In Luke chapter 15 Jesus is ministering to people with backgrounds contrary to the social norm of the society in which he lived. The religious people were upset about it. They could not understand why Jesus would spend his time speaking to outcasts.
Jesus explains through three different parables how important a lost soul is to God. He likens the lost person to sheep having gone astray from the fold.
In shepherding societies the animals tended are very important. They represent a family’s whole livelihood.
Shepherds bond to their animals. They are very protective against predators. In fact when a shepherd is successful in defending his herd they are highly esteemed by the village. It takes great courage to defend the fold against a predator. Sometimes at the cost of the shepherd’s life.
A valiant shepherd will gain prestige among his people by being a faithful and brave shepherd.
The people of Jesus’ day understood shepherding concepts. To find a lost sheep was a very rewarding experience.
Pastoral societies value their animals so much that they will defend them with their very lives.
When Jesus likened sinners to lost sheep this placed a value upon them that the religious people did not share.
The next story that Jesus tells reveal again his love for sinners. This is the story of a woman who having ten pieces of silver lost one of them. The woman discovering her loss lights a candle in order to see clearly. Then she sweeps the house looking diligently for the lost silver coin.
Silver was a currency commonly used in Jesus’ day. It was an international currency. A silver coin could be a day’s wages to some people back then and because silver was extracted using human labor, that made it even more valuable. To lose a days wages was to experience a grave hardship.
Jesus reveals to the religious people of his day that a lost soul was like a lost silver coin. In God’s kingdom a lost soul being found and restored to Father God has such value that it causes all heaven to rejoice.
I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance. Luke 15:7
In order to hit home with his point Jesus gives to the religious people a third story. The number 3 according to Biblical application is the number of completion. In the Hebrew language the number 3 is shelos which means harmony, new life, and completeness.
His next story ties every thing together. Not only does Jesus love the individual lost sinner but Jesus reveals in this last story his love for all lost sinners of every nation.
Jesus talks about a man who had 2 sons. The elder son was the heir to his father’s estate and the younger while having no legitimate inheritance was provided for by means of the Father’s kindness.
The younger son not only represents a rebellious sinner wanting his own way instead of staying in his Father’s house but also represents the Gentiles who the Lord sees as being lost, in need of his salvation. Jesus called them his sheep of another fold.
And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. John 10:16
Eating with sinners was a repulse thing to the religious people of Jesus’ day. Not only because they were participating in unlawful activities but because many of these outcasts were working for the Roman empire (Gentiles) and considered by the religious people to be unclean by association.
Jesus’ parable insulted the Pharisees’ concept of righteousness. To have contact with Gentiles was a taboo thing in their laws. To add insult to injury the religious people were told by Jesus that the elder son whom they knew represented the heir or Abrahamic covenant was not the only one loved by God.
The younger son represented the Gentile nations. He was loved so much that after his return the Father rejoiced by putting on a celebration.
The prodigal story is really a twofold story about God’s love for individual sinners but also his desire to restore Gentiles to Father God.
The far country represents nations in lands far away who lived lifestyles in which the elder son would find offensive. That is why Jesus refers to the prodigal son as living among swine or those who are unclean.
Jesus made known to those religious elders that love for the sinner was extended by God to the Gentile nations. This is why they were so angry. To offer the Gentiles an inheritance in God’s kingdom was to oust the religious people out of their prestigious position. The religious leaders did not like that one bit.
To give a Gentile swine a robe was to give him a place of distinction along with the elder son or heir.
Only a man of honor was given a robe. A common man wore only simple clothing.
A ring was also a sign of honor or prestige. Servants or slaves never wore a ring. Neither did a common man.
The fact that the Father gave the prodigal swine dweller a robe and a ring meant that he was valued by the Father.
Then the 3rd thing the Father did in completion of his celebration was to kill the fatted calf. This was another indication that Jesus was referring to the Gentile nations. A calf represents idolatry. The repentant idolater was being received by Father God. Also, to feast on a fatted calf was a delicacy in Jesus’ day. In effect Jesus was saying that God would celebrate the return of the one who was once a sinner idol worshiper.
The religious people were totally insulted over these parables that Jesus told. Jesus referred to them as being angry like the elder son because God loves prodigal sinners and desires them to repent and become a part of his family.
Are you a prodigal far away from the Father’s house? Are you tired of your wayward life? Feeling desperate in your famine? Jesus wants you to come to him and be saved. He wants to restore you to Father God today!
Father God loves you so much that he is searching for you. Shining his light on your heart. Revealing to you your need for his love.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18