When we take a look at the 15th chapter of the gospel of Luke, we see three familiar parables, the last of which is one of the most well-known and beautiful stories in all of ancient literature. But if we slow down and take a long, hard look at Luke 15 we can see so much more than three familiar stories – we can see Jesus revealing the incredible, beautiful, loving heart of God.
There are some common threads running through each of these parables, and I’d like to mention three of them. The first is perhaps the most obvious, and that’s that in each story something is lost. There’s a lost sheep, then a lost coin, then a lost son. Three things of tremendous value, and all three lost, to a shepherd, a woman, and a father.
We can tell that these things are valuable because when they are lost, in two out of three parables, an all-out search is launched to find them. The shepherd leaves ninety-nine other sheep in the wilderness to search for the one lost sheep, and the woman turns her house upside down in order to find her lost coin. While the father of the prodigal son doesn’t search for him, he does seem to keep his eyes focused down the road while working in hope that his son will return.
Perhaps the most exciting of the three common threads in each case is when that which was lost was found, a tremendous celebration occurred. When the shepherd finds his sheep, he invites his friends to rejoice with him. When the woman finds her coin, she invites her friends to rejoice with her. And in each of these two cases Jesus adds additional commentary that the angels of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents!
Of course within the story of the prodigal son Jesus tells of the father throwing a tremendous celebration when his son returns, finishing with the amazing line to his older, ‘obedient’ son, “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.” (vv. 31-32)
What is the lesson, here? Well, it’s clear that what Jesus is showing us is that God is madly in love with lost people. Don’t miss that – He deeply, passionately loves lost people. When people are lost, He cares very much that they are found. When they are found, the joy in heaven is tremendous! A lost sinner is found, and the angels of heaven throw a party!
Remember, you and I were once lost. We were separated from God because of our wickedness, our rebellion, our sin. But because of his awesome, incredible love, He ‘searched’ for us, rescued us, and the angels partied!
Given that incredible love of God toward unrepentant sinners, we need to remember that incredible love for us does not stop when we do bend our knees in repentance and enter into God’s family through our belief in Christ. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God’s love for people changing or weakening after they become followers of Jesus. On the contrary, over and over in Scripture we see mention of God’s amazing, faithful love for His children.
So, I believe this leaves us with two questions. First, are we participating with God in reaching out to lost people with the Gospel? Jesus is telling us here in Luke 15 that reaching lost people is incredibly important to God. Therefore, it should be incredibly important to us.
Second, do we believe, I mean really believe, that God loves each of us deeply, faithfully, powerfully? Do you really believe that? If you struggle with believing that, let me encourage you to reach out to some friends or to a staff member at the church to help you process what might be in the way of you believing this beautiful truth.
The truth is God loves you and me, and he loves the lost people around us. Let’s believe these truths and act on them.
Randy Jones is an Assistant Pastor and serves in two primary areas: overseeing the administrative departments of Cornerstone as well as helping shepherd the young families in the church. Randy arrived at Cornerstone in May of 2012 with over 20 years of experience in church and para-church ministries.