Living the Good News in the Gospel of Luke
Study 6

Restoring the lost
Luke 15:1-32


Read Luke 15:1-2.
Jesus’ last words in the previous chapter were: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (14:35). The ones who sincerely respond to him here are “tax-collectors and sinners,” those considered by the religious leaders as lost, with no hope of ever belonging to the Kingdom, the community of God’s family. These religious leaders, Pharisees and scribes, now grumble that Jesus, highly regarded as prophet and teacher, receives these lost and eats with them.

1. What does this receiving and eating with them signify?

The Lost Sheep
Read Luke 15:3-7.
The basis of this parable is embedded in the prophetic promises of the Old Testament. Look up Jeremiah 23:1-2; 50:6-7, and Ezekial 34:1-10.

2. Who are the lost sheep in these passages? How did they become lost?

3. Who were the lost sheep in Jesus’ time? Are there parallels today?

4. Does the image we portray of Christianity turn people away or draw them into the Kingdom of God?

Read: Jeremiah 23:3-6;
Ezekial 34:11-24;
Isaiah 40:10-11.

5 Who is the good shepherd in these texts? How does he gather the sheep into his fold? How does he do it today?

Note the heavenly joy over everyone who “hears” and accepts the invitation to the Kingdom, to live as a child of God!

The Lost Coin
Read Luke 15:8-10.
Note how Jesus proclaims this message equally to women as to men. He thus parallels a story about a male with one about a female to make the same point (cf. also Luke 13:18-21). The participation of women in “hearing” and ministering with Jesus is made clear in all the Gospels, but particularly in Luke (cf. 1:6-7; 2:36-38; 4:25,38; 7:11-15, 36-50; 8:1-3,19-21,43-56; 10:38-42; 11:27; 13:10-17). This would have been very unusual in the culture of that day.

6. What implications can you draw from this? From this parable?

Note the heavenly joy again. Contrast with the grumbling of the religious leaders.

The Lost Son
Read Luke 15:11-24.
These well-known verses build on the previous two parables and expand on the heavenly Father’s great joy at being able to receive the lost back into his Kingdom.
But note the following:
a) The younger son’s action: he demands to receive his inheritance now, before his father is dead, a sign of disrespect and self-centredness.
b) The father is under no obligation, but graciously divides his estate and allows the younger son to sell his portion, thus diminishing the family farm and his father’s income.
c) Te younger son wastes his inheritance in loose living, finds himself penniless, homeless, and jobless. He survives only by feeding pigs for a gentile farmer in return for a bit of food. No self-respecting Jew would ever do this. He has hit bottom.
d) His hunger leads him to return in shame. He cannot expect any favours. He has humiliated his father and used up his inheritance. He can only ask his father for a job as a servant.
e) When he is still “at a distance”, the father sees him, runs to him, embraces and kisses him in a show of love.
f) The son begins to acknowledge his wrong and ask for a job. But before he can finish, he is swept off his feet by his father’s love, dressed in new clothes, and given a dinner in his honour as a long-lost son.

7. Discuss these points carefully considering the role of the father and the action of the son. Who is the father, who is the son in this parable?

8. What is Jesus saying here about the Kingdom?

9. Who would be the lost son in our society?

10. Where do we stand in relation to the son and the father?

The elder son
Read Luke 15:25-32.
Slip into the shoes of the elder son for a moment. Your younger brother who diminished the family property and consequently its income, who brought disgrace on the family by his incompetence and loose living, has returned home. Instead of being put in his place, he is given a celebration. How do you feel? Angry, resentment, slighted?

11. Who is the elder son in the context in which Jesus tells the parable?

12. Who would be the elder son in our situation today?

13. Consider the parable of the labourers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16. Is there a parallel here to the case of the two sons?

14. Jesus does not tell us how the elder son reacted to his father’s response in vv. 31-32. How would you react?

Remember how our heavenly Father rejoices over us. Just let that joy overflow to others. Let’s join the banquet!