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Chapter 15

15:1 All the publicans and sinners [pantes hoi telōnai kai hoi hamartōloi]. The two articles separate the two classes (all the publicans and the sinners). They are sometimes grouped together (5:30; Mt 9:11), but not here. The publicans are put on the same level with the outcasts or sinners. So in verse 2 the repeated article separates Pharisees and scribes as not quite one. The use of “all” here may be hyperbole for very many or the reference may be to these two classes in the particular place where Jesus was from time to time. Were drawing near unto him [ēsan autōi eggizontes]. Periphrastic imperfect of [eggizō], from [eggus] (near), late verb. For to hear [akouein]. Just the present active infinitive of purpose.

15:2 Both . . . and [te . . . kai]. United in the complaint. Murmured [diegogguzon]. Imperfect active of [diagogguzō], late Greek compound in the LXX and Byzantine writers. In the N.T. only here and Lu 19:7. The force of [dia] here is probably between or among themselves. It spread (imperfect tense) whenever these two classes came in contact with Jesus. As the publicans and the sinners were drawing near to Jesus just in that proportion the Pharisees and the scribes increased their murmurings. The social breach is here an open yawning chasm. This man [houtos]. A contemptuous sneer in the use of the pronoun. They spoke out openly and probably pointed at Jesus. Receiveth [prosdechetai]. Present middle indicative of the common verb [prosdechomai]. In 12:36 we had it for expecting, here it is to give access to oneself, to welcome like [hupedexato] of Martha’s welcome to Jesus (Lu 10:38). The charge here is that this is the habit of Jesus. He shows no sense of social superiority to these outcasts (like the Hindu “untouchables” in India). And eateth with them [kai sunesthiei autois]. Associative instrumental case [autois] after [sun-] in composition. This is an old charge (Lu 5:30) and a much more serious breach from the standpoint of the Pharisees. The implication is that Jesus prefers these outcasts to the respectable classes (the Pharisees and the scribes) because he is like them in character and tastes, even with the harlots. There was a sting in the charge that he was the “friend” [philos] of publicans and sinners (Lu 7:34).

15:3 This parable [tēn parabolēn tautēn]. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (15:3-7). This is Christ’s way of answering the cavilling of these chronic complainers. Jesus gave this same parable for another purpose in another connection (Mt 18:12-14). The figure of the Good Shepherd appears also in Joh 10:1-18. “No simile has taken more hold upon the mind of Christendom” (Plummer). Jesus champions the lost and accepts the challenge and justifies his conduct by these superb stories. “The three Episodes form a climax: The Pasture—the House—the Home; the Herdsman—the Housewife—the Father; the Sheep—the Treasure—the Beloved Son” (Ragg).

15:4 In the wilderness [en tēi erēmōi]. Their usual pasturage, not a place of danger or peril. It is the owner of the hundred sheep who cares so much for the one that is lost. He knows each one of the sheep and loves each one. Go after that which is lost [poreuetai epi to apolōlos]. The one lost sheep [apolōlos], second perfect active participle of [apollumi], to destroy, but intransitive, to be lost). There is nothing more helpless than a lost sheep except a lost sinner. The sheep went off by its own ignorance and folly. The use of [epi] for the goal occurs also in Mt 22:9; Ac 8:26; 9:11. Until he find it [heōs heurēi auto]. Second aorist active subjunctive of [heuriskō], common verb, with [heōs], common Greek idiom. He keeps on going [poreuetai], linear present middle indicative) until success comes (effective aorist, [heurēi].

15:5 On his shoulders [epi tous ōmous autou]. He does it himself in exuberant affection and of necessity as the poor lost sheep is helpless. Note the plural shoulders showing that the sheep was just back of the shepherd’s neck and drawn around by both hands. The word for shoulder [ōmos] is old and common, but in the N.T. only here and Mt 23:4. Rejoicing [chairōn]. “There is no upbraiding of the wandering sheep, nor murmuring at the trouble” (Plummer).

15:6 Rejoice with me [suncharēte moi]. Second aorist passive of [sunchairō], an old and common verb for mutual joy as in Php 2:17f. Joy demands fellowship. Same form in verse 9. So the shepherd calls together [sunkalei], note [sun] again) both his friends and his neighbours. This picture of the Good Shepherd has captured the eye of many artists through the ages.

15:7 Over one sinner that repenteth [epi heni hamartōlōi metanoounti]. The word sinner points to verse 1. Repenting is what these sinners were doing, these lost sheep brought to the fold. The joy in heaven is in contrast with the grumbling Pharisees and scribes. More than over [ē epi]. There is no comparative in the Greek. It is only implied by a common idiom like our “rather than.” Which need no repentance [hoitines ou chreian echousin metanoias]. Jesus does not mean to say that the Pharisees and the scribes do not need repentance or are perfect. He for the sake of argument accepts their claims about themselves and by their own words condemns them for their criticism of his efforts to save the lost sheep. It is the same point that he made against them when they criticized Jesus and the disciples for being at Levi’s feast (Lu 5:31f.). They posed as “righteous.” Very well, then. That shuts their mouths on the point of Christ’s saving the publicans and sinners.

15:8 Ten pieces of silver [drachmas deka]. The only instance in the N.T. of this old word for a coin of 65.5 grains about the value of the common [dēnarius] (about eighteen cents), a quarter of a Jewish shekel. The double drachma [didrachmon] occurs in the N.T. only in Mt 17:24. The root is from [drassomai], to grasp with the hand (1Co 3:19), and so a handful of coin. Ten drachmas would be equal to nearly two dollars, but in purchasing power much more. Sweep [saroi]. A late colloquial verb [saroō] for the earlier [sairō], to clear by sweeping. Three times in the N.T. (Lu 11:25; 15:8; Mt 12:44). The house was probably with out windows (only the door for light and hence the lamp lit) and probably also a dirt floor. Hence Bengel says: non sine pulvere.This parable is peculiar to Luke.

15:9 Her friends and neighbours [tas philas kai geitonas]. Note single article and female friends (feminine article and [philas]. [Heōs hou eurēi] here as in verse 4, only [hou] added after [heōs] (until which time) as often. Which I lost [hēn apōlesa]. First aorist active indicative of [apollumi]. She lost the coin (note article). The shepherd did not lose the one sheep.

15:10 There is joy [ginetai chara]. More exactly, joy arises. Futuristic present of [ginomai] (cf. [estai] in verse 7). In the presence of the angels of God [enōpion tōn aggelōn tou theou]. That is to say, the joy of God himself. The angels are in a sense the neighbours of God.

15:11 Had [eichen]. Imperfect active. Note [echōn] (verse 4), [echousa] (verse 8), and now [eichen]. The self-sacrificing care is that of the owner in each case. Here (verses 11-32) we have the most famous of all the parables of Jesus, the Prodigal Son, which is in Luke alone. We have had the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and now the Lost Son. Bruce notes that in the moral sphere there must be self-recovery to give ethical value to the rescue of the son who wandered away. That comes out beautifully in this allegory.

15:12 The portion [to meros]. The Jewish law alloted one-half as much to the younger son as to the elder, that is to say one-third of the estate (De 21:17) at the death of the father. The father did not have to abdicate in favour of the sons, but “this very human parable here depicts the impatience of home restraints and the optimistic ambition of youth” (Ragg). And he divided [ho de dieilen]. The second aorist active indicative of [diaireō], an old and common verb to part in two, cut asunder, divide, but in the N.T. only here and 1Co 12:11. The elder son got his share also of the “substance” or property or estate [tēs ousias], “the living” [ton bion] as in Mr 12:44, not “life” as in Lu 8:14.

15:13 Not many days after [met’ ou pollas hēmeras]. Literally, after not many days. Luke is fond of this idiom (7:6; Ac 1:5). Took his journey [apedēmēsen]. First aorist active indicative of [apodēmeō] (from [apodēmos], away from home). Common verb. In the N.T. here and Mt 21:33; 25:14; Mr 12:1; Lu 20:9. He burned all his bridges behind him, gathering together all that he had. Wasted [dieskorpisen]. First aorist active indicative of [diaskorpizō], a somewhat rare verb, the very opposite of “gathered together” [sunagogōn]. More exactly he scattered his property. It is the word used of winnowing grain (Mt 25:24). With riotous living [zōn asōtōs]. Living dissolutely or profligately. The late adverb [asōtōs] (only here in the N.T.) from the common adjective [asōtos] [a] privative and [sōzō], one that cannot be saved, one who does not save, a spendthrift, an abandoned man, a profligate, a prodigal. He went the limit of sinful excesses. It makes sense taken actively or passively (prodigus or perditus), active probably here.

15:14 When he had spent [dapanēsantos autou]. Genitive absolute. The verb is here used in a bad sense as in Jas 4:3. See on [dapanē\ Lu 14:28. He [autos]. Emphasis. To be in want [hustereisthai]. The verb is from [husteros], behind or later (comparative). We use “fall behind” (Vincent) of one in straitened circumstances. Plummer notes the coincidences of Providence. The very land was in a famine when the boy had spent all.

15:15 Joined himself [ekollēthē]. First aorist passive of [kollaō], an old verb to glue together, to cleave to. In the N.T. only the passive occurs. He was glued to, was joined to. It is not necessary to take this passive in the middle reflexive sense. The citizens [tōn politōn]. Curiously enough this common word citizen [politēs] from [polis], city) is found in the N.T. only in Luke’s writings (15:15; 19:14; Ac 21:39) except in He 8:11 where it is quoted from Jer 38:34. To feed swine [boskein choirous]. A most degrading occupation for anyone and for a Jew an unspeakable degradation.

15:16 He would fain have been filled [epethumei chortasthēnai]. Literally, he was desiring (longing) to be filled. Imperfect indicative and first aorist passive infinitive. [Chortasthēnai] is from [chortazō] and that from [chortos] (grass), and so to feed with grass or with anything. Westcott and Hort put [gemisai tēn koilian autou] in the margin (the Textus Receptus). With the husks [ek tōn keratiōn]. The word occurs here alone in the N.T. and is a diminutive of [keras] (horn) and so means little horn. It is used in various senses, but here refers to the pods of the carob tree or locust tree still common in Palestine and around the Mediterannean, so called from the shape of the pods like little horns, Bockshornbaum in German or goat’s-horn tree. The gelatinous substance inside has a sweetish taste and is used for feeding swine and even for food by the lower classes. It is sometimes called Saint John’s Bread from the notion that the Baptist ate it in the wilderness. No man gave unto him [oudeis edidou autōi]. Imperfect active. Continued refusal of anyone to allow him even the food of the hogs.

15:17 But when he came to himself [eis heauton de elthōn]. As if he had been far from himself as he was from home. As a matter of fact he had been away, out of his head, and now began to see things as they really were. Plato is quoted by Ackerman (Christian Element in Plato) as thinking of redemption as coming to oneself. Hired servants [misthioi]. A late word from [misthos] (hire). In the N.T. only in this chapter. The use of “many” here suggests a wealthy and luxurious home. Have bread enough and to spare [perisseuontai artōn]. Old verb from [perissos] and that from [peri] (around). Present passive here, “are surrounded by loaves” like a flood. I perish [egō de limōi hōde apollumai]. Every word here counts: While I on the other hand am here perishing with hunger. It is the linear present middle of [apollumi]. Note [egō] expressed and [de] of contrast.

15:18 I will arise and go [anastas proreusomai]. This determination is the act of the will after he comes to himself and sees his real condition. I did sin [hēmarton]. That is the hard word to say and he will say it first. The word means to miss the mark. I shot my bolt and I missed my aim (compare the high-handed demand in verse 12).

15:19 No longer worthy [ouketi axios]. Confession of the facts. He sees his own pitiful plight and is humble. As one [hōs hena]. The hired servants in his father’s house are high above him now.

15:20 To his father [pros ton patera heautou]. Literally, to his own father. He acted at once on his decision. Yet afar off [eti autou makran apechontos]. Genitive absolute. [Makran] agrees with [hodon] understood: While he was yet holding off a distant way. This shows that the father had been looking for him to come back and was even looking at this very moment as he came in sight. Ran [dramōn]. Second aorist active participle of the defective verb [trechō]. The eager look and longing of the father. Kissed [katephilēsen]. Note perfective use of [kata] kissed him much, kissed him again and again. The verb occurs so in the older Greek.

15:21 The son made his speech of confession as planned, but it is not certain that he was able to finish as a number of early manuscripts do not have “Make me as one of the hired servants,” though Aleph B D do have them. It is probable that the father interrupted him at this point before he could finish.

15:22 The best robe [stolēn tēn prōtēn]. [Stolē] is an old word for a fine stately garment that comes down to the feet (from [stello], to prepare, equip), the kind worn by kings (Mr 16:5; Lu 22:46). Literally, “a robe the first.” But not the first that you find, but the first in rank and value, the finest in the house. This in contrast with his shabby clothes. A ring [daktulion]. Common in classical writers and the LXX, but here only in the N.T. From [daktulos], finger. See [chrusodaktulios] in Jas 2:2. Shoes [hupodēmata]. Sandals, “bound under.” Both sandals and ring are marks of the freeman as slaves were barefooted.

15:23 The fatted calf [ton moschon ton siteuton]. The calf the fatted one. [Siteuton] is the verbal adjective of [sileuō], to feed with wheat [sitos]. The calf was kept fat for festive occasions, possibly in the hope of the son’s return. Kill [thusate]. Not as a sacrifice, but for the feast. Make merry [euphranthōmen]. First aorist passive subjunctive (volitive). From [euphrainō], an old verb from [eu] (well) and [phrēn] (mind).

15:24 And is alive [kai anezēsen]. First aorist active indicative of [anazaō], to live again. Literally, he was dead and he came back to life. He was lost [ēn apolōlōs], periphrastic past perfect active of [apollumi] and intransitive, in a lost state) and he was found [heurethē]. He was found, we have to say, but this aorist passive is really timeless, he is found after long waiting (effective aorist) The artists have vied with each other in picturing various items connected with this wonderful parable.

15:25 As he came and drew nigh [hōs erchomenos ēggisen]. More exactly, “As, coming, he drew nigh,” for [erchomenos] is present middle participle and [ēggisen] is aorist active indicative. Music [sumphōnias]. Our word “symphony.” An old Greek word from [sumphōnos] [sun], together, and [phōnē], voice or sound), harmony, concord, by a band of musicians. Here alone in the N.T. And dancing [kai chorōn]. An old word again, but here alone in the N.T. Origin uncertain, possibly from [orchos] by metathesis [orcheomai], to dance). A circular dance on the green.

15:26 Servants [paidōn]. Not [douloi] (bondslaves) as in verse 22. The Greeks often used [pais] for servant like the Latin puer.It could be either a hired servant [misthios], verse 17) or slave [doulos]. He inquired (epunthaneto]. Imperfect middle, inquired repeatedly and eagerly. What these things might be [ti an eiē tauta]. Not “poor” Greek as Easton holds, but simply the form of the direct question retained in the indirect. See the direct form as the apodosis of a condition of the fourth class in Ac 17:18. In Ac 10:17 we have the construction with [an eiē] of the direct retained in the indirect question. So also in Lu 1:62: See Robertson, Grammar, p. 1044.

15:27 Is come [hēkei]. Present indicative active, but a stem with perfect sense, old verb [hēkō] retaining this use after perfect tenses came into use (Robertson, Grammar, p. 893). Hath killed [ethusen]. Aorist active indicative and literally means, did kill. Difficult to handle in English for our tenses do not correspond with the Greek. Hath received [apelaben]. Second aorist active indicative with similar difficulty of translation. Note [apo] in compositions, like re- in “receive,” hath gotten him back [ap-]. Safe and sound [hugiainonta]. Present active participle of [hugiainō] from [hugiēs], to be in good health. In spite of all that he has gone through and in spite of the father’s fears.

15:28 But he was angry [ōrgisthē]. First aorist (ingressive) passive indicative. But he became angry, he flew into a rage [orgē]. This was the explosion as the result of long resentment towards the wayward brother and suspicion of the father’s partiality for the erring son. Would not go in [ouk ēthelen eiselthein]. Imperfect tense (was not willing, refused) and aorist active (ingressive) infinitive. Entreated [parekalei]. Imperfect tense, he kept on beseeching him.

15:29 Do I serve thee [douleuō soi]. Progressive present tense of this old verb from [doulos] (slave) which the elder son uses to picture his virtual slavery in staying at home and perhaps with longings to follow the younger son (Robertson, Grammar, p. 879). Transgressed [parēlthon]. Second aorist active indicative of [parerchomai], to pass by. Not even once (aorist) in contrast with so many years of service (linear present). A kid [eriphon]. Some MSS. have [eriphion], diminutive, a little kid. So margin of Westcott and Hort. B has it also in Mt 25:32, the only other N.T. passage where the word occurs. That I might make merry [hina euphranthō]. Final clause, first aorist passive subjunctive of the same verb used in verses 23, 25.

15:30 This thy son [ho huios sou houtos]. Contempt and sarcasm. He does not say: “This my brother.” Came [ēlthen]. He does not even say, came back or came home. Devoured [kataphagōn]. We say, “eaten up,” but the Greek has, “eaten down” (perfective use of [kata-]. Suggested by the feasting going on. With harlots [meta pornōn]. This may be true (verse 13), but the elder son did not know it to be true. He may reflect what he would have done in like case.

15:31 Son [Teknon]. Child. Thou [su]. Expressed and in emphatic position in the sentence. He had not appreciated his privileges at home with his father.

15:32 It was meet [edei]. Imperfect tense. It expressed a necessity in the father’s heart and in the joy of the return that justifies the feasting. [Euphranthēnai] is used again (first aorist passive infinitive) and [charēnai] (second aorist passive infinitive) is more than mere hilarity, deep-seated joy. The father repeats to the elder son the language of his heart used in verse 24 to his servants. A real father could do no less. One can well imagine how completely the Pharisees and scribes (verse 2) were put to silence by these three marvellous parables. The third does it with a graphic picture of their own attitude in the case of the surly elder brother. Luke was called a painter by the ancients. Certainly he has produced a graphic pen picture here of God’s love for the lost that justifies forever the coming of Christ to the world to seek and to save the lost. It glorifies also soul-saving on the part of his followers who are willing to go with Jesus after the lost in city and country, in every land and of every race.

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