Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references
     are to the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are
     found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses
     a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week we begin our new quarter on the Parables of
Jesus.  These lessons are not just a random selection of
interesting parables.  Instead, the lesson's author has selected
the parables to show us the steps to the kingdom of heaven.  This
week we take the first step which is to look at God's invitation
for us to follow Him.  Let's get into it!


     A. How many of you dislike hearing a story?

     B. Aside from hearing compliments, isn't hearing a story the
     next best thing? (I know you love stories.  I put lots of
     stories in my sermons and I can see your interest pick up when
     I tell a story.  I see that same thing when I'm in the
     audience and the preacher turns to a story.)

          1. How long can you remember a good story? (Seems nearly
          forever. I find that stories will "pin" the point of a
          sermon to the memory. How many times have you walked out
          of church and been unable to tell someone about the
          subject of the sermon you just heard?  That happens when
          there are no stories.  But if you "pin" the point of the
          sermon to a story, the people will remember the story for
          a long time and (hopefully) the theological point as

     C. Stories were central to the teaching of Jesus. Turn with me
     to Luke 15. Read vv. 1-2.

          1. Is this the background to a story? (Yes!)

          2. What do you learn from these two verses?

               (a. The "good guys," the respectable leaders in 
               society, did not like the crowd.

               b. But they felt powerless to do anything about it -
               - that is why they "muttered" under their breath.

               c. People who normally would not be able to get 
               close to a "religious man" because of their
               unsavory background were crowding in and actually
               hearing and eating with Jesus.)


     A. Read Luke 15:3-7. 

          1. Who is represents the shepherd? (Jesus)

          2. Who represents the sheep? (Us)

          3. Do you think that the "Pharisees and teachers" would
          be interested in being shepherds or described as sheep?
          (No! Remember that the Egyptians thought shepherds were
          "detestable" (Gen. 46:34).  This was a lowly profession. 
          Of course, being a sheep was worse.  So the Pharisees
          would be turning up their noses at the whole thing: the
          crowd and the characters used in the story.)

     B. What is the point of this story? (That God has a particular
     interest in those who are lost.)

          1. Does this point have anything to do with the
          background we looked at in vv. 1-2? (It has everything to
          do with the background.  The Pharisees were complaining
          that Jesus was spending time, and even eating with these
          people.  Jesus says God's focus is on these kinds of

          2. What about the numbers?  Shouldn't 75-90 out of 100 be
          lost instead of just one? Why did Jesus tell us that only
          one was lost? (Probably. The point of having only one
          gone is to underline the fact that God is personally
          concerned about us regardless of how "low" we have gone. 
          First, this is a sheep. Second, he did not "need" this
          sheep.  He had 99 more.)

     C. Did Jesus tie a rope around the neck of the straying 
     sheep and drag it home? (I love the picture: He put it on His
     shoulders and carried it home!)

          1. Consider the attitude of the shepherd.  When your 
          children don't return home on time, or run away in a
          store, what kind of emotions run through your mind? (If
          you knew they were safe, it would probably be only anger
          and annoyance.)

               a. What would you say to them when you found them?
               (Among other things, you are likely to threaten
               them with discipline if this ever happens again.)

               b. How does this "find" play in heaven? (Great 

          2. Consider the "attitude" of the sheep. Had the sheep
          decided to come home?  Had it "repented?" (Our lesson
          points out that the religious leaders thought that Jesus
          should associate only with sinners who repented.  While
          it is dangerous to place too much emphasis on the
          specific facts of a parable, the Shepherd was no position
          to know the mental attitude of the sheep.  He only knew
          its condition: that it was lost.  What causes God to
          "search" for us is our lost condition. We need not repent
          for Him to search.)

     D. We determined at the outset that the shepherd is Jesus. Is
     it possible that we could be shepherds? (Matthew tells
     essentially this same story in Matt. 18:12-13.  The context of
     that story is that we have a responsibility for the sheep.)

          1. If so, do you want to cause great rejoicing in heaven?


     A. Read Luke 15:8-11. Who symbolizes God here? (A woman.)

          1. First a shepherd, and now a woman represent God in 
          these parables. Why is Jesus framing these stories this
          way? (A couple of explanations fit. First, God is looking
          for helpers without regard to their status on earth.
          Second, it was an unbelievable humility that allowed the
          Creator of the universe to become a man.  I think Jesus
          is pricking the false pride of the Pharisees with the
          characters that he uses.)

     B. The point I like the most in this story is that the woman
     lit a lamp to search.

          1. Why did people light lamps?

          2. Why was the invention of the electric light such a 
          boon to man? (It allowed you to extend your work day.)

          3. What is the significance of this woman lighting a 
          lamp? (This woman could have said,"I'll wait until
          tomorrow when I will have all this good light available
          to me.  Instead, she showed the urgency of the task by
          lighting a light to look right now. For God it is urgent
          business to find us.)

     C. This time our "status" has improved. Instead of being one
     out of one hundred, we are now one out of ten.  We have also
     become a "silver coin." 

          1. What is Jesus' point in representing the lost as 
          silver coins? (They were not only of great intrinsic
          value, but the woman showed the value she placed on the
          coin by making the most careful search for it.)


     A. Read Luke 15:11-17.  Our last verse says that the son is
     starving to death. What began the chain of events that led to
     this situation? (Impatience. Selfishness.)

     B. When would the estate normally be divided between the sons?
     (At the father's death.)

          1. Does that mean the boy was wishing that his father 
          were dead?  When he did not die, was the boy forced to
          ask for his share ahead of time? (Yes. I think this shows
          that the boy was impatient for his father to die.  That
          certainly is a way the father could look at this, for the
          boy "not long after" leaves. He did not care to stay
          around his father.)

     C. Those of you who are in retirement, and those looking 
     towards retirement, what is your purpose in having "an estate"
     while you are alive? (Security.)

          1. Did children have an obligation towards their elderly
          parents in the Jewish culture of the time? (They were to
          help them. Matthew 15:4-5)

          2. How is this boy treating his obligation to support his
          father in his old age?

          3. Look at this from the father's point of view.  The boy
          cannot wait until he dies.  The boy does not want to
          remain in his company.  The boy could care less about his
          security in his old age (which, of course, would be
          natural if he would rather his father had died).

               a. Parents, what do you say about this child?  What
               if your son or daughter treated you like that?

     D. The boy leaves his father taking with him his father's 
     money. Does the boy show: a) good financial sense; b) good
     common sense; or c) moral wisdom? (None of the above. The NIV
     says he engaged in "wild" living. The KJV says "riotous"
     living. The Greek is "asotos" which not only means "wasteful,"
     Vines says that here it also means "dissolutely."  The older
     son, who no doubt had a good insight into the character of the
     younger son, but who had not seen him when he was gone,
     accused him of throwing his money away on prostitutes.  I
     think we can accept this sense of what the younger boy did
     with his father's money.)

     E. How do things work out for the younger son in these verses
     we have read?  Is he doing well in a job that would make any
     Jewish father proud? (He is starving, feeding pigs (an unclean
     animal) and wishing he could eat what unclean animals eat. 
     This is not a proud father's "success story" the father wants
     to share with friends at church!)

          1. What would be an equivalent "success story" today? 
          (Son is sweeping up the floors in a house of

     F. Alright parents, are you glad this kid is gone or what? 
     (This shows how extraordinary is God's love for us compared to
     man's love.)

     G. Now that we have a pretty good fix on what we would think
     of our son were we his father, let's read on. Luke 15:18-24.

          1. We decided that if we were this kid's parent we might
          run the other way when we saw him coming. The father in
          this story runs TOWARDS his son.

               a. Did the son think he was worthy to be called the
               father's son? (No! v.21)

               b. What motivated the son to return? Love of his 
               father? (No! Hunger. v. 17.  Let's look at this in
               a cold, clear way.  The boy started out wanting
               something from his Dad. As soon as he got it he
               left.  The boy only came back to get something from
               his Dad.  Nowhere do we see that the boy acts out
               of love for his father.  He is motivated by what he
               can get!)

                    (1) Would any objective observer think the son
                    was worthy and had returned for worthy
                    reasons? (No!)

          2. Given this parable, can you doubt God's unrelenting
          love for you? His love is beyond reason, beyond logic,
          beyond understanding.

     H. Let's read about someone who does have a good understanding
     of what is going on. Read Luke 15:25-32.

          1. Is the older brother right, from a logical point of

          2. Who does the older brother represent? (The obedient
          church member.)

          3. Does the older brother say that he served his father
          out of love? (No! He says that he "slaved" for him. v.29)

          4. What kind of attitude does the father have towards the
          older brother? (Same kind, concerned attitude that he has
          towards the younger boy.)

     I. At this moment, who is doing the will of the Father? The
     prodigal or the older son? (The prodigal is obeying by coming
     home. The prodigal is grateful to his father. His actions are
     now consistent with his father's will.  The older son is mad
     at his father.  The older son's actions are against the will
     of the father, because the father wants to rejoice in the
     return of the younger son.)

          1. Friend, is this you? Are you the older son who looked
          at this situation and knew that the prodigal was taking
          advantage of the father?  The prodigal is now more in
          accord with his father's will than the older brother. 
          Like our father, we should rejoice in the return of those
          who have treated the father terribly. We should look at
          the lost with a heart of love and a desire to bring them
          back.  And we should realize, that in our way we are just
          as sinful as the "prodigals."  Fortunately, God loves us
          just as much.

V. NEXT WEEK: "Claiming the Treasure." We study what our response
should be to our loving Father.

INTERNET NOTE: This will be the last new Bible Study on the web site until August 9.