Luke begins Chapter 16 by introducing who has gathered to hear Jesus: tax collectors (remember Zacchaeus and Levi?) , sinners, and Pharisees (if you’re not sure who the Pharisees are, or their role in the Passion, click here). Jesus is speaking to everyone, from the sinners at the bottom of the social hierarchy to the Pharisees, teachers of the law, at the top of the social hierarchy, and everyone in between. The words of Jesus are intended for everyone and we see that in the roll call of who was present in Luke 16.
Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
The Pharisees muttered “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees scoffed under their breath, they mocked, criticized, ridiculed, talked behind His back, and plotted His demise. Jesus answers with the parable of the lost sheep and that when the one of us finds Him “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7). The lost have been found!
Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15: 8-10)
Jesus uses a different analogy to explain the jubilation that happens when sinners repent. In this parable He used a coin instead of sheep- maybe the tax collectors related better to the explanation because it involved money. In the parable a woman has 10 coins and loses 1, the relief and joy she experiences when she finds the lost coin is how our Lord feels when we repent: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). The lost have been found!
Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-31)
This is the story of the prodigal son, and it represents how Jesus feels about each one of us.
The parable is about a man who had two sons. One son asked his father for his share of the estate, took his portion and left. The other son stayed behind and helped his father tend to their fields. The son who left squandered his inheritance and took a job feeding pigs. The young son is starving, dirty, and miserable. He returns home to throw himself on the mercy of his father in hopes of becoming one of his father’s hired hands knowing that they are treated much better than he is in his current pig-slop position.
The father sees the son approaching and is elated. He says to his servants ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-24)
Not everyone was as thrilled as the father that the son had returned. Remember the other son, the one who stayed behind to tend the fields? He was hard at work when he heard the commotion around his brother’s return. He was angry and jealous that his father threw a banquet in honor of his brother and did not recognize his efforts and sacrifice. There are shades of Martha and Mary (remember how Jesus adjusted Martha’s perspective?), andJonah‘s (pouting over the Ninevites )in this parable.
The father adjusts his son’s perspective, as God often works to adjust ours when we fall prey to jealousy, anger, and pout. “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:31)
He seeks the lost and celebrates when they are found. He gives us everlasting life, just as the father in the parable says “this brother of yours was dead and is alive again”. He restores all. You have been found!
Lord, restore the joy I had
And I have one to bring me back
In this darkness, lead me through
Until all I see is You. -Lyrics from Soul on Fire, Third Day