New Testament Lesson 18 (Luke 15, 17)


The Pharisees found fault with Jesus because He “receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:1–2). Jesus responded with three parables that emphasized the importance of finding and redeeming those who are lost.

“Rejoice with Me” — Three Parables of Finding the Lost

The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3–7). Those who stray away unintentionally. Our duty as good shepherds is to leave the “ninety and nine” and find and rescue those who have strayed.

The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8–10). Those who are neglected and forgotten. These have not wandered away, but they have been neglected and forgotten. We are to “sweep the corners” (search records, visit the homes, etc.) until they are found and restored.

The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32). Those who willfully disobey the commandments. We do not interfere with their agency. While they are lost we pray for their redemption. And then when they finally repent and return, we welcome them back with love.

— The word prodigal means wasteful. The younger son wasted his inheritance in riotous living (v. 13), just as many today waste their eternal inheritance in pursuit of worldly pleasures.
— Sooner or later, as the difficulties of life press upon us, we are liable to reflect on how much happier we were “at home” in the gospel. Such was the case with this young son, who found himself in the midst of famine and humiliating life circumstances (vv. 14-17).
— He resolved to return to his father and ask for forgiveness (vv. 18–19). Would he have done this if his father had “disowned” him when he made his unwise choice? He knew his father loved him and would forgive.
— His father saw him “while he was yet a long way off” (v. 20). This father had probably looked down the road many times, hoping to see his son coming home. And when he saw him coming he “ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (v. 20). He also made a great feast of celebration, saying, “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (v. 24).
— This display of love troubled the older, more faithful son, who had never received any such joyful display of love (vv. 25–30).
— Notice that the older son would still receive all that his father had. His inheritance was sure because of his righteous choices and loyalty (v. 31). The young son would not now receive an inheritance. He had wasted it.
— Nevertheless, there is joy in heaven when a lost soul returns and repents (v. 32).

● President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“Some of our own . . . cry out in pain and suffering and loneliness and fear. Ours is a great and solemn duty to reach out and help them, to lift them, to feed them if they are hungry, to nurture their spirits if they thirst for truth and righteousness . . .

“There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord.

“My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray that each of us . . . would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives.”1

The Parable of the Unjust Steward

● We must seek spiritual wealth with the same enthusiasm and energy we have in the pursuit of money and possessions (Luke 16:1–12).

Jesus Predicts His Resurrection

● “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). How sad it is that the prophecy proved to be literally true. They knew that He had risen from the dead. The soldiers at the tomb were witnesses of the angel who appeared and rolled back the stone (Matthew 28:4). And what did the leaders of the Jews do? They bribed the soldiers to keep quiet about what they had seen (Matthew 28:11–15).


Jesus Heals Ten Lepers

● As the Savior went to Jerusalem, he healed ten lepers, only one of which returned to thank Jesus for healing him (Luke 17:11–19).

— Ten lepers were healed and freed from this terrible disease (Luke 17:11–14).

— Of those ten lepers, only one returned to express gratitude (Luke 17:15–16). We may sometimes take for granted the blessings that God has granted to us. We must take the time to thank Him in our prayers and testimonies.

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Prayers of thanksgiving are as important as prayers petitioning divine favor. It is here worthy of note that the cleansed Jewish lepers went on their way and that only a lone Samaritan returned to pour out his gratitude to the Master Healer. . . . There are greater blessings than to be healed physically. . . . Here all of the ten were cleansed of their physical affliction, but it is evident that one grateful recipient of our Lord’s favor was blessed in a special manner, perhaps being made whole spiritually also. . . . [Also] . . . this exhibition of gratitude by a Samaritan was another evidence to the Apostles that all men are acceptable to the Lord and that the Jewish claim to exclusive superiority as a chosen race was soon to be replaced with a command to take the gospel of peace to all races.”2

— Although all ten lepers were cleansed, only the man who returned was “made whole” (Luke 17:14, 19). Bishop Merrill J. Bateman taught, “In becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside. That day nine lepers were healed skin deep, but only one had the faith to be made whole.”3

● The importance of gratitude in the eyes of the Lord (D&C 59:15–21).

The Parable of the Unprofitable Servant

● Jesus presented this parable after the Apostles requested of him, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5–10). We grow in faith by diligently serving the Lord.

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

● Every laborer in the vineyard received the same pay as those who worked the entire day (Matthew 20:1–16). It is never too late to repent and receive salvation. This suggests that even those who repent later in life might receive the same eternal rewards as those who have been faithful all their lives. We must trust in God to judge righteously in every case, and we should focus on our own salvation and not resent what others might receive.

The Kingdom of God Is Within You

● The Kingdom of God came quietly the first time—“not with observation” (Luke 17:20).

● “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). This means that the Kingdom of God was “among” them with the presence of the Savior and His Church in their midst. They did not need to look for some future event; it had already happened.

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “One of the heresies which prevails in a large part of modern Christendom is the concept that Jesus did not organize a Church or set up a formal kingdom through which salvation might be offered to men. This poorly translated verse is one of those used to support the erroneous concept that the kingdom of God is wholly spiritual; that it is made up of those who confess Jesus with their lips, regardless of what church affiliation they may have; that the kingdom of God is within every person in the sense that all have the potential of attaining the highest spiritual goals; and that baptism, the laying on of hands, celestial marriage, and other ordinances and laws are not essential to the attainment of salvation. . . . Even the marginal reading in the King James Version changes the language here involved to read, ‘The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.’”4


1.  In Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 86.
2.  Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:536–537.
3.  In Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 16; or Ensign, May 1995, 14.
4.  Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:540.