“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 15:6-7.
Ever since socks were invented, we have experienced the mystery of what happens to the missing socks. You are getting ready for the day, but when you try to find a pair of socks, you discover that the ones you have don’t match. Over the years many of your socks have found themselves in the Bermuda Triangle of socks and you are left with a sad pile of lonely, orphaned socks in a variety of colors, lengths, and stages of life. You feel a moment of regret that you did not spend some time locating them, especially the more valuable ones. But now it is too late.
That’s what Luke 15 is all about. We see the context in the first two verses: “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!” In other words, Jesus got into trouble with the Pharisees because He hung around sinful people. And it was in response to that accusation that Jesus told these three stories: the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin, and the story of the lost son. Jesus was using these three stories to illustrate why He hung with sinners. Jesus gave the reason in Mark 2:17: “…Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Clearly, Jesus didn’t view his hanging out with sinners as fun or just hanging out. We don’t go to the doctor to hang out, do we? Of course not. We go to the doctor to get healed. We go with purpose and intent. And doctors don’t go to work to hang out. They go to heal the sick. He sought them out, met them where they were, and extended grace to them in their circumstances because He wanted them to be saved.
Jesus saw the individual, not the label. And each one was important to Him. The way God values people is seen in all three of these stories. In the first story, the story of the lost sheep, we are likened to a sheep that a shepherd has lost. In the second story, the story of the lost coin, we are likened to a coin that a poor widow has lost. In the third story, the story of the lost son, we are likened to a son whom a father has lost. If you are a father, you know how important your children are. Their preciousness is far beyond value. You can only imagine how painful it would be to lose one of them. Some of you may know that pain from experience. God is saying that you are as precious to Him as a child is to its father.
In Luke 15 we are introduced to a God who is a Father. As a Father He loves everyone. But the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son make it clear that when you are away from Him when you are lost, He wants you to be found.
- What do the three lost parables mean to you?
- Take a moment of silence and think of the people in your life that might be far from God, and make a shortlist. Commit to pray for them, commit to include them in your life in a welcoming way, and commit to inviting them to church where they can hear the good news of God’s love for them and the adventure awaiting them if they choose to follow Christ.