Read Luke 15.
Jesus is teaching in the temple, answering the Pharisees’ indignation at Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. He explains His mission is of finding and restoring those who belonged to Him but have become lost.
So he told them this parable: “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? Luke 15:3-4 (ESV)
“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? 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.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10 (ESV)
Jesus begins with the Parable of the Lost Sheep- leaving the ninety nine sheep to find the one who was lost. The Parable of the Lost Coin stays with the theme of finding lost things, but puts it in a perspective that most people could identify with. Who hasn’t lost a precious object and then been thrilled and relieved when the object was found.
Then Jesus moves into the Parable of the Prodigal Son. A younger son demands his inheritance and leaves home to engage in good times and to squander his father’s fortune.
The son had gotten to the point where there was a famine in the far away land and he was reduced to feeding pigs.
“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! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 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. 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.’ 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. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:17:24 (ESV)
The father was ecstatic that his son had returned to him. No matter what he had done, no matter that he had spent the inheritance. Yet the father’s older son was not nearly as thrilled at his brother’s return.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 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.’But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 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. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25:32 (ESV)
The older brother was not nearly as happy at the younger brother’s return. After all, the older was faithful to his father, while the younger was not. The older brother resented the attention that the father paid to the younger one who was not faithful to his father.
It’s easy for us to say, “well I didn’t do that,” and fail to see all the ways that we too have been lost and found. Both the younger and the older brother were reliant upon the love and generosity of the father.
No matter if we have believed and trusted Jesus from our earliest days or if we have recently been brought to faith, we have all been found and redeemed not by our own faithfulness or righteousness, but by Jesus. We have all been lost, and He is the One Who finds and redeems the lost.
Do we truly celebrate new people being brought the the Good News of Jesus no matter their background, the litany of sins in their past, or their need?
Father, forgive us and welcome us when we are the lost sheep. Forgive and comfort us and bring us back to Your table when we take on the role of the younger brother and stray from being faithful to You. Keep us from becoming arrogant and haughty like the older brother when we fail to realize that it is only by your grace that we can remain faithful to you, and even then we sin and fail You every day.