The last few chapters has seen Jesus in debate with the Pharisees
and the teachers of the Law. This debate carries on into chapter 15, yet
there is special mention of Jesus hanging around with tax collectors and
sinners, for which the Jewish leaders are very upset with Him.
Tax collectors were hated by the Jews, and especially their leaders.
These tax collectors were in fact Jews themselves who worked for the Roman
government. They also extorted their fellow Jews as they collected the
tax. By this I mean that they bribed their fellow Jews into paying more
money in taxes than they needed. The tax collectors pocketed the extra
money for themselves.
So these tax collectors were sinners on two counts according to
these Pharisees. They were first sinners because they worked for the
enemy, the Roman government. Then their extortion caused them to be
sinners on the second count.
In response to the Phariseesí complaints about Jesusí
association with tax collectors and sinners Jesus tells another parable,
and once again, this parable is directed towards the Pharisees.
The story goes like this. A shepherd lost one of his sheep. He cared
so much for this sheep that he left the rest of his sheep to go looking
for that one lost sheep. He felt that the one lost sheep was worth leaving
the other sheep for. After finding the lost sheep he was very happy and
rejoiced greatly over his find.
Jesus doesnít always give a commentary on His parables. This time
He did. He said in verse 7, " I tell you that in the same way there
will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety nine righteous persons who do not need to repent".
Jesusí answer show up the Pharisees disregard for lost people.
Their self righteousness gets in the way of the job at hand, which finding
the lost and leading them back to the fold. Jesus had no problem hanging
out with lost people. The Pharisees were quite embarrassed to be seen with
One job of the church today is to find the lost and bring them into
the fold. Many of us do not even know any lost people because we are
always associating with those within the fold. This is to our detriment.
It is obvious that Jesus is trying to make a point to these
Pharisees. He told another parable to them concerning lost people.
The story goes like this. There was a father with two sons. The
youngest asked for an early inheritance and the father agreed. The father
divided all he had and gave the younger son his portion. The young man
went to a far country and wasted all that his father gave him on wild
While in this country a famine spread across the land. The young man
was out of money so he worked for a farmer feeding pigs. He was so hungry
that he was willing to eat the same food the pigs ate.
While feeding pigs the man came to his senses and decided to return
home to his father. He predetermined what he would say. Heíd tell his
father that he made a big mistake, in fact that he had "sinned
against Heaven and you" and that he was not worthy of being called a
son any longer. He was willing to return as hired help.
When the son was coming home, and when he was still a long way off,
the father saw him and ran to him, giving him a big hug. The father was so
happy. He rejoiced in the fact that his son was returning home, even
though he was still in pretty bad shape.
When the two met, the son said to his father what he had planned to
say, but the father would have nothing to do with his son's idea. The
father, clothed him and clean him up and had a huge party.
When the older son came home and saw the celebrating, he became very
upset. He told his father that he had slaved away for years working for
him and never in all those years had such a celebration been planned for
The father replied by telling the older son that for all those years
he had access to all that the father had, but now it was time to
Jesus ends this parable similar to the first two by saying that this
son was once lost and now he was found, and that was worth celebrating
Jesus does not explain the parable, but I think its meaning was
simple enough for the Pharisees to understand. The Pharisees were like the
righteous older son, who always served their Heavenly Father. Yet in
reality, we know their service was far from perfect.
The youngest son is like the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus
had been associating with. They had forsaken the family of God and went
out and lived a life of sin. Yet once understanding their depraved
situation they felt the need to repent.
A good example of what repentance actually looks like can be seen in
this young manís own words. In verse 21 he said, "Father, I have
sinned against Heaven and you, I am no longer worthy to be called your
son". This is what repenting is all about. It is about seeing how
depraved you really are. It is knowing so clearly that you have messed up
and that you need to return to God, but are willing to take the lowest
place in His Kingdom. Like Peter once said, "depart from me, for I am
an evil man". When we really understand who we are, that is evil to
the core, we see that we need Jesus so very much. We come to Him in great
humility and tell Him that we arenít worthy of Him in the least. We feel
bad about our whole situation, but at the same time we understand that
there is only one place to find help, and that is in the presence of
The good thing about all of this is that once we come to Jesus in
this humility, he exalts us by giving us his Holy Spirit. We are not to be
the lowly slave in His Kingdom. He treats us as son and daughters.
In some parts of the church today you find people like the older
brother. They donít like the stench of sinners coming home and seen in
their midst. They may not dress up to par. They may smoke. They may not
have had the chance to get all cleaned up, and for that reason the older
son, the older Christian has trouble with these lost sinners coming home.
One last thing to note concerning the father and the lost son in
this parable and that is the father did not come running after the son. He
did not go looking for him. It wasnít until the son repented and started
heading home that the father left his house and came running towards his
son. This shows you the importance of repenting. Once we make the turn in
direction, Jesus will be there for us, but He is not going to make us turn
around and repent.
Next Chapter - Chapter
- Chapter 14