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Luke 15:1-2 & meaning...


all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him. The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”

Luke 15:1-2


Luke 14 [30.] saying, ‘This man began to build, and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or what king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an envoy, and asks for conditions of peace. So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple. Salt is good, but if the salt becomes flat and tasteless, with what do you season it? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

Luke 15 [1.] Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming close to him to hear him. The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.”

Luke 15 [3.] He told them this parable. “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.


These verses set the scene for the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15: the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The context provided in these opening verses is crucial for understanding the depth and significance of the parables that follow.

  • The Social Context of Tax Collectors and Sinners:

Outcasts of Society: Tax collectors were particularly despised in Jewish society. They were seen as traitors for collaborating with the Roman occupiers and were often accused of extortion. "Sinners" refers to those who lived outside the bounds of what the Pharisees considered righteous living—this included people with questionable professions, lifestyles, or those who simply did not adhere strictly to the Law.

Drawn to Jesus: Despite their social status, these people were drawn to Jesus, indicating His magnetic compassion and the hope He offered. His message resonated with those who were marginalized and ostracized.

  • Pharisees and Scribes:

Religious Elite: The Pharisees and scribes were religious leaders and experts in the Law. They prided themselves on their adherence to religious rituals and moral laws.

Murmuring and Criticism: Their reaction to Jesus’ interaction with tax collectors and sinners was one of disdain and criticism. They believed that associating with such people made one unclean and compromised one's righteousness.

  • Jesus’ Radical Inclusivity - Welcoming and Eating:

Radical Hospitality: By welcoming and eating with sinners, Jesus demonstrated radical inclusivity and hospitality. In the cultural context of the time, sharing a meal was a sign of acceptance and fellowship. Jesus was breaking down social barriers and challenging the status quo by treating the outcasts with dignity and love.

Message of Grace: Jesus’ actions conveyed that God’s grace and mercy are available to all, not just the religiously devout. His ministry was inclusive, aiming to reach those who were lost, hurting, and in need of redemption.

The Parables of Luke 15

Jesus responds to the murmuring of the Pharisees and scribes by telling three parables, each emphasizing God's joy over the repentance and return of the lost.

A shepherd leaves ninety-nine sheep to find one that is lost, illustrating God’s relentless pursuit of each individual. This underscores the value of every soul and God's joy in their return.

A woman searches diligently for a lost coin, and upon finding it, she celebrates with her friends. This parable highlights the thoroughness and determination with which God seeks the lost and the communal joy that follows a sinner’s repentance.

Perhaps the most famous of the three, this parable tells of a father who lovingly welcomes back his repentant son, who had squandered his inheritance. It contrasts the father’s grace and forgiveness with the older brother’s resentment, mirroring the Pharisees' attitude towards sinners.

Lessons and Applications

  • God’s Unconditional Love:

These parables teach us about God’s boundless love and mercy. He values each individual and rejoices in their return, regardless of their past.

  • Challenge to Self-Righteousness:

The criticism from the Pharisees and scribes highlights a self-righteous attitude that can be present in religious communities. Jesus’ actions and parables challenge us to examine our own hearts for any judgmental or exclusionary tendencies.

  • Call to Radical Inclusivity:

Jesus models radical inclusivity and acceptance. We are called to extend the same grace and hospitality to others, especially those marginalized by society. This includes welcoming and building relationships with those who are often judged or overlooked.

  • Reflection on Personal Repentance:

The joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10) encourages personal reflection on our own need for repentance and returning to God’s embrace. It reminds us that no one is beyond the reach of God's grace.


Matthew 9:10-13: Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, stating, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." This reiterates the theme of God’s preference for mercy over ritualistic piety.

Romans 5:8: "But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." This verse emphasizes God’s love and initiative in seeking us out, even when we were far from Him.

1 Timothy 1:15: Paul writes, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." Paul’s acknowledgment of his own sinfulness underscores the universal need for God’s grace.

Conclusion: Luke 15:1-2 sets the stage for a profound exploration of God's love and grace through the parables that follow. Jesus' welcoming of tax collectors and sinners challenges us to embrace a similar openness and compassion. It calls us to reflect on our own attitudes and actions, encouraging us to embody the inclusive and merciful nature of Christ in our lives. By understanding and applying the lessons from these verses and the accompanying parables, we draw closer to the heart of God and His desire for reconciliation and community.

PIB Scriptures are derived from the World English Bible


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