Lk. 15:11-32 Jesus tells a story about a wealthy man with two sons to illustrate how the Jewish people (the ‘children of God’) have squandered their inheritance and need to return to God for forgiveness. The man’s younger son cannot wait until his father dies in order to lay his hands on his father’s wealth, so he asks his father to give him his inheritance immediately.
His pockets filled with money, the younger son leaves his Jewish homeland and sets off for a distant country where he quickly spends all his inheritance on immoral living. All his new ‘friends’ desert him and he ends up feeding pigs for a pagan farmer – a most degrading job as Jews regarded pigs as ritually ‘unclean’ (see Leviticus 11:7-8).
Eventually the man comes to his senses and returns home to beg his father’s forgiveness. His father welcomes him with open arms and forgives him. But the superficially more ‘righteous’ elder son (like the Pharisees of Jesus’s day) refuses to join the homecoming party and is furious that his father (in the same manner as God) forgives those who go astray when they return to him with a sorrowful heart.
The Gentile territory of the Gerasenes, where pigs would have grazed (Luke 15:15)
The Kingdom of God
Lk. 17:20-21 The Pharisees (who are expecting the Messiah or Christ to overthrow the Romans – see Isaiah 9:6-7) ask Jesus when the ‘Kingdom of God’ – which Jesus has promised to his followers – will come. Jesus tells them not to look ahead to a future time or place “because God’s Kingdom is within you” (Luke 17:21) and has already begun if God rules in your heart.
The Good Shepherd
Jn 10:1-16 Jesus compares the Jewish people to a flock of sheep, and claims, “I am the good shepherd”. Like a shepherd who lies across the entrance and becomes a door to the sheepfold, Jesus “gives his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Sheep and shepherds were plentiful in Judaea and Samaria where Jesus likened himself to a good shepherd who cares passionately for his sheep. At night, shepherds protected their sheep from wild animals by bringing them into a ‘sheepfold’ – a low circular-walled enclosure with a narrow entrance. The shepherd lay across the entrance to form a protective barrier in order to guard the sheep.
By day, shepherds went ahead of their sheep to lead them to new grazing pastures (see Psalm 23:2). The sheep followed the shepherd as they knew his voice. Sheep were valuable animals both for their wool and their meat, and they were offered as sacrifices in the Temple.