Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.CHAPTER 15
1. The Murmuring Pharisees. (Luke 15:1-2)
2. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. (Luke 15:3-7)
3. The Parable of the Lost Coin. (Luke 15:8-10)
4. The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Elder Brother. (Luke 15:11-32.)
A blessed climax of the teaching of our Lord as the Saviour and the friend of sinners is reached with this chapter, a chapter which the Saints of God have always loved and will always love. Here we find the completest illustration of the key text of Luke “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” The tax-gatherers and sinners, after hearing His words and knowing the welcome which awaited them, drew near to Him in large numbers. The murmuring of the Pharisees and scribes and their words “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them” is answered by the Lord with three parables. The parables of the lost sheep, of the lost coin and of the prodigal son belong together. The lost Coin parable and the parable of the prodigal are peculiar to Luke. The Trinity is revealed in these parables seeking that which is lost. The Son is seen in the Shepherd; the Holy Spirit in the parable of the lost coin and the Father in the parable of the prodigal.
In the study of these parables it must not be overlooked that the Lord answers in the first place the murmuring Pharisees. This however does not exclude the wider application on Gospel lines. Bengel states that in the first parable the sinner is seen as stupid; in the second as totally ignorant of himself and in the third as the daring, wilful sinner. In the parable of the Shepherd the ninety and nine do not, represent the unfallen angels, nor, as it has been suggested, inhabitants of other worlds, but the self-righteous Pharisees, who think they need no repentance. The one sheep, lost and helpless, pictures the tax-gatherers and sinners, who owned their lost condition. All must first be applied on this ground. The Son of Man had come to seek and to save. He looked for the lost; He followed them and sought them out at their tables; He ate and drank with them, so that He was called a wine-bibber. The found sheep He puts on His own shoulders; He would not leave this to a servant. The care of the saved sheep is all His own. And there is joy in heaven over one repenting sinner. It was a severe rebuke to the Pharisees, who did not rejoice when the tax-gatherers and sinners came but murmured. The second parable is of much interest and has been interpreted in various ways. We quote here the exposition as given in the “Numerical Bible” as the most satisfactory one.
“The second parable is that of the woman, in the Scripture the figure of the Church, the instrument of the Spirit. The lamp of the Word is in her hand, and she needs it in the darkness of the night, while Christ is absent. The ‘house’ is the circle of natural ties and relationships; for it is not just a question of public preaching, but of that testimony upon which the success of the preacher after all so much depends, and for which the whole Church, and not any class or section of it, is responsible. Good it is to realize that every soul of man, covered with the dust of sin as he may be, and hidden in the darkness of the world, belongs of right to the King’s treasury, and has the King’s image stamped on him, though with sore disfigurement. Claim him we may, wherever we may find him, for God to whom he belongs. This general evangelism, we may learn from the parable here, is what is the mind of the Spirit for the Church indwelt of Him. Here too there must be friends and neighbors summoned to rejoice,--angelic onlookers who are in sympathy with Him who is always the glorious Seeker, and who sets in motion all the springs of love and pity that flow anywhere in unison with His own.”
In the Parable of the prodigal son is brought out again the two classes of men before whom the Lord spoke these parables. The prodigal represents the publicans, the elder son the ritualistic Pharisees. The application in the Gospel, which this parable so blessedly reveals, the condition of man as a sinner, the true repentance, the Father’s joy, the welcome the returning one receives, etc., all is so well known that we need to make no further annotations. The elder son’s character clearly shows that the Pharisee, self-righteous and self-sufficient, is completely in view. He has never transgressed a commandment and therefore considers himself above the poor, lost wanderer, who has returned home; he was angry. Thus the Pharisees were angry, when the Lord received the outcasts. It is strange that this parable should have been explained to mean that our Lord endorses worldly amusements and that a Christian may dance and make merry. There is no reason whatever that He has done so. The parable has, no doubt, a national meaning as well. The elder son represents the Jews and their unwillingness to see the Gentiles converted. The prodigal then is a picture of the degradation of the Gentiles.