Read Luke 15 here or click on the icon below to listen to it.
The Pharisees and scribes -- doing everything they can to avoid the unclean, sick, sinners -- are up to their usual grumbling about Jesus spending time with just these people. Time for another parable, boys…
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
My first thought? ME! That’s who! Why would you leave 99 all alone in the open field to search for the one who stubbornly wandered off? It’s a numbers game. Stick with the 99, right?
But Jesus continues, “REJOICE with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. 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.”
Similarly, Jesus tells of a woman that REJOICED after finding her one lost coin.
Sheep. Coins. Blank stares. “Still not with me?” Jesus may be thinking. Ok, let’s bring it a bit closer to home. He continues with another parable…
A man’s younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, leaves home, and ultimately squanders it all on sinful living, finding himself starving in a pigpen. He hits rock bottom. He knows he has traded what was best for what only brought sorrow and suffering. The enticing world let him down, and he knows it is all his doing. He longs to go home to his father.
As he begins the long, shameful walk back home, he rehearses his speech in his head. “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.” Over and over he practices what he will say. He knows it is a long shot. He has brought disgrace upon his family and he imagines his father’s anger when he learns how badly he screwed up his life and wasted all his father had given him.
But instead, His father is waiting. In fact, he has been watching and waiting for this day for a long time. His father recognizes him from afar and runs to him. He wraps him in the best robe, places a family ring on his finger and shoes on his weary feet. The best calf is prepared for a feast. His son was dead and is now alive; he was lost and now is found. Pure joy…time for a party!
THIS is who God is. He pursues us. He searches for us. He wants us to come back to Him when we have wandered. And when we do, He doesn’t scold us and condemn us for our wandering lost selves, He rejoices! THIS is God’s grace. He loves us when we are most unlovable. He waits for us to come home. When we deserve punishment and a lowly position at best, He lavishes His love and riches on us. He celebrates. He makes sure everyone knows WE. ARE. HIS.
Once we know we are utterly lost without Him, we have everything we need.
The lost son is home, but unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the story. Back home, the older son is the one seething with anger, refusing to go to the celebration for his brother. After all, he stayed home, worked, obeyed, did all the things he was “supposed” to do. He is livid that his wayward brother is getting a party.
We don’t know the joy of being found unless we first know we are lost. The older brother didn’t know how spiritually sick he was. The religious leaders surrounding Jesus thought they were quite healthy as well.
This is a recurring theme from Jesus. He says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Are the Pharisees righteous because they practically live at the synagogue? Is the older brother righteous because he stayed home and worked for his dad? They certainly think so.
If we think we can earn righteousness, Jesus isn’t for us. Jesus can only save a sinner who knows he is a sinner. This is a big deal.
The older brother at home was just as far from God all along. Staying out of trouble and going through religious motions don’t necessarily draw one to God. Instead, he grew more bitter and further from God as he relied on his own works.
We can’t be saved if we don’t recognize we need saving. Often it is those of us who grow up in a Christian home that has the hardest time seeing it. We have a tendency to be the older brother at home going through the motions, but never realizing the riches and love of our Father.
Do you know you are a sinner in need of a Savior? If we don’t know we need Him, we won’t earnestly seek Him. And if you feel lost or burdened for someone who is lost, keep praying. Know that God loves you; loves them. God is still pursuing. And God stands waiting to rejoice and celebrate in the reunion.
Do you feel lost? Is someone you love lost? How can you find peace and assurance in God’s pursuit?
Have you ever experienced grace in your life like the lost son in the story? If so, how did it change you?
Have you truly recognized your need for a Savior? Ask God to open your eyes to how lost you are without Him.