How many of you have ever lost your set of keys somewhere? How about a phone, or a wallet? I can’t stand it when I lose my keys. I put them down somewhere and when I go back to the place I thought I left them and they’re gone. It’s really annoying, but I have to find them or I’m pretty much stuck where I am. So what happens? We begin the search. Sometimes, it feels like the more we look for whatever it is we lost, the more it seems that we’re never going to find it. You ever feel that way? But then you finally find them and the relief is fantastic. We are victorious!
Quick side not, the saying, “It’s always in the last place you look,” really gets to me. Because, of course it’s going to be in the last place you look, why would anyone keep looking for something they already found?
We deal with the loss of a lot of things throughout our lives, friends, jobs, homes, money, children and the most common, our sanity. Usually that ones because of children, but losing things is something we all deal with. In fact God himself deals with the loss of things as well. He created everything, but because of humanity’s rebellious actions, he has lost that very creation.
When describing this lost, Jesus gives three parables that deal with losing something and the response of the one who lost it. Would you open your Bibles with me to Luke 15.
As we open our Bibles here’s a little background on what’s going on. Jesus is sitting with people who are not the best and classist people around. In fact, they are people who are despised by the religious teachers of his day. So Jesus gives them three parables to, in a sense, explain to them why he does what he does. Why he sits where he sits and why he associates with “these” people.
If you’ve ever taken a look at these parables, they’re usually studied in depth separately. Today I want us to look at them as a whole and to compare them in that way. As we look through these parables we’re going to make a little chart of sorts. We’ll be looking at the Seeker, the Lost, the Action Taken, How Did the Lost Get There and What does the Seeker do when they Find the Lost.
Let’s read all three of these parables starting in verse 3 of Luke chapter 15.
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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 tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Okay, so here we are at the end of our first parable, let’s go through our chart. First off who is the seeker? The shepherd. What’s lost? One of his sheep. Next what actions does he take? He leaves the 99 to find the 1. How did it get lost? Well, I’m guessing that it wandered off, because that’s what sheep do. Now do you think the sheep knows it’s lost? Probably not. Do you think the sheep ever realizes it’s lost? Maybe, but I’m guessing no. When the shepherd finally finds the sheep, what happens? He returns with the sheep and rejoices over it.
Alright, that was easy enough right? Let’s move onto the next parable in verses 8-10.
8“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Alright, back to our chart. So who’s the seeker? A woman. What’s lost? One of her coins. What action does she take? She lights a lamp and searches her house. How did it get lost? Maybe it rolled of the table or fell out of a purse. Do you think the coin knows it’s lost? Probably not. Do you think the coin ever realizes it’s lost? No way. So, when the woman finally finds the coin, what happens? She calls all her friends and celebrates. Two down, one to go.
Let’s read the last parable in verses 11-32
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
That’s the longest of the three and the most complex, but let’s finish off our chart. Who’s the seeker? The Father. This one’s tricky, what’s lost? If you said the younger son, you’re only half right. The older son is also lost, because even though he’s still at home, his heart is just as far away as his brother. What actions does the Father take? For the younger son, the Father waits and watches for his return. For the older son, the Father pleads for his heart to return. How did it get lost? The younger son let his desire for the world lead him away. The older brother let his pride lead him away. Do you think the sons know they’re lost? Probably not. Do you think they ever realize they’re lost? The younger son realizes it, but the story ends before the older son does. So, what is the outcome of these two lost sons? The younger one returns and is celebrated, while the older son remains in a state of lostness.
As we look back over these three parables, it’s obvious that Jesus was directing them to the religious teachers that were upset with him that he would eat with people they considered not worth it. The first two parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, were pretty standard teachings that everyone could agree to. If you lose something, you go after it, and when you find it, it needs to be celebrated.
But it’s the third parable that Jesus gets some divisive teachings in. For the Jews, a son, like the younger son, would be an outcast of his family forever. While the older son would be the one that got the praise. Yet Jesus turns that belief on its head and reveals that when the younger brother returns he’s the one that is celebrated, while the older one is left outside.
Now there’s a lot more to these three parables then what we’ve covered, but the thing that stands out to me the most is that at the end of the first two parables Jesus makes a statement. When a sinner returns to God there’s a lot of rejoicing in heaven. But at the end of the third parable, Jesus doesn’t say that. It’s just left open; as if to leave the people with the impact of the older sons decision, rather than focusing on the younger son.
As I look at these three parables, it seems to me that each of these lost things represents a different kind of lost person. The sheep represents the wanderer, that person who has heard about God, but goes and does their own thing. The coin represents that person that has no idea that they’re lost, and is need of someone to search frantically for them. The two sons to me represent those of us who are Christians and who are a part of God’s family. Some of us let the world’s desires take us away from God and we need to wake up to our lostness. While there are some of us that are like the older son, who are lost because of our own pride and who cannot accept what our Father is doing.
We all get lost sometimes, but as I read these three parables this week two questions popped up in my mind. If you’re not a Christian, that is a true follower of Jesus, that means you’re lost to God. So what is stopping you from allowing God to find you? Is it your desire to have life on your own terms? Or maybe you don’t understand that you are lost. You need to ask questions and start getting answers, but the first thing you need to do is turn to God and accept his searching.
But if you are a follower of God I have a question for you, there are at least 5 billion people in this world who are not Christians and who are lost. What is stopping you from getting involved with God’s search for them? Have you been actively talking to people about him, have you’ve been actively giving to send missionaries and supporting those that are going all over the world? If you are, great, if you’re not what’s stopping you?
My finally question for you today is, who are you? A sheep who has wandered a way from their Shepherd? A coin that doesn’t know it’s lost in the darkness? A son that has left his home, or a son who has taken his heart away? Or are you a searcher who is actively looking for the lost? God’s the searcher, and if we are not searching with him, then we’re most likely being sought because we are lost.