At first glance, Luke 15 appears to contain three separate parables. However, as we dig deeper into this glorious passage of Scripture, we see that these three parables are deeply intertwined and interconnected theologically. One could view them as three different sides of the same polygon. The traditional naming of these parables is 1) The Lost Sheep, 2) The Lost Coin, and 3) The Lost Son.
1. The Lost Sheep
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.Luke 15:1 (New Living Translation)
I love the use of the word “notorious” in verse 1. Even back then, tax collectors got a bad rap.
This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? So Jesus told them this story: And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!Luke 15:2-7 (NLT)
By no means was Jesus suggesting that the religious leaders did not need repentance. We ALL are in need of repentance and forgiveness of sins—-especially those who—-like the religious leaders during biblical times—are unaware of their need for redemption.
In our current culture we appear unwilling to hold believers accountable for what they profess to believe while judging unbelievers for acting according to their unbelief.
Or worse—we look at the small sticks in everyone else’s eye while ignoring the big wood planks in our eyes. We may tend to forget that each of us is in as much need of Jesus as the other. This was also the case with those who consider led themselves above reproach during Jesus time ministering in the flesh among us here on Earth.
This proved to be true for the religious experts in this parable. They couldn’t believe that Jesus was associating with such wretched people.
But Jesus is in the rescue business. And each one of us is important to Him. He pursues us in hopes of bringing us into the fold through our repentance. Because of Jesus, we know longer need to continue wandering aimlessly without purpose and chained by our sin. In Christ, we discover freedom. When we recognize we need rescuing from our sinful nature, God rejoices.
God isn’t waiting to condemn us. He is waiting to receive us.
2. The Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’Luke 15:8-10 (NLT)
In the second piece of this Jesus trilogy, the coin is lost. Being without life, it doesn’t know it’s lost. Unlike us, the coin has no conscious awareness of being lost.
Before I came to Christ, I knew something was missing. I didn’t know what I was looking for or what the hole deep in my soul needed. I just felt the discomfort and anxiety associated with being separated from God. Perhaps, you can relate. Maybe, you felt the same way.
The coin wasn’t lost because of anything it did. It was lost because it was mishandled or dropped unconsciously. That reminds me of the street people I see at our ministry every day. Many of them were mishandled or simply dropped without thought or consideration. Now, they exist unseen, deemed less than, or worth less. God doesn’t see us that way. He sees each of us as highly valuable and worth everything.
When those who are willfully or unconsciously lost are found all of heaven rejoices as if lost treasure has been returned.
God treasures you. He wants you to be found.
3. The Lost Son
The final portrait in this three-piece illustration is probably one of the most familiar in all of Scripture. It is commonly known as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.”
We can relate to it because all of us who have rejected God’s love and wasted our God-given time, treasure, and talent on selfish living (living for sin is selfishness) can relate to the story of the younger son who squanders his father’s fortune. This is true whether we are a man or a woman.
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on.
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”Luke 15:11-32 (NLT)
The father was elated to see his son return. He didn’t stand at the door wagging his finger in scorn. No—-he didn’t do that at all. Rather, the father RAN toward the son with open arms ready to embrace and receive him!
And so it is with our Heavenly Father…
He is waiting to celebrate with great rejoicing when we return home to Him, our Creator.
In contrast to their father, the older son received the news of his brothers return with condemnation and resentment. The older son was outraged and rapidly grew bitter.
Unfortunately, like the religious leaders at the beginning of this beautiful series of illustrations, there are those who believe they are deserving of the blessings God has provided—if they attribute their success to God at all. Soul-winning is something they see as useless because they see others as less than. Their pride blinds them to their need of salvation. They feel no need to be found, thus remain lost.
God is in the healing and restoration business. He repairs what’s broken and makes it more beautiful than it was at the start. He finds what it is lost and brings it back home. He pursues us, embracing us, and celebrating our return to right relationship with Him.
Don’t remain lost. Be found.
I pray that God shines His favor on you, my friend.
The Devotional Guy™