This paper was first written for and presented as a class assignment for my graduate degree on an exegesis course on the Gospel according to St. Luke.
The passage under exegesis Luke 15:1-32 is what I would call a ‘classical’ parable. It is memorable and has been repeatedly visualised in drawing and drama throughout the ages. In Sunday School it was one of my favourite dramas and I am not sure why, but I always ended up getting the character of the prodigal son. Introducing Luke, Achtemeir et al. agree with me by noting that the Gospel of Luke “. . .contains some of the most influential and best remembered of all the parables, including the prodigal son and the Good Samaritan.” (Achtemeier 2001, 149) Looking at the bigger picture, how this passage fits into Luke’s narrative, I feel that it is of great significance. This passage details an exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees and their company regarding ‘who is welcome into the Kingdom of God?’ Jesus has gone all inclusive, dining, and welcoming ‘sinners and tax collectors’ (15:1) and the Pharisees and their company are not amused. This passage is right in the heart of ch.5-19 where Luke details the growing conflict that has Jesus on one side and the whole company of the religious elite on the other and yes it is about, ‘who is welcome into the Kingdom of God?’. Jesus is of the inclusive idea, while the religious elite and company feel the Kingdom of God is a very exclusive affair; they do not take well Jesus’ divergent views and practices and the climax of this conflict is ultimately Jesus’ death and crucifixion. The passage in question plays well to enhance Luke’s narrative, build up the controversy and the ultimate climax.
Luke presents 15:1-32 as a build up to the growing opposition of Jesus inclusivity trends as pertains to the Kingdom of God that the Pharisees and their company differ with. Once again Luke paints Jesus as one not to be pushed into a corner when required to defend or explain ‘his way of doing things’. In this passage, once again Jesus associates with ‘sinners and tax collector’ (15:1), the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are not amused and they voice their discontent (15:2), Jesus answers right back at them in three successive parable that are a build up to convict the Pharisees (15:3-32).