"...There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10)
The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, were complaining that Jesus associated with sinners. So, Jesus told three parables about a lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons.
A man had one hundred sheep. One of them went astray, so he left the 99 and goes after the one that is lost. When he found it, he laid it on his shoulders, and came home rejoicing because the lost sheep had been found. He called together his friends and neighbours and asks them to rejoice with him.
Jesus tells the second parable about the woman who had 10 silver coins and lost one. She lit a lamp, swept the house and looked until she found the coin. This coin was most likely one of the drachma coins, when is often worn in a ten-piece head garland by married women. So it would be comparable to a lady losing her wedding ring. As in the lost sheep story, when the coin was found, the friends and neighbours were called to rejoice together. And Jesus says, "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10)
Jesus tells the parable about a man with two sons. The younger son asked his father for his half of the inheritance. Even though this was usually done at the death of the father, this son wanted his share now. And, legally, the father had no choice but to give it to him. So, he divided his property between his two sons. The older son kept on working for his father, but the younger son left home and traveled to a country a long way off. Verse 13 says he "wasted his possessions with prodigal [or wasteful] living."
When all of his money ran out, and there was a severe famine (or drought) in that country, the young man was so desperate that he went to work for a man feeding pigs. This to a Jew would be especially horrible, as they looked upon pigs as very unclean animals and had nothing to do with them. He was even so desperately hungry he wanted to eat the pig's food, but no one would give him any to eat.
Finally, the young man came to his senses and began to think about his father and the life back home.
Verse 17 says "...when he came to himself," He finally woke up to the fact that here he was dying with hunger, and back home his father's hired servants had plenty of food to eat.
He decided "I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son." He decided to ask the father's forgiveness.
He recognized his sins and realized that he was no longer worthy of his father's love and care. But, he decided to ask his father to "'Make me' like one of your hired servants." (verse 19)
Then he got up and went home. His father saw him while he was still a long way off. (Obviously, even though the father had let him go and hadn't gone chasing after him, he still was hoping and looking for his return).
The father ran to him as he saw him coming and kissed his son and welcomed him home. (The word "kissed him" means literally "kissed him again and again...") The son started his confession "I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son." But, the father said to his servants to bring out the best robe (reserved for birthdays and special occasions), and put it on his son. Put a ring on his finger (a symbol of honor and dignity) and sandals on his feet (a symbol of restored liberty). Captives had their shoes removed, and when given freedom, their shoes were restored to them. Then the servants were ordered to kill the fatted calf and have a feast in celebration.
While all the celebration was going on, the older brother came near to the house. He asked the servants the meaning of the music and celebration. A servant told him that his brother had come home. The older brother was angry and would not go in. The father came out and pleaded with him to join them. The older son said, "these many years I have been serving you: I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as 'this son of yours' came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him." The father replied "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for 'your brother' was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found."
The sheep was lost by wandering. (One nibble of grass at a time). We can be lost by letting little things sidetrack us in our lives. Little by little we get slack on praying every day, or reading God's Word, attending church and Bible study, or by the friendships we keep, or by what we read or listen to or watch, or by other ways of not living the way a Christian should live, or not speaking up for the Lord. Little by little, we can drift away from God.
The Coin was lost by carelessness Just like we might know we are lost, but we keep running in the opposite direction. Sheep are like that. They may bleat after the other sheep while at the same time they are running in the opposite direction! A coin lost for a long time has its face marred our face can become hardened and marred by sin. It is harder and harder to come back to the Lord when we keep putting it off.
The Younger Son was lost by willful disobedience. He left his father, thinking he would have a great time out on his own and not under the father's roof. He soon found that when his money was gone, so were his friends. He realised that even the servants under his father's care were better off than he was.
The Older Son was lost through un-forgiveness. Even though he was not short-changed in the property split up, the older son resented the younger son. The father reminded him that everything the father had was now the older son's. But, the older son referred to the younger son as "this son of yours." And later the father says "your brother." Un-forgiveness can keep us from our Heavenly Father.
In these parables, the sheep was found, the coin was found, and the younger son was found. But, we do not know if the older son ever forgave and came in to rejoice together with his brother.
Jesus told these parables in answer to the Pharisees and scribes who wanted to know why Jesus kept company with sinners.
Jesus showed them by these stories that He loves all who are lost, for whatever reason they are lost. He is ready and willing to forgive. But, He will not force Himself into our lives. He wants us to be like the younger son and say "wake me," "take me," and "make me."
He does not want us to be like the older son, thinking that because we haven't done any big sins that we are quite as bad as someone else. Un-forgiveness to others is just as much a sin and rebellion against God as the wasteful life of the younger son.
Are you like the sheep or coin, lost because of wandering or carelessness? Or are you willfully disobedient like the younger son? Don't let un-forgiveness keep you from the Heavenly Father, as the older son did. God is ready and willing to forgive.
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life