Luke 15 (3 Parables of God's Love including the Prodigal Son)

In Luke 15, Jesus tells 3 stories (parables) about God’s love for us, which together form a 3-fold Parable.  They are 3 parables in one, just like the Trinity: The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son, revealing the abundant love of the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy-Spirit. God is Triune, He is one God in 3 Persons. Likewise this chapter is triune. Luke 15 contains 3 Parables of Jesus which all reveal the same truth of the abundant love of God for us. In fact Jesus refers to them as one parable in 3 parts (v3). 

The first speaks of the love of GOD the SON, 
the 2nd speaks of the love of GOD, the HOLY-SPIRIT, 
the 3rd speaks of the love of GOD the FATHER. 

The 3 stories are about 3 lost things (which represent us), and 3 owners (the Triune Godhead) who diligently seek what was lost and find it with great rejoicing. 

The first speaks of the love of God the SON for the lost SHEEP, 
the second speaks of the love of God, the HOLY-SPIRIT for the lost COIN, 
and the 3rd speaks of the love of God, the FATHER for the Lost SON.

The value and importance we attach to something is revealed by how much time and effort we give towards finding it when it is lost and by our joy upon recovering it. These stories show how valuable, special and important we are to God. He loves us personally and does everything possible to recover and restore us to Himself, rejoicing greatly when we are found by Him! It’s good to know we are beloved. It gives us confidence in prayer and causes us to give our love to Him.

 Introduction (v1-3). “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives (repentant) sinners (back into fellowship) and eats with them(showing His loving acceptance of them)" (v1,2). These legalists claimed to be the true representatives of God rather than Jesus. They thought: “If Jesus was really of God, he would reject sinners, not welcome them back.” 

So, Jesus gave this 3-part Parable to prove that their way of thinking about God was all wrong: “So He spoke this Parable to them, saying (v3):

1. THE STORY OF THE SHEPHERD AND THE LOST SHEEP (which reveals the Work of the SON in our Salvation). 

The first shows the sacrificial love of the Shepherd-Son: "What man of you, having a 100 sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance” (v3-7). 

The first story is about a SHEPHERD who had 100 sheep. One day one of the SHEEP went astray. When it was with the Shepherd, it was safe, but this sheep was stupid. He though he could look after himself, that he could manage without the Shepherd. He did not need the Shepherd’s leadership, care, guidance and provision. He could strike out on his own and do it his way. He thought he would go for a walk on his own. He went into a dangerous place in the wilderness, where there were pits to fall in, rocks to bruise him and wolves to eat him. On his own, he would die for sure. A sheep cannot protect itself. He is helpless. Moreover, a sheep does not know how to find the way home. 

The Bible compares all of us to this sheep. The Bible says: “All we (people) like sheep, have gone astray we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Sin is to turn our back on the Lord, our Shepherd. We wander off alone. We say: “I’m OK, I don’t need God. I will look after myself, I will do it my way.” Little do we know that we are entering great danger. Then one day we realise 
we are lost. We are alone. We don’t know where our Shepherd is. We don’t know the way home. 

Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep... I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11,15). 
Matthew 9:36 reveals His compassion for all the sheep. 

In the story the sheep falls into a pit and lies there, weak, hungry and helpless. It would be easy for the Shepherd to say: “I still have 99 sheep I have lost only one. Anyway, he was a stupid sheep. He ignored my voice. It serves him right.” Some people think God is like that. But the Shepherd loved this sheep. He loved every single sheep. They were all important to him. He knew them all by name. When he discovered that one had wondered off the path, he was very sad. The Shepherd left the 99 and went after the one which was lost. He went into the dangerous crevices, rocks and pits. He called and called to it. He loved it so much, that he refused to give up until he found it. He looked everywhere, climbing high and low. Emotion filled his voice as he shouted: “where are you?” It was getting dark and the wolves were howling, but he would not give up. He knew it was there somewhere. Jesus said: “I have come to seek and to save the lost (sheep)” (Luke 19:10). The Shepherd prayed: “O God, please save my sheep.” 

Suddenly he heard a pathetic bleating. The sheep was weak and injured and could not move. Like us it was helpless to save itself, but it could bleat. The Shepherd became excited and followed the sound. Then he saw it. It had fallen into a dangerous pit. He could only save it by risking his own life. He climbed down and down into the pit. By now it was getting dark. He took hold of the sheep. 

Jesus said: “When he had found it he laid it on his shoulders rejoicing.” The shepherd was so happy. He had found his beloved sheep. He climbed up out of the pit full of laughter. He was not angry with the sheep. He was just happy they were reunited. 

We all need to be found by the Good Shepherd. He is searching for us. He calls to us through the Gospel. He calls our name (Rev 3:20). He waits to hear our bleating cry! We can’t save ourselves, but we can and must call upon Him to save us: “All who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13). When we call to Him, He hears us and saves us. Our response enables Him to find us.  

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, saw us trapped in the Pit of sin and hell. We had wandered off. We were doomed to die, weak and helpless. The wolves were ready to eat us. He came from the lovely pastures of heaven into this dangerous wilderness-world. Then He laid down His life for us. He went down into the pit to rescue us. On the Cross, He laid His hand on us, bearing our sins. He descended into the pit (of hell and death) to lift us out. On the third day He rose sgsin victorious. “God brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that GREAT SHEPHERD of the SHEEP” (Hebrews 13:20).

Jesus rose again out of the Pit of death and hell, carrying us up on His shoulders, rejoicing over us
! This was the joy set before Him, that helped Him endure the suffering involved in rescuing us from destruction (Heb 12:2). We were lost but now we are found - Hallelujah! 

1Peter 2:24,25: “In His own self Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the Cross, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripes ye were healed. For you were as sheep going astray, but now are returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” 

Have you returned to your Shepherd?  When a sheep is found, He is not just restored and reunited to the Shepherd, but also to the 99 others. He joins the fellowship of the flock (the Church). The Shepherd carried the sheep on his shoulders all the way home, rejoicing. Likewise, Jesus, our Shepherd-Saviour, lifts us up on His shoulders and carries us all the way home to heaven’s glory. He forgives our sin of wandering away and rejecting Him. He just rejoices that we have come back to Him. 

When he arrived home, he called together all his family and friends. He should have been tired, but he was so excited that he had found the lost sheep that he woke everyone up! He said to them: “Rejoice with me (let’s have a party).For I have found my sheep which was lost.” “He was lost, I thought he was dead, but now he’s found. He’s alive!” Doesn’t this seem a bit over the top? Yes! That’s exactly what God’s love for us is like. It’s abundant and excessive! Jesus said: “likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (turns from going our own way, to going God’s way and following the true Shepherd).” 

When we come to Jesus, He celebrates with so much joy, He can’t keep it to Himself, but invites all heaven to join Him, because we have come home. That’s how much we are loved. That's how special we are to God! Only one sheep goes astray but the Shepherd still lays His life down to save it. This shows us that each person is valuable to God. Even if you were the only sinner in the world, Jesus would have come to die for you! God loves you personally. “There is more joy in heaven over ONE sinner who repents than the 99.” This proves that God has a special, passionate love for each of us individually. 

So can we presume on God’s love and continue in sin? No, this is the height of foolishness. If the sheep refuses to respond when the Shepherd calls, he will ultimately become unable to respond and will die lost, even though the Shepherd loved him and desperately wanted to save him. Although we are powerless to save ourselves, it is our choice whether to let (ask) the Shepherd save us or not. If we continually reject the opportunities God gives, there will come a point when it is too late to be saved.

Now Jesus, risen from the dead, is our everlasting Shepherd and we can declare by faith Psalm 23: 

“The Lord (Jesus) is my Shepherd; I shall not want (He provides my needs). He makes me to lie down in green pastures (He gives me rest), He leads me beside the still waters (He gives me peace). He restores my soul (He heals my bruises and broken bones). He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake (He guides me). Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (He protects and comforts me). You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies (He feeds me. Every spiritual blessing on the table: healing, life, wisdom, deliverance, strength. He says: “It’s yours. Take it. Eat it.” You anoint my head with oil (He empowers me for service); my cup (spirit) runs over (with the fruit, the overflowing love, joy and peace of the Holy-Spirit). Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (He gives me an abundant life on earth and eternal life in Heaven).” It’s wonderful to be a Christian. I was lost, but now I have been found by the Good Shepherd. I was dead, but now I am alive. I know I am forever under the loving care of Jesus Christ, my risen Great Shepherd.

2. The LOST COIN (the work of the HOLY-SPIRIT in our salvation)- Luke 15:8-10). 
"Or what WOMAN, having 10 silver coins, if she loses one COIN, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbours together, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the Presence of the angels of God over (just) ONE sinner who repents." 

Jesus told this story about a Woman who represents the Holy Spirit. She had 10 pieces (drachma) of silver. These were valuable coins often worn in a 10-piece garland by married women. They formed a lovely necklace, the loveliest part of her dowry. They were very valuable to her. She had lost just ONE of these coins. It fell on the dusty floor of the house. The house was dark (the only windows were narrow slits in the wall). There were no lights. This is a picture of us, bearers of God’s image, but lost in the kingdom of darkness, hidden in the dirt and dust of the world, instead of being in God’s Presence, carried along by the Holy-Spirit, where we belong, shining in the light with the other ‘coins.’

But this one coin was so valuable to this Woman that she lit a lamp and swept the house and kept on seeking carefully, not giving up until she recovered it. This shows how special each one of us is to God. She determined in her heart: “I must find it.” She diligently looked in every corner of the house until she found it. This is a picture of the Holy-Spirit sho searches for each lost soul across the earth. He is compared to a LAMP with OIL which continually burns providing LIGHT. 

“7 LAMPS of fire were burning before the throne, which are the 7 Spirits of God (or the 7-fold Spirit of God, see Isaiah 11:1,2)” (Rev4:5). 
“The 7 eyes, which are the 7 Spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Rev 5:6) “They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan (search) to and fro throughout the whole earth” (Zech 4:10). He shines His light on us and reveals Jesus to us. He sweeps away the dust, doubt and unbelief from us so that we can see the light. Wherever we go and hide, He follows to find us. 

When she found the coin, she lifted it up and rejoiced. This is a picture of our salvation, when we are found and taken out of the hands of the kingdom of darkness and held secure in the hands of the Holy Spirit. When we are found, the Holy-Spirit raises us up and lifts our spirit up into heavenly places - no longer to be trodden under foot (Eph1:17-2:8). He takes us and joins us to the other coins and wears us proudly (it says the Spirit He clothed Himself with Gideon). 

Then she called her friends and neighbours saying: “Rejoice with me- for I have found the piece which I had lost.”Jesus then said: “Likewise I say unto you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over ONE sinner that repents.” You are that one coin. You are so special to God that the Holy-Spirit searches after you all your life and when He finds you, He lifts you out of the dust of sin, cleans you up and makes you shine. If you were the only one who was lost, Jesus would still have died for you, the Holy-Spirit would still seek after you and the Father would still welcome you home with rejoicing. That’s how much God loves you. 

She plunged the coin in water and oil, to cleanse and anoint it. The Holy-Spirit plunge us unto Christ and we become reborn of the Spirit. “By His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:5). 
We are then to be baptised in WATER and the Spirit (OIL).

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the third of 3 parables in Luke 15, which show us in turn what each member of the Godhead is like, revealing their love in recovering those who are lost and then rejoicing over them. Having described the love of the SHEPHERD (SON) for the lost SHEEP, and the love of the WOMAN (HOLY-SPIRIT) for the lost COIN, this last story reveals the love of the FATHER for the lost SON. It should be called the Parable of the Prodigal Father, for it is about the Father’s prodigal (excessive, abundant, extravagant) love for His son. 

God’s love is extremely generous, even beyond limit. “Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' He insulted his Father who loved him so much saying: “I can’t wait for you to die, I want my inheritance now. I want to leave home and do what I want.” So he divided to them his livelihood” (v11-13). He divided his wealth to the two sons. 

“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all (
his wealth) together (a third of the family wealth, for the elder son got the double-portion).” 
He loaded his valuables on many carts, and took many of animals also. 
“He journeyed to a far country.” This is like us going our own way in sin - 
we go far away from God, our Father. “And there wasted his possessions with prodigal (excessive) living.” He had many friends there because of his wealth, but wasted his money on riotous living, spending it all on himself. “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.” When he had spent it all, his friends left him. Now he began to suffer the consequences of sin, for sin brings curse. He lost everything and then a great famine came. When we leave God, we will end up in spiritual famine. We go down and down. In his hunger he had to sell all his clothes. Now he was in rags, wandering through the streets as a beggar. He felt so hungry, he sold himself as a slave. 

He was going lower and lower: “Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country” But it got even worse. He was sent into the fields to feed the pigs (the worst job for a Jew, for pigs were unclean): “and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything” (v14-16). He was now in the PIG-PEN OF SIN, the lowest place of all! He was so hungry, that he was desperate to eat the food for the pigs, but even that was not given to him. Now his only friends were the pigs! Even the pigs were worth more than him! It was more important to feed the pigs! He lost all his self-respect! He truly hit the bottom and that’s what will happen if we go our own way and walk away from God, believing we know best what to do with our life. We have to reach the lowest point before we wake up. 

"But when he came to himself 
(he came to his senses), he said, "How many of my father's hired servants (the lowest servants who were hired on a temporary basis as the need arose, in contrast to the permanent house servants)have bread enough and to spare, and I perish (I am dying) with hunger! I will arise and go to my Father and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven (God) and before you (all sin is against God first, and man second),and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants” (v17-19).  This is true repentence, when we come back to God and confess our sin, asking for His forgiveness and restoration. He knew he had sinned terribly, but he knew his Father was good, so there was some hope. Perhaps his Father would let him be a lower servant, and feed him sometimes. He hoped his Father would not turn him away. 

“And he arose and came to his Father.” He came back with nothing, only himself. He could only give his repentance. As he walked home he kept thinking: “Will my Father take me back, or will he be angry and reject me as I deserve?”  But what happened next took him by surprise, and it shocked the Pharisees listening to the story, who like the elder brother, expected the Father to totally reject him, even as a lower servant, let alone as a son. 

“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (v20). You see, he had turned his back on his Father, but his Father had not turned His back on His beloved son. Everyday he woke up thinking ‘I hope he comes home today.’ He often looked to the horizon to see if he was coming home. Every time he saw someone he said: “Is that my son?” Day after day, week after week, month after month passed, then years, but He did not give up hope. Then one day he looked and saw a man far off, moving slowly: “Is that my son?” He looked again. “It looks like him - a bit skinny - but it could be him.” He looked again and his face filled with tears of joy: “Yes it’s him.” With His heart full of love for his sick, tired son, He ran to him with all his strength. When you come back to God, He runs to you. As He got close He smelt the horrible smell of the pig-sty. Likewise, our sin is a stench in God’s nostrils, but He still loves and receives us when we come back to Him. The Father gave him a big hug, kissing him again and again. He was so happy to see him. God loves us from the heart. He will take us back in. 

“And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in 
your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son” (v21). 
That’s all the Father needed to hear. He stopped the son’s prepared speech before he could make a deal based on works. He would not take him back as a servant, but fully accepted him as His son. If he became a servant he would be earning his place, but God makes us His sons freely. We can’t earn or deserve our salvation. 

When we are saved, the Father gives us: 
1. The ROBE: He clothes us with His Righteousness. “But (instead of being made a servant) the Father said to His servants, "(Hurry) - Bring out the best ROBE and put it on him” (v22). When we come to God, we’re no longer outcasts. He takes us in, receiving us as His son. He takes off our filthy rags and covers us with His best robes. He says: “Make my boy look like me.” We put His robes on. We are given the Robe of Righteousness, so that we stand before God forgiven and justified: “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). We can now look God in the eyes. The Father did not want to expose his son, but covered his sin and shame. He alone saw his state, for He had the robe brought out to the son so he could put it on and walk home in it. Thus everyone saw him as a beloved, accepted son, rather than a miserable beggar to be looked down upon. The robe meant he was honoured by his Father. He also gives us a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness, clothed with power from on high. We have a brand new start (2Cor 5:17) 

2. The RING and SANDALS (v22b): “And put a RING on his hand (He gives us His authority, the Name of Jesus, saying: ‘do business on my behalf’) and put SANDALS on his feet (saying: ‘I have set you free - go and share the gospel’. Represent Me as My witness and ambassador).” 

3. BATH: Although not mentioned, the son obviously was bathed (cleansed from sin) - Titus 3:4-7.

4. The PARTY: “And bring the fatted CALF here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry” (v23,24). The Father threw a big party with the best calf especially prepared and saved for a special occasion. Eating together means covenant friendship and joyful fellowship with all forgiven. Jesus is saying that God is like this Father. Such is His love for us, that when we repent (return to God), He throws a big party, welcoming us home and rejoicing over us, because we were dead in sins, but now are alive in Christ. We were lost (far away) but now are found (back home). He says to the angels:“That’s my beloved son, I’m so glad he’s come back to be with Me. Let’s rejoice!”

The Older Son (v25-32):
 They began having a party and rejoicing.
"Now his older son was in the field (working hard). And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant (‘what’s going on?’). And he said to him,‘Your brother has come back and because He has received him safe and sound, your Father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and would not go in.” He refused to join the party. He seemed to be a good son who worked hard and obeyed his Father. But on the inside he too was a sinner. He despised, judged and hated his brother, wanting him to suffer full rejection. He did not want him to be forgiven or restored. He thought: “it serves him right to be lost forever.” 

But the Father loved this son also and reached out to him: “Therefore his Father came out and pleaded with him(to forgive his brother and join the rejoicing) So he answered and said to his Father, "Lo, these many years I have been serving (slaving for) you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends (‘I’ve worked hard and you never gave me a party’).  But as soon as this son of yours (notice he disowned him as his brother) came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.” 

His self-righteousness, jealousy and assuming the worst was revealed now. Really both sons had been far from the Father. This was obvious in the one whose sin was outward, but the other’s sin was inward - but exposed eventually (outwardly close to the Father, in his heart he was far away and opposite in attitude to the Father’s loving generosity of spirit). He did not know His love, but saw Him as a slave-driver, and was angry and rebellious. He thought he had to earn his Father’s love by his works. But the Father loved him and had already given him all things. So he was trying to earn by his works what was already given him. He is a picture of self-righteous sinners (like the Pharisees). He was proud, bitter, resentful, and hard-hearted toward his Father and brother. He refused to forgive his brother, who had already lost all his inheritance. 

(The one who sins will pay the price, for: “the wages of sin is death”) But he was not satisfied with this. He was cruel, wanting revenge, to make him suffer more. “And He (the loving Father) said to him, "Son, you are always with me and all that I have (left of my estate) is yours (‘I love you. I freely gave all things to you. You could have had a party any time’). It was right that we should make merry and be glad (Why do you want revenge? Why be upset your brother is back home? Why be angry that he is restored?), for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found (We should rejoice. He’s your brother!).” Some are like the first son (outwardly sinful for all to see), others are like the second (seemingly good- but with sin in their heart). Both need to repent and receive the Father’s love and be saved, for: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory (standard) of God”, for we don’t show God’s perfect love. 

In this story, Jesus shows us that God is like the big-hearted Father (full of love and forgiveness) and the Pharisees idea of a harsh, unforgiving God (like the older brother) was completely wrong.



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