Luke 15 – The “Lost” Parables

It seems to me that the Prodigal Son parable explains the previous two – I have two puzzles to solve in this chapter.

1. Jesus phrases the question in the first two parables as a negative. Does the man with 99 sheep not go searching for his 1 lost sheep? Does the woman with 9 coins not go searching for her 1 lost coin? The answer I have to both of these is a very weak “no.”

It isn’t obvious that a man who loses 1% of his sheep go looking for that 1%. If it’s going to cost him more time than it’s worth to write off the sheep, he writes it off. So it’s not business that’s going on here.

The woman who loses the coin strikes closer to the heart of the metaphor. These aren’t just items of business, like sheep, but personal possessions. Still… I can’t get excited about money. Nor do I think money is the best metaphor for the relationship between God and sinful humanity.

So Jesus uses those two to create a tension before the big parable. He wants to highlight the principle of importance, because, strangely enough, he needs to show that the Prodigal Son is valuable.

The Pharisees and teachers can understand the value of sheep and coins, but not an ingrate son. Jesus prefaces the Prodigal Son with the Sheep and Coin to lead the Pharisees’ line of thought: God values sinners the way people value possessions, because they are his.

The point of the Prodigal Son is the older brother – the Pharisee. He was always with the father, and everything the father had was his – so why didn’t he act like the father? Why didn’t he rejoice, knowing that all good things were his, even the love of the father.

So that solves the second puzzle, which is

2. Why does he rejoice?

The Father rejoices in the very ownership of his creation. He has made all things, and all things good, despite the curse. He is able to look on even the most reprobate sinner with the eyes of a father, and rejoice when that sinner repents, and mourn when that sinner perishes.


~ by bradybush on February 10, 2010.

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