12.03.04 Lk. 15:1-7
PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP
1 All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
3 So He told them this parable:
1 4 “What man among you, who has 100 sheep
2 and loses one of them,
3 does not leave the 99 in the open field
A and go after the lost one
B until he finds it? 5 When he has found it,
C he joyfully puts it on his shoulders,
D 6 and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together
C’ saying, ‘Rejoice with me,
B’ because I have found
A’ my lost sheep!’
1’ 7 I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven
2’ over one sinner who repents
3’ than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.
Many parables are based on Old Testament stories and themes. For example, Luke 15:4-7 Parable of the Good shepherd is based on Psalm 23. As Jesus did so often, He took daily activities of life and applied the message of the Kingdom of God to it. In this case, it was applied to a flock of sheep – a modest flock consisted of about 200 sheep (Gen. 32:14) while a flock of 300 sheep was considered to be rather large.
Literary Style This poetic style is more complicated than most. Note the sections identified with numbers. The lines 1 and 1′ are an address to the audience. Lines 2 and 2’ refer to a single sheep/sinner while lines 3 and 3’ refer to the ninety-nine sheep/righteous persons. This frames out the body of the parable.
The center section is a typical chiastic structure. Lines A and A’ mention the one that was lost, followed by a successful search to find him in B and B’. The theme of the three parables begins on the lost, but changes to the restoration to the fold (D) and the rejoicing that is a part of it.
“Sinners.” While most people today think of only one definition to the word sinner, the Jewish people of the first century considered two possibilities.
- A person who broke the moral laws of the written Scriptures. Quite often the word sinners is a euphemism for prostitutes or possibly for women who had their hair uncovered in public. In fact, prostitution was the only kind of “occupation” a woman could have had that would have given her that social stigma. No other kind of activity would have produced the title of “sinner.”
- It should be noted, however, that the leading Pharisees defined a sinner as anyone who did not conform their legalistic rituals – the Oral Laws – which included numerous prayers and washings throughout the day. The ultra-strict Pharisees even considered anyone who touched a Roman or Greek coin as filthy because he violated the command against graven images.
To the leading Pharisees, one who committed adultery was just as much of a sinner as the person who failed to wash his hands in a particular fashion and for the required number of times prior to eating.
. Three other examples of Jesus’ parables that are based upon Old Testament are as follows: 1) the prodigal son has many similarities to Jacob’s life in Gen. 27:1 – 36:8, 2) the two builders of Luke 6:46-4 is related to Isaiah 28:14-18, and 3) the Pharisee and tax collector of Luke 18:9-14 is related to the judgment and joyous restoration of Isaiah 66:1-6.
. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 281.
. Bailey, Poet and Peasant. Part I, 144; Fleming, The Parables of Jesus. 67.
. See “Chiastic Literary Structure” in Appendix 26.
. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 249-51; Compare with Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.23, and the complete section of Mishnah, Ketubbat 6.6.
. Blomberg, “The Authenticity and Significance of Jesus’ Table Fellowship with Sinners.” 232-33.
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 248; See also 02.01.14 “Pharisees” and the discussion on “sinners” in 08.05.07.