SUMMARY.--The Publicans and Sinners.
The Pharisees and Scribes.
The Lost Sheep.
The Lost Coin.
The Lost Son.
In the Far Country.
Feeding on Husks.
Coming to Himself.
The Father's Welcome.
The Elder Brother.
1. All the publicans and sinners were drawing near. At the
period of his ministry these classes were flocking in great numbers to
Publicans. Gatherers of the Roman tribute, generally corrupt,
universally despised, usually Jews by birth.
Sinners. Persons excommunicated from the synagogues and usually
held as outcasts.
2. Pharisees. The orthodox leaders.
Scribes. Primarily copyists, but also the great theologians.
Eateth with them. That he should be on social terms with sinners
the Pharisees could not overlook.
3-6. What man of you, having a hundred sheep? Three parables
spoken in succession to 
show how cordially God "receiveth sinners."
The shepherd who loseth one sheep out of the flock of a hundred will
leave the rest and go to seek the straying one.
Layeth it on his shoulders. A common custom with Eastern
Rejoicing. So every servant of God should rejoice at the return
of a sinner.
7. There shall be joy in heaven. The Father rejoices and the Son
and the angels with him.
Over one sinner that repenteth. That "comes to himself," decides
to leave off sin and to serve God. Repentance means a change of mind or
Than over ninety and nine just persons. Over those who are
already in Christ, safe, and need no repentance. It is the saving of
the lost that brings the greatest joy.
8-10. What woman having ten pieces of silver? It is the custom
of the East to have a string of coins for a bracelet, necklace, or
headdress. The joy of finding the lost piece again illustrates the joy
of heaven over the lost sinner.
Light a candle. Because Eastern rooms, often only lighted by the
doors, are very dark.
11-32.The Parable of the Lost Son.
The two preceding parables represent Christ seeking for the lost; this,
the sinner seeking for the Father's house; all three, the rejoicing
A certain man had two sons. There is something in this inimitable
parable which goes straight to every human heart. It is almost
impossible to refuse an entrance to it. It storms the strongest
fortress of the soul, by its appeal to the latent sensibility to
impression, that dormant or sepulchered humanness which underlies in
man his surface of passion or pride; it makes its way to the sympathy
of the rudest, and surprises the most callous into the emotion which
finds its best relief in tears. The child loves to hear its simple and
affecting story, and many a criminal whom crime has done its worst to
harden has been subdued by some stray hearing of its experience, it
seemed so like his own.--Punshon. In this parable the father is
the Heavenly Father; the elder son, the self-righteous, in this case
the Pharisees and scribes; the younger son, the sinful, in this case
the publicans and sinners.
Give me the portion of thy substance. A selfish and unfilial
demand, suitable to the sinner who demands of God to give, but returns
He divided unto them his living. The elder would receive two
shares and the younger one
Into a far country. Wandered far away from the Father's
house, from God.
Wasted his substance. All do in that far country. The worldly
life is a wasted life. It is more baneful to waste our spiritual
opportunities and resources than to waste earthly goods.
There arose a mighty famine. There is always one afar from
God. The world cannot satisfy the soul.
He began to be in want. Many a lost one who has wasted all feels
the want so deeply as to destroy his life. Byron is said to "have died
To feed swine. The lowest possible occupation for a Jew.
With the husks. The pods of the carob tree. The husks of
animal pleasures cannot satisfy the soul.
When he came to himself. Sin is an infatuation, a craze.
When the blinded eyes of the soul are opened no man is content to abide
in sin; that is, in destruction.
How many hired servants. The son was now himself a hired
servant; so are all sinners, and the service is a hard one.
I will arise and go. This resolve is repentance, the change
of purpose and heart. He is led to it by his sense of need, the burden
of sin. 
Father, I have sinned. His change of heart, or repentance, must
be followed by confession.
Am no more worthy. His own claims of worth are gone. He has
proved worthless. He is willing to take the humblest place in his
father's house. Humility and consecration follow genuine
He arose and came to his father. The sinner comes by faith,
repentance, and obedience to Christ. The spirit must come. To come he
must turn, leave the far country, sinful associations, and enter into
spiritual union with Christ by baptism
(Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3, 4).
His father . . . was moved with compassion. No sternness, no
need of prayers; the father no sooner saw the wanderer coming than he
rushed to meet him. How often is it written of Christ,
He had compassion. So, too, of the Father for the penitent
sinner; the father does not even wait for the confession the son had
resolved to make. Love cannot wait when it recognizes the purpose.
The father said. He interrupted the confession of the
Bring forth the best robe. He had returned in rags. The best
robe is the white robe of the righteousness of Christ.
A ring on his hand. A ring with a seal was a symbol of
authority, of sonship.
Shoes on his feet. Servants went barefoot, but the shoes were a
symbol of freedom.
Bring the fatted calf. For a feast of welcome. To make such
preparations was common in the simple life of the East. See
For my son was dead, and is alive. See
It was a spiritual resurrection.
They began to be merry. Gladness should be manifested by all
saints at the repentance of sinners.
Now his elder son. The Pharisees had complained of Jesus
that "he receiveth sinners"
So the elder son complains that the father had welcomed the prodigal.
Music and dancing. In the dance of Judea the sexes did not
intermingle. It was usually performed by hired professional
He was angry. So the Pharisees were with Christ for
receiving sinners. So, too, the eminently respectable self-righteous in
the church often are still when the publicans and sinners, the despised
and outcast, are converted.
His father . . . entreated him. So God in Christ still entreats
all such to join in the welcome of the impenitent. It shows his long
Neither transgressed I. Here is the very spirit of
Pharisaism, a self-righteous spirit. His charges show while nominally
with the father, he was far away from him in spirit.
Son. The father pleads with the envious brother and tries to
bring him to a better frame of mind, as Christ pleads with Israel.
All that I have is 
thine. "If a son, then an heir, and a joint heir with Christ."
This thy brother. If a son, then the returned sinner is his brother.
Unless he, too, can welcome him, then he is the lost son.
"Those who object to all use of fiction must explain, as best they may,
this story, for such it is. There is not even an application attached
to it; the reader is left to make that for himself. As a representation
of redeeming love it has been well called the Gospel in the Gospel. In
comparison with others, it is the Crown and Pearl of all