In yesterday’s devotional I confessed to the entire online world that I’ve had a lifelong habit of losing things, even some important things. So, in the spirit of our “Long Story Short” summer series about stories that Jesus told, let me tell one of my own as a set-up to understanding the first two of the three parables in Luke 15.
Now that I have a nice, new, shiny red bicycle that has become my best friend this summer, imagine that I sold my previous set of 10-year-old wheels for $250. I put it on Craig’s list, met the person who wanted to buy it, insisted upon cash from the stranger, and then put the two hundred-dollar bills and the one fifty in my pants pocket … at least, that’s what I thought I did. But that evening at home, I went to get the money out of the pocket, but it wasn’t there. Where could it be? Did I lose it when I got a frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog? Or was it with the box of chocolates at the Russell Stover’s outlet? Maybe I dropped it when pulling the keys out of my pocket. Possibly it fell out at Dairy Queen or the Downsville General Store?
Taking a flashlight out and looking through the car and under the seats did not reveal it – thinking that maybe it fell out when I got stopped yet again by the Sheriff’s Department for not wearing my seatbelt. There is always a possibility in that scenario that I can’t find my driver’s license, registration or insurance card.
Finally, when throwing my clothes in the hamper at night, I feel something in my shirt pocket; and sure enough, there are the three bills. I’m so, so happy that I found the money that I decide right then and there that I’m going to have a party to celebrate with all my friends and neighbors. I will invite the folks from the neighborhood, all five of my sons and their attachments, the church family, my coaching and sports pals, my political buddies, as well as all my history geek friends from Antietam. So in the morning I call Leiter’s Fine Catering (because I’m a good Williamsporter and that’s who you call) and make the arrangements.
Does this make sense to you? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper if I had just never found the money and never had a party that would cost me multiple times more than the money I lost? This serves as a background to help you read these first two parables …
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
15:1 – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Think about it – the sheep guy is irresponsible, and the woman is a financial ditz. Who would risk 99% of his wealth to find the lost 1%, and who would spend more on a party than what was saved by finding the lost coin (a sum of money that was equal to about a day’s wage)? The celebration is all out of proportion over the size of the recovered items. But the point of the stories is not to focus on the relief about what was found, but rather on the joy of that which was lost being found.
The parables emphasize the magnitude of God’s love and the joy of the product of salvation – a restored relationship and new reconciliation of a sinner and God. This never gets “old” with God, and that is an amazing thought to ponder. The Apostle John did just that when he penned these particularly beautiful words in 1 John 3 …
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Speaking of pondering, here are some questions for you (and remember that there is a discussion group meeting most Sundays at 11:00 for these and other questions) … Does this passage touch you deeply when you consider the scope of God’s love? How does this extensive love of God for lost sinners affect the way we view those around us in our world who do not have a relationship with Christ?