The Lost and Found
If you were to ask people to name Jesus’ most memorable parable, most people would put the parable of the prodigal son at the top of the list. This section of Scripture actually has three stories, and they’re all about something that was lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. Luke starts us off by painting this picture: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:1–2).
The outcasts of society felt completely at home around Jesus, and that made the religious leaders furious!
In response to their contempt, Jesus told the three “lost” stories. In the first, a sheep was lost, and the shepherd left the ninety-nine others to look for it.
And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. —Luke 15:5–7
Then He told them about a woman who had ten silver coins. When she lost one, she lit a lamp in the house, swept the dirt floor to look in every corner, and scoured the room until she found it.
And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. —Luke 15:9–10
The third story is longer and more complicated. In this parable a father has two sons. The younger brother has lived in the love and prosperity of the family, but in his selfishness, he asks his dad for his share of the inheritance so he can leave home and live as he pleases.
The boy left home and wasted his wealth on wine, women, and song. When he was dead broke, a famine devastated the land. In his poverty and hunger, the only job he could find was feeding a farmer’s pigs. Finally, “when he came to his senses” (v. 17), the boy started the long trek home. Since the most he could hope for was to become a hired hand on his father’s estate, he practiced his apology on the way. As the boy approached home, his dad saw him from a distance and hiked up his robes so he could run to his son. When his father got to him, the old man hugged him and kissed him. When the boy started into his confession, his dad interrupted him.
But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate. —Luke 15:22–24
Jesus was criticized for loving too much. What would our world be like today if people criticized us for that “flaw” instead of our being angry, judgmental, and indifferent to other people’s problems?