Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP.

255

СНАР.
XVII

xiv. 5

Which of

you

shall have a son or an ox fallen into a well ? 'a Not so the last Parable, of the Lost Son, in which He passed from defence, or rather explanation, of His conduct, to its higher reason, - St. Luke showing that He was doing the work of the Father. Hence, while in the first Parable the element of comparison (with that which had not been lost) appears in most detailed form, it is generalised in the second, and wholly omitted in the third.

Other differences have to be marked in the Parables themselves. In the first Parable (that of the Lost Sheep) the main interest centres in the lost; in the second (that of the Lost Drachm), in the search ; in the third, in the restoration. And although in the third Parable the Pharisees are not addressed, there is the highest personal application to them in the words which the Father speaks to the elder son—an application, not so much of warning, as of lovin correction and entreaty, and which seems to imply, what otherwise these Parables convey, that at least these Pharisees had 'murmured, not so much from bitter hostility to Christ, as from spiritual ignorance and misunderstanding.

Again, these Parables, and especially that of the Lost Sheep, are evidently connected with the preceding series, that of warnings.' The last of these showed how the poor, the blind, lame, and maimed, nay, even the wanderers on the world's highway, were to be the guests at the heavenly Feast. And this, not only in the future, and after long and laborious preparation, but now, through the agency of the Saviour. As previously stated, Rabbinism placed acceptance at the end of repentance, and made it its wages. And this, because it knew not, nor felt the power of sin, nor yet the free grace of God. The Gospel places acceptance at the beginning of repentance, and as the free gift of God's love. And this, because it not only knows the power of sin, but points to a Saviour, provided of God.

The Lost Sheep is only one among a hundred : not a very great loss. Yet which among us would not, even from the common motives of ownership, leave the ninety-and-nine, and go after it, all the more that it has strayed into the wilderness? And, to take these Pharisees on their own ground, should not the Christ have done likewise to the straying and almost lost sheep of His own flock ? Nay, quite generally and to all time, is this not the very work of the "Good Shepherd,' and may we not thus, each of us, draw from it

There is to some extent a Rabbinic wine, leaves the eleven to follow the parallel Parable (Ber. R. 86, ed. Warsh. twelfth into the shop of a Gentile, for p. 154 b, about the middle), where one fear that the wine which it bears might who is driving twelve animals laden with be mixed there.

BOOK
IV

precious comfort ? As we think of it, we remember that it is natural for the foolish sheep so to wander and stray. And we think not only of those sheep which Jewish pride and superciliousness had left to go astray, but of our own natural tendency to wander. And we recall the saying of St. Peter, which, no doubt, looked back upon this

Parable: Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned * 1 Pet. ii. 25 unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.' It is not difficult in

imagination to follow the Parabolic picture : how in its folly and ignorance the sheep strayed further and further, and at last was lost in solitude and among stony places ; how the shepherd followed and found it, weary and footsore; and then with tender care lifted it on his shoulder, and carried it home, gladsome that he had found the lost. And not only this, but when, after long absence, he returned home with his found sheep, that now nestled close to its Saviour, he called together his friends, and bade them rejoice with him over the erst lost and now found treasure. It needs not, and would only diminish the pathos of this exquisite Parable, were we to attempt interpreting its details. They apply wherever and to whatever they can be applied. Of these three things we think: of the lost sheep; of the Good Shepherd, seeking, finding, bearing, rejoicing; and of the sympathy of all who are truly friends—like-minded with Him. These, then, are the emblems of heavenly things. In heaven-oh, how different the feeling from that of Pharisaism! View the flock' as do the Pharisees, and divide them into those who need and who need pot repentance, the sinners' and the righteous,' as regards man's application of the Law-does not this Parable teach us that in heaven there shall be joy over the sinner that repenteth’more than over the

ninety-and-nine’ righteous,' which have not need of repentance'? And to mark the terrible contrast between the teaching of Christ and that of the Pharisees; to mark also, how directly from heaven must have been the message of Jesus, and how poor sinners must have felt it such, we put down in all its nakedness the message which Pharisaism brought to the lost. Christ said to them: “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.' Pharisaism said—and we quote

here literally—“There is joy before God when those who provoke Siphre, ed. Him perish from the world.' b

2. In proceeding to the second Parable, that of the Lost Drachm, we must keep in mind that in the first the danger of being lost arose from the natural tendency of the sheep to wander. In the second

Friedmann, p. 37 a, line 13 from top

1 In St. Matt. xviii. 12-14, the same Parable is used, but with different appli

cation--not as here to the loss, but to what men might deem the smallness of the loss, with especial reference to the command in ver. 10 (ver. 11 in the text of

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST DRACHM.

257

CHAP.
XVII

Parable it is no longer our natural tendency to which our loss is attributable. The drachm (about 7 d. of our money) has been lost, as the woman, its owner, was using or counting her money. The loss is the more sensible, as it is one out of only ten, which constitute the owner's property. But it is still in the house—not like the sheep that had gone astray-only covered by the dust that is continually accumulating from the work and accidents around. And so it is more and more likely to be buried under it, or swept into chinks and corners, and less and less likely to be found as time passes. But the woman lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and seeks diligently, till she has found it. And then she calleth together those around, and bids them rejoice with her over the finding of the lost part of her possessions. And so there is joy in the presence of the Angels over one sinner that repenteth. The comparison with others that need not such is now dropped, because, whereas formerly the sheep had strayed—though from the frowardness of its nature_here the money had simply been lost, fallen among the dust that accumulates— practically, was no longer money, or of use ; became covered, hidden, and was in danger of being for ever out of sight, not serviceable, as it was intended to be and might have been.

We repeat, the interest of this Parable centres in the search, and the loss is caused, not by natural tendency, but by surrounding circumstances, which cover up the bright silver, hide it, and render it useless as regards its purpose, and lost to its owner.

3. If it has already appeared that the two first Parables are not merely a repetition, in different form, of the same thought, but represent two different aspects and causes of the being lost :the essential difference between them appears even more clearly in the third Parable, that of the Lost Son. Before indicating it in detail, we may mark the similarity in form, and the contrast in spirit, of analogous Rabbinic Parables. The thoughtful reader will have noted this even in the Jewish parallel to the first Parable, where the reason of the man following the straying animal is Pharisaic fear and distrust, lest the Jewish wine which it carried should become mingled with that of the Gentiles. Perhaps, however, this is a more apt parallel, when the Midrash relates how, on Ex. iii. I when Moses fed the sheep of Jethro in the wilderness, and a kid had gone astray, he went after it, and found it drinking at a spring. As

VOL. II.

our A. V. is spurious).

See Note on p. 255 of this chapter. S

BOOK
IV

the middle

4

e Midr. on Cant. i. 1,

p. 3 a, about the middle

Ber. 34 b, about the middle

Is. lxiv. 4

he thought it might be weary, he laid it on his shoulder and brought it back, when God said that, because he had shown pity

on the sheep of a man, He would give him His own sheep, Israel, to Shem. R. 2, feed. As a parallel to the second Parable, this may be quoted as p. 70, about similar in form, though very different in spirit, when a Rabbi notes, on Prov. ii. that, if a man had lost a Sela (drachm) or any other valuable in his

house, he would light ever so many lights (nobene nga 117 nos postp) till he had found what provides for only one hour in this world. How much more, then, should he search, as for hidden treasures, for the words of the Law, on which depends the life of this and of

the world to come! And in regard to the high place which Christ ed. Warsh.. assigned to the repenting sinner, we may note that, according to the

leading Rabbis, the penitents would stand nearer to God than the 'perfectly righteous' (D'03 Dp'78), since, in Is. lvii. 19, peace was first bidden to those who had been afar off, and then only to those near.

This opinion was, however, not shared by all, and one Rabbi maintained,a that, while all the prophets had only prophesied with reference to penitents (this had been the sole object of their mission), yet, as regarded the perfectly righteous,''eye hath not seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared' for them. Lastly, it may, perhaps, be noted, that the expression there is joy before Him' () to events which take place on earth.

To complete this, it may be added that, besides illustrations, to which reference will be made in the sequel, Rabbinic tradition supplies a parallel to at least part of the third Parable, that of the Lost Son. It tells us that, while prayer may sometimes find the gate of access closed, it is never shut against repentance, and it introduces a Parable in which a king sends a tutor after his son, who, in his wickedness, had left the palace, with this message: 'Return, my son!' to which the latter replied: "With what face can I return? I am ashamed !' On which the father sends this message: 'My son, is there a son who is ashamed to return to his father and shalt thou not return to thy father? Thou shalt return.' So, continues the Midrash, had God sent Jeremiah after Israel in the hour of their sin with the call to return, and the comforting reminder that it was to their Father.8

In the Parable of the Lost Son,' the main interest centres in his references to restoration.

It is not now to the innate tendency of his nature, nor ed. Warsh; yet to the business and dust of the house that the loss is attribut

able, but to the personal, free choice of the individual. He does not

is not uncommon in Jewish writings with reference (היתה שמחה לפניו)

Jer. iii. 12 & Debar. R. 2, on Deut. iii, 25, which, in general, contains several

p 7b, about the middle

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SON.

259

СНАР.
XVII

stray; he does not fall aside-he wilfully departs, and under aggravated circumstances. It is the younger of two sons of a father, who is equally loving to both, and kind even to his hired servants, whose home, moreover, is one not only of sufficiency, but of superabundance and wealth. The demand which he makes for the 'portion of property falling' to him is founded on the Jewish Law of Inheritance. Presumably, the father had only these two sons. The eldest would receive two portions, the younger the third of all movable property. The father could not have disinherited the younger son, although, if there had been several younger sons, he might have divided the property falling to them as he wished, provided he expressed only his disposition, and did not add that such or such of the children were to have a less share or none at all. On the other hand, a man might, during his lifetime, dispose of all his property by gift, as he chose, to the disadvantage, or even the total loss, of the first-born, or of any other children; nay, he might give all to strangers. In such cases, as, indeed, in regard to all such dispositions, greater latitude was allowed if the donor was regarded as dangerously ill, than if he was in good health. In the latter case a legal formality of actual seizure required to be gone through. With reference to the two eventualities just mentioned—that of diminishing or taking away the portion of younger children, and the right of gift -the Talmud speaks of Testaments, which bear the name Diyathiki, as in the New Testament. These dispositions might be made either · Baha B. in writing or orally. But if the share of younger children was to be Moed K. iii. diminished or taken away, the disposition must be made by a person presumably near death (Shechibh mera). But no one in good health (Bari) could diminish (except by gift) the legal portion of a younger son. “

It thus appears that the younger son was, by law, fully entitled to his share of the possessions, although, of course, he had no right to claim it during the lifetime of his father. That he did so, might have been due to the feeling that, after all, he must make his own way in the world; to dislike of the order and discipline of his home; to estrangement from his elder brother; or, most likely, to a desire

3

| See ch. xvi. Note 1.

Heb. vii. 18, viii. 7-13, this Rabbinic ? But in regard to such disinheriting principle: 'A testament makes void a of children, even if they were bad, it was [previous] testament,' Jer. Baba B. 16 b, said, that the Spirit of Wisdom did not below. rest on them who made such disposition • The present Jewish Law of Inherit(Baba B. viii. 5).

ance is fully given in Fassel, Mos. Rabb. * It may be interesting here to quote, Civil-Recht, vol. i. pp. 274–412. in connection with the interpretation of

« ÎnapoiContinuați »