Author: Ron Graham
The parables of The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son portray God as concerned about the lost, and willing and anxious that they be returned to Him.
The three parables about the lost being found illustrate the kindness and mercy of God. When those who are lost are found, there is much rejoicing in all the household of God (Luke 15:4-32).
Luke 15:4-7, parable of the lost sheep There are three main points in this parable, two of which are more or less expected, but another which at first seems rather curious.
¶“4 What man here, having a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, would not leave the 99 in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when finds it, he lays it on his shoulders, delighted. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I say to you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7).
First there is God's loving concern about every individual lost person, and his effort to bring the lost one back to him, even though the lost be only one percent of the fold. The Shepherd in this parable is acting as any self-respecting shepherd or sheep owner would and should. He is going out to seek the lost "until he finds it". He spares no effort. This is exactly what the Son of God did. He came to this world to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10, John 10:11-16).
Second there is the rejoicing in all of Heaven over the lost who was found, the one sinner who repents and comes back to God. Maybe, in real life, not quite so much fuss would be made of one sheep being found, but the parable is dramatising an ideal shepherd's love for his sheep and his total committment to them.
The third element is the curious one in this parable. The shepherd or sheep owner seems to somewhat neglect the good sheep who have not strayed. They are left in the wilderness while the shepherd seeks the lost. And again, when the lost sheep is found, a great song and dance is made of that sheep's homecoming; yet little notice seems to be taken of the righteous and faithful sheep. In the parable of the lost son, the second son complains about the song and dance made at the homecoming of the son who went astray. When the church is “neglected” because evangelistic effort is getting the focus and priority, the church should not complain.
Luke 15:8-10, parable of the lost coin The previous parable about the lost sheep was one that a man could appreciate. This parable about the lost coin is one that a woman could appreciate.
¶“8Or what woman, having ten valuable coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the valuable coin that I had lost.' 10Likewise, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10).
The coins were drachmas. A drachma was normal pay for a day’s labour.
This parable also emphasises the value of each soul to God. One sheep out of a hundred might not seem such a great loss. But here it is one coin in ten, and a valuable coin at that, representing the wages of a full and hard day's work to the woman.
The picture of the woman lighting a lamp and searching the house, is again a picture of evangelism. The light is the Son of God who came into the world, and the word of the gospel with which he enlightens every man (John 1:4-9). Evangelism without this light is no evangelism at all. There is no other "power of God unto salvation" than this true gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).
¶“11And he said, There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property falling to me.' So the father divided his property between the two sons. 13A few days later, the younger son packed everything and took a journey into a distant country. There he wasted his property in prodigal living. ” (Luke 15:11-13).
Luke 15:11-13 This parable is usually called the parable of the prodigal son. Prodigal means wasteful. The son "squandered his estate". This is not the main thrust of the parable however. In this lesson we will call it the parable of the lost son, because it is essentially a parable about a son who became lost and was found.
¶“14After he had spent everything, a severe famine arose throughout that country, such that he came to be in need. 15So he went and became the servant of a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And the son was longing to fill his belly with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:14-16).
Luke 15:14-16 How lost the lost son was, and how helpless! He had lost his estate. He had no friends to help. The prostitutes he has squandered his money on were no longer interested in him. The one he was serving did not care. The pigs were no help. He was in a hopeless state.
¶“17But when he came to himself, he said to himself, 'How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will tell my father that I have sinned against heaven and before him, 19and am no longer worthy to be called his son. I will ask him to treat me as one of his hired servants.'” (Luke 15:17-19).
Luke 15:17-19 The lost son had only one hope —and how he underestimated it! He remembered what life had been like in the home he had despised and left. He remembered how good it had been even for the lowliest servants of the household, let alone the sons. He decided he would go home to his Father and plead humbly to be allowed back into the household. The lost son did not dare to think, however, that he could be made a son again. He did hope that his father might grant him a place as one of the servants.
¶“20And he arose and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and hugged him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' ” (Luke 15:20-21).
Luke 15:20-21 The son carried through with his repentance and went back to his father. The returned son humbled himself. He declared to his Father, "I am no longer worthy to be called your son".
¶“22But the father said to his servants, 'Hurry and bring the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found.' And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:22-24).
Luke 15:22-24 Note the loving kindness of the father far beyond the son's expectation. This of course represents the love of God. The father lavishly celebrated his son's homecoming and repentance. There was much rejoicing. There was no talk of the son being made a servant. He was reinstated and as a son, and honoured with robe and ring.
¶“25Now his older son had been out in the field. As he came back and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27The servant replied, 'Your brother has turned up, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and well.' 28But the elder son was angry and refused to go inside. His father came out and begged him, 29but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and never a command of yours did I disobey. Yet you never gave me a young goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours turned up, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' ” (Luke 15:25-30).
Luke 15:25-30 There is a sequel to the story. The good son who never strayed became angry at his father's treatment of the prodigal son. This sequel is intended as a lesson to the scribes and Pharisees (see Luke 15:1-2) who thought themselves righteous, and in many ways were. However they looked down upon "sinners" and did not think God would grant them repentance and forgive them.
¶“31And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found.'” (Luke 15:31-32).
Luke 15:31-32 The father had the last say. Part of being righteous and faithful is humility and patience. We know God will reward our righteousness far beyond what it is worth. We are content to wait for that future day when God will give us our inheritance. He says, "All that is mine is yours". The father points out that "to be merry and rejoice" is the only proper response to the lost sinner's repentence and return to the Father. When the dead are made alive again, and the lost are found, what else can we do but feast and sing and dance for joy?
1. Name what was lost in each of the three parables in Luke 15
2. What happened when the lost was found?
3. Were those not lost neglected?
4. What did the other son call the lost son?
5. Which theme is illustrated by the three parables in this lesson?