Three stories, one parable

This post is based on chapter 6 of Jacob and the Prodigal by Kenneth Bailey.

The three stories in Luke 15 form one unit. The heroes—the good shepherd, the good woman and the good father—are symbols for God, and all three evolve into symbols for Jesus.

Precedents for these metaphors can be found in the Psalms:

  • Shepherd: Psalm 23, Psalm 80:1, 3. The shepherd provides food, drink, security and salvation.
  • Father: Psalm 68:5-6, 103:13-14. The father shows compassion for children, widows, the desolate and prisoners
  • Mother: Psalm 131:1-2. Also in Isaiah 42:14

In Luke 15:1-3, the word ‘parable’ is in the singular. All three stories have a parallel storyline:

  • Each ends in a party—eating, as the Pharisees and scribes accuse Jesus of doing in verse 2
  • In each of the three stories, something is lost
  • In each story there’s a special finder
  • In each story there is a price to be paid—the shepherd expends energy to find and carry the sheep; the woman searches diligently for her coin; the father humiliates himself running down the road to reconcile his son.
Posts in this series
1 Introduction & overview
2 Three stories, one parable
3 The parable of the lost sheep
4 The lost coin
5 To find the lost (Part 1)
6 To find the lost (Part 2)
7 To find the lost (Part 3)