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Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 | 4th Sunday of Lent
This week’s reading is perhaps one of the most well known of the parables of Jesus. It’s often called the “Prodigal Son” and yet when you read the whole of Luke 15 it becomes obvious that both sons in the parable are lost, much like the coin and the sheep in the parables recounted in Luke 15:4-10. We all feel lost at times. But we don’t always feel found. That’s what these parables are wrestling with, coming home, finding our way home.
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Inter-textual links.
The larger context Luke 15:1-10
The chapter starts with complaints and criticize by the religious leader of Jesus, not for what he is saying, but for what he is doing. He’s welcoming and eating with sinners, or “unrighteous” or “unclean” folks. He’s not just giving them food, he seems to be hosting them. Such eating with, or table fellowship [as some scholars call it] doesn’t seem to us in our culture to be such a big deal, but it is.
“To understand what Jesus was doing in eating with ’sinners,’ it is important to realize that in the east, even today, to invite a man to a meal was an honor. It was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood and forgiveness; in short, sharing a table meant sharing life… Thus Jesus’ meals with the publicans, and sinners…are an expression of the mission and message of Jesus (Mark 2:17), eschatological means, anticipatory celebrations of the feast in the end-time (Matthew 8:11 for example) in which the community of the saints is already being represented (Mark 2:19). The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieve in table-fellowship, is the most meaningful expression of the message of the redeeming love of God” – Kenneth Bailey, Poet & Peasant.
This chapter, containing three parables about lost things being found…a sheep, a coin, sons proceeds from this encounter progressing each parable to something that is of greater value, and central to the home.
The main parable Luke 15:11-32
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How does it contain good news for us?
2. What do you hear Jesus saying about God’s love and our love for one another through this parable? What is he saying to his time? (think of the context of Luke 15:1-3)? What does it mean for us today?
3. What is the connection between the three parables in Luke 15?
4. How is this parable word still pertinent and life-giving for us in our culture today?