Luke 15

From the two verses that open this chapter, it would seem that these
words about grace and discipleship drew the publicans and sinners
toward Him, while repelling the Pharisees and scribes. He did indeed
receive sinners and eat with them: such action is according to the very
nature of grace. The Pharisees flung out the remark as a taunt. The
Lord accepted it as a compliment, and proceeded by parables to show
that He not only received sinners but positively sought them, and also
to demonstrate what kind of reception sinners get when they are

First the parable of the lost sheep. Here we see in the shepherd a
picture of the Lord Himself. The ninety and nine, who represent the
Pharisee and scribe class, were left not in the fold but in the
wilderness-a place of barrenness and death. The one sheep that was lost
represents the publican and sinner class; those who are lost, and know
it-the "sinner that repenteth." The Shepherd finds the sheep; the
labour and toil is His. Having found it, He secures it and brings it
home. His shoulders become its security. He brings it home, and then
His joy begins. Never does He have to say, "Sorrow with Me, for I have
lost My sheep which was found."

It is impossible to find on earth the "ninety and nine just persons,
which need no repentance," though sadly easy to find ninety and nine
who imagine themselves to be such. Yet if they could be found there is
more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than there could be over
them. All the myriads of holy angels in heaven have never caused such
joy as one repentant sinner. What astounding grace this is!

The parable of the lost piece of silver pursues the same general
theme, but with a few special details. The woman with her operations in
the house represents the subjective work of the Spirit in the souls of
men, rather than the objective work of Christ. The Spirit lights a
candle within the dark heart and creates the disturbance which ends in
the finding of the silver. The joy is here said to be in the presence
of the angels; that is, it is not the joy of the angels but of the
Godhead, before whom they stand.

Then follows the parable of the "prodigal son." The opening words
are very significant. The Lord had been saying, "What man of you . . .
doth not . . . go after?" "What woman . . . doth not . . . seek
diligently?" He could not now say, "What man of you," if he have a
prodigal son and he returns, will not "run and fall on his neck and
kiss him"? We doubt if any man would go to the lengths of the father of
this parable: the great majority of men certainly would not. This
parable sets forth the grace of God the Father. Once more it is a
picture of the sinner who repents, and we are now permitted to see in
parabolic form the depths from which the sinner is raised, and the
heights to which he is lifted according to the Father's heart, by the

In the best robe we see the symbol of our acceptance in the Beloved:
in the ring the symbol of an eternal relationship established: in the
shoes the sign of sonship, for servants entered the houses of their
masters with bare feet. The fatted calf and the merriment set forth the
gladness of heaven and the Father's joy in particular. The son had been
dead morally and spiritually but now he was as one risen into a new

If the younger son pictures the repentant sinner, the elder son
accurately represents the spirit of the Pharisee. The one was hungry
and went in: the other was angry and stayed out. The arrival of grace
always divides men into these two classes-those who know they are
worthy of nothing, and those who imagine themselves to be worthy of
more than they have got. Said the elder son, "Thou never gavest me a
kid, that I might make merry with my friends." So he too found his
society and pleasure in a circle of friends outside his father's
circle. The only difference was in the character of the friends-the
younger son's were disreputable, while his presumably, were
respectable. The self-righteous religionist is no more in real
communion with the heart of the Father than is the prodigal; and he
ends up still outside while the prodigal is brought within.