“For the son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” -Luke 19:10
“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds 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 15:1-7
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds 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 15:8-10
The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son go together as a set. The unique thing, in reading these parables is that the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin are very similar in presentation. As you can see above, the wording “or suppose” and “in the same way” tells us that these first two parables are making the same point or have the same message.
In these messages we are told that Jesus is speaking to the tax collectors, “sinners,” the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. With careful examination it is remarkable how he is using both of these parables to speak two messages to both groups simultaneously with the same stories.
In both parables “you” (or Jesus the Shepherd) and “a woman” do the seeking. They are playing the active roles in the parables in seeking the lost. Both messages emphasizes the importance of individual lives, that even one lost soul or person would be cause enough to go to great measures to find them! Both messages focus on the love for the lost one and what great joy and rejoicing it brings when they repent and are found, that even all of heaven and the angels are in great celebration! This was to relay the love and importance Jesus felt for the tax collectors and “sinners” that were in the crowd.
These messages are also meant to expose the misplaced compassion of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They held an elevation of materialistic and worldly things. They would have placed great value in livestock and money. These stories would have been relatable to them, as they would have felt a great urge to search for a sheep or coin that they were missing. They would have also placed a great importance on heaven and things that caused the angels to rejoice. They questioned Jesus and his actions, but would put greater respect and weight on the actions of heaven and actions of the presence of the angels of God.
The parable of the lost son, however is the focal point of all three. In this parable, we have a man (Father), his two sons (younger and older), and the servants. As the familiar story goes, the younger son asks his father for his share of the estate early. The father grants him his request. Interestingly enough, this could be depicted as the father giving his son’s free will. The younger son squandered his wealth in wild living and after a famine came in the country, found himself feeding pigs and wanting to eat the pods that the pigs were eating. He then, “came to his senses” realized he had sinned against heaven and against his father and he could go back and be one of his father’s hired me. In this story, the younger son, came seeking the father and the father was already waiting for him. The focus of the father was not the sin, but the repentance and return of his son! His son was dead, but now alive! Was lost, but now was found! The father had a great celebration, killed the fattened calf, adorned the younger son with a robe, ring and sandals and had a big feast for the return of his lost son!
The older son, however became angry and refused to join the celebration. The father went seeking the older son. He went out and pleaded with him! The son was angry and said to this father that he had, “been slaving for him all these years, never disobeyed his orders but was never given even a young goat to celebrate with his friends!” The father replied to the older son, “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours! But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!”
The father seeks out the older son! Do you see it? He went out and pleaded with him and assured him that he was ALWAYS WITH HIM AND EVERYTHING HE HAS BELONGS TO HIM! The younger son in this story came in repentance seeking the father and the father came seeking the older son. The father showed love and compassion to both sons! The foot note in my NIV bible shows Malachi 3:17. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.” The older son is comparative of jealous child who is trying to earn his fathers approval and attention. He expected rewards based on his works. He did not serve his father in joy, in fact, neither son found joy in staying with the father and serving him. The older son even wanted to celebrate with his friends. In his bitterness, his heart revealed that he “slaved and obeyed” his father to obtain his favor. Not out of love and joy of the father. The younger went seeking the world to find his joy and fulfillment. Outside circumstances affected their loyalty. Both were slaves. Seeking approval in different ways. Neither solely seeking the heart of the father at first.
The lost son parable is the focal point, because it shows the turning of the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers (Mal 4:6)! This parable is not focusing on condemnation, but of love and compassion and joyous celebration of the turning of a repentant heart! From being lost, to being found!
If that isn’t profound enough, the three parables are also representations of the trinity as well! The lost sheep (you/Shepherd is Jesus), the lost coin (a woman is the a representation of the Holy Spirit), and the lost son (the man/father is God the Father!
Jesus as the Shepherd and God as the Father is not a hard conclusion for us to deduce. Lets dig a little deeper into the “woman” and the lost coin. She shares some characteristics of the Holy Spirit. “Lighting a lamp” and “sweeping the house.” These are very similar to the workings of the Spirit in our “spiritual houses.” The oil of the lamp is also a representation of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Here is the most interesting part of all….It is an ancient Jewish wedding custom for a bride to receive and wear a dowry or ketubah of ten coins (drachmas) awaiting the return of her soon to be husband from building their home. The coins are woven into a headband of ten piece garland that the woman wears to signify she is spoken for. It is a Jewish version of an engagement/wedding ring. A lost coin would be grounds for divorce/end of engagement due to her husband suspecting her of wrong use of them. It brings the parable to life because it makes so much sense as to why the woman would search so diligently until she finds the missing coin! It also equates the woman as a bride and how the Holy Spirit comes into the hearts of believers (His Church). It shines light in the darkness. It sweeps the house and puts it in order. It is seeking the lost coins and bringing them back into the set of ten, lovingly awaiting the arrival of the groom!
May we remember this Christmas season, the reason that you came. You sent your one and only son to seek and save the lost, full of love and compassion! You diligently continue to turn your heart towards us. Help us to listen to your Spirit and continue to turn our hearts toward you and away from the things of this world. You are waiting for us when we have gone astray and you love us unconditionally. Everything that you have, you have already given to us! Help us to keep our eyes on you and our hearts turned to you and your kingdom agenda! Thank you for the incredible gift of eternal life and the presence and joy of you! We love you! Amen!