New Defender's Study Bible Notes
15:1 publicans. See note on Luke 5:29.
15:3 parable. This chapter consists of three “lost-and-found” parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. All were told in answer to the Pharisee’s quibble about Jesus eating with sinners (Luke 15:2).
15:4 that which is lost. Note the numerical sequence in the three parables: one out of a hundred sheep was lost, one out of ten coins (Luke 15:8) and one out of two sons (Luke 15:11). A less concerned shepherd would have let the lost sheep go, but “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Similarly, a more careless woman would not have gone to so much trouble to find one lost coin when she still had nine, but the Lord “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and He knew the full redemption price must be paid. No human father could be unaffected by the loss of half his sons, but all he could do was pray. He could not go searching for the wandering son, like the shepherd or the woman, but God could!
15:8 ten pieces of silver. Each “piece of silver” (Greek drachma) was approximately a day’s wage for a common laborer.
15:10 joy in the presence. Each recovery of that which was lost became an occasion for rejoicing “with friends and neighbors” (Luke 15:6,9,25). The Lord was telling the self-righteous Pharisees that there is joy in heaven when even one sinner repents. The angels rejoice, but also there is rejoicing in their presence—no doubt by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
15:12 Father, give me. This story, commonly called the “parable of the prodigal son,” really is more about his “prodigal father.” The word “prodigal” does not mean wayward or rebellious, but rather lavishly generous and extravagant. The son indeed was very wasteful of his inheritance, which his father had generously given him ahead of time. But this human father is a picture of our heavenly Father—both generous and forgiving and prodigal in His blessings when His children come back to Him. Note especially Psalm 103:10,13.
15:12 the portion of goods. Since the elder son commonly received a double inheritance, the portion allotted to the younger son was probably a third of his father’s wealth.
15:13 riotous living. The Greek word translated “riotous” is used only this once in the New Testament. It means “prodigal” or “wasteful;” hence the parable has become known a that of the “prodigal son.”
15:15 that country. Note the emphasis on the foreign character of the country where the lost son was dwelling—far country, that land, that country (Luke 15:13,14,15). The son was not in his own land, which tells us that he was not an unsaved man, but a true believer rebelling against God’s will for his life.
15:16 no man gave. It is important to note that the father, as much as he loved his son, did not send money or other assistance to his son while he was in the alien land. He could not rightly do anything to enable him to remain longer in his profligate life style. His son must first “come to himself” and be willing to return home on his own. In the meantime, he would pray for him and watch for him.
15:29 serve thee. The word here is actually “slave for thee,” which betrays a bitter attitude of heart toward his father, despite his outward obedience. Instead of rejoicing at his brother’s restoration, he was angry.
15:31 Son. The word here is the word for “child,” in contrast to the other occurrences of “son” in the parable, where Luke uses the word meaning a full-grown son (Luke 15:19,21,24,25,30). Yet this son was the eldest son. Perhaps the father meant it as a term of endearment. More likely, since Jesus intended to reflect the attitude of the Pharisees in the attitude of this elder son, He placed it on the father’s lips to indicate that this son was acting childishly, with anger and selfishness instead of gladness and thankfulness. The Pharisees, with all their dignity and self-righteousness, were actually behaving like spoiled children!