscription on it and that it was backed up by something.
4. The woman searched diligently; likewise, we should search diligently.
5. There was great rejoicing when the coin was found.
a. Likewise, we should rejoice over one’s being found who was lost.
b. There will be “more joy in the presence of the angels of God (vs. 10).”
(1) Angels certainly take a deep interest in our salvation (I Pet. 1:10-12; Heb. 1:13,14; Mat. 18:10).
(2) Note “in the presence;” i.e., God who is in the angel’s presence (Eze. 18:23,32; 33:11; Zeph. 3:17; II Pet. 3:9).
C. The Prodigal Son (vv. 11-32) –
1. This part of the parable is the most well known of all the parables.
a. This has been called “the pearl and crown of all the parables (Trench).”
b. One called it the parable of “The Loving Father (Wiersbe).”
2. Note that two people are shown to be lost at some point in this parable: the prodigal son and the elder brother.
3. The departure of the prodigal son:
a. He asks his father to give him his portion of the inheritance due him.
(1) The Law of Moses taught that the eldest son received a double portion (Deut. 21:17).
(2) The younger son would thus receive one-third of the inheritance.
b. He was ready to leave home and be free from parental restraints; thus, he left quickly.
c. He wasted his money on extravagant living.
(1) No doubt he had friends while the money was there.
(2) There are temporary pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25).
d. Soon the money was gone.
(1) His “friends” were no where to be found.
(2) A famine came upon the land.
(3) He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country and fed swine.
(a) This was an abomination for a Jew (Lev. 11:7).
(b) He had hit rock bottom; thus, the only way to look was up.
e. He came to himself.
(1) I.e., he repented.
(2) He was thinking of home and realized that even his father’s servants lived better than this.
(3) Not the change of attitude: He now desires to return as a servant.
4. The return home –
a. His father had been looking for him.
b. He ran to his son (vs. 20).
c. The son confessed his sins (vs. 21).
d. The father gave his son 3 things: 1) A Robe; 2) A Ring; 3) Shoes put on his feet ~ This all indicates sonship (returned to original status).
e. There was a party, great rejoicing (vs. 23).
5. The attitude of the elder brother –
a. This same attitude was being displayed by the scribes and Pharisees.
b. He was angry because the younger brother returned and would not go into the party.
c. His father came out to him (concern for the lost Pharisee as well).
d. Note the self-righteous attitude of the elder brother (vv. 29,30).
e. The father said that all that he had was his son’s and that it was enough (salvation is enough, vs. 31).
f. Rejoicing over repentance is the right thing to do (vs. 32).
III. Lessons Learned:
A. The central theme is “The Father’s yearning love for the lost (Hendricksen).”
1. Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
a. We are to walk in his footsteps (I Pet. 2:21).
b. Thus, we are to seek the lost (Mat. 28:19; Gal. 6:1; James 5:19,20).
2. God wants all to be saved (II Pet. 3:9; I Tim. 2:3,4).
B. We must rejoice when the lost are found.
1. If we forgive not men, then God will not forgive us (Mat. 6:14,15).
2. God is faithful and just to forgive (I John 1:9).
3. When one repents, then there is joy in Heaven and must be in the church as well.
C. Salvation is enough for the Christian.
D. We serve a God of love.