Luke 15 Critiquing the Pharisees Part 1

As I previously mentioned I am starting a series of blogs about some of the parables of Jesus. Several of these stories have really captured my attention in unique ways for some time, and I wanted to share some of the dynamics and insights I’ve found within them. Some of the posts will be long, others will be extremely short. And of course I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way, get to share in the things that you’ve found that I’ve missed. So with that said, let’s get started. The first parable (or set of parables) I want to talk about is found in Luke 15, the familiar parable of the “Prodigal Son.”

The parable of the man with two sons commonly called the Prodigal Son doesn’t actually begin at verse 11. In actuality it starts no later than verse 1. This chapter begins with a scene in which Jesus is teaching and “tax collectors and sinners” were gathering to listen to him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law are grumbling about the kind of company Jesus welcomes and eats with. It is in response to this grumbling that Jesus tells three parables. The first is a parable concerning a lost sheep, the second is a parable about a lost coin, and the third is a parable concerning lost sons. These stories are interesting in that they serve in very subtle ways to both justify Jesus’ activity while simultaneously condemning the activity of the religious leaders of the day.

Question: Why is the sheep and the coin lost? Now certainly sheep can wander off, but by and large sheep tend to flock together, they’re followers. That’s why you wouldn’t want to mix sheep and goats. Goats wander, sheep follow. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a critique against the shepherd, but certainly could be especially in light of the second parable about the lost coin. Unlike animals, coins don’t simply wander off. The coin is obviously lost due to mismanagement (unless of course she has a two year old, in which case this would be completely understandable). How does someone lose a day’s wages?

Jesus is obviously defending himself, he is the one going off after those who are “lost.” But, could this also be a critique against the religious leaders of his day?
As we move toward the parable of the two sons we will see that lostness can occur for multiple reasons. But, looking at these two parables together we find that one reason for lostness can be mismanagement. Could it be that Jesus is saying to the religious leaders of his day that he wouldn’t have to be the one finding the sheep or coin if they had done their job correctly to begin with?

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