“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? 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.” – Luke 15:3-6.
There was a song written by Joni Mitchell called Big Yellow Taxi which included the lyrics: “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got. Till it’s gone.” It seems that when we lose something the value is intensified. When we lose something, we seem to value it more.
I don’t know what you are like when you lose something. But my guess is that if you lost something of great value, then you would want to find it again. Perhaps a favorite piece of jewelry, or a precious family heirloom, or a child. If you have lost a child, even for a few seconds, you know the anxiety and panic that grips you.
In the three parables of Jesus in Luke 15, something of great value was lost. A sheep, a coin, a son. The sheep was valuable to the owner. It represented economic value, it was part of the owners livelihood, essential for his income and provision. So finding that one sheep was a risk worth taking. The coin was valuable to the woman. One silver coin may seem to us a modest sum, but who knows what her net worth was. That coin may have represented a tenth of her estate. The son was valuable to his father. I don’t think we need to say anything more about how precious children are to their parents.
We do not have to look to deeply into this passage to see what Jesus is getting at here. Something of great value was lost. Every person is precious in God’s sight, they are of value to him, they matter to Him. And because they matter to Him, they matter to us.
Do you remember the criminals on the cross: “Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke 23:32-33) One criminal mocked Jesus: ”…So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” (Luke 23:39) But the other asked to be remembered: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Jesus assured him that he was valuable and that they would meet up later in paradise. Lost people, even bad people matter to God. I guess the question to ask is just how much do they matter to us.
- Why were “sinners” attracted to Jesus? Why did the Pharisees object to Jesus associating with sinners? How do see this happening in our world today? In other words, what are some people groups and places that Christians might be criticized for being with or going to?
- How do these parables surprise our notions about God? How do these parables surprise our notions about lost people? How do these parables surprise our notions about ourselves?
- How do we attract “sinners” in the right way?