Words For The Shepherds: Luke 15 -- By: John H. Niemelä

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 07:4 (Oct 2001)
Article: Words For The Shepherds: Luke 15
Author: John H. Niemelä

Words For The Shepherds: Luke 15

John H. Niemelä*

[*Editor's note: John Niemelä received a B.A. (University of Minnesota), and earned the Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in New Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary. John is Professor of Hebrew and Greek at Chafer Theological Seminary. His email address is languages@chafer.edu.]


As Christ attended to tax collectors and sinners in Luke 15:1–2, the Pharisees and scribes complained, This man receives sinners and eats with them.1 Jesus responded with a single parable having three distinct venues: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.2 Few parables are as seemingly transparent, yet so easily misunderstood and needing careful study as Luke 15:4–32. Confusion results from overlooking concerns in three primary areas, the relationships between:

  1. God the Father and Israel,
  2. God the Son and lost sheep,
  3. Christ and the Pharisees.3

Careful consideration reveals both a magnificent casting of characters by our Lord and message relevant to those shepherding His flock today.

An Insight into Parables

The hearer of a parable may need help in determining role assignments. In 2 Samuel 12:1–5, David did not recognize himself as the villain, so he unwittingly pronounced judgment on himself.

[Nathan] said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man… .

Then Nathan confronted David, You are the man (verse 7). Similarly, Jesus told The Parable of the Good Samaritan to a lawyer who asked Him to define neighbor. Only the Samaritan treated as neighbor the Jew who fell among thieves (

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