Tag Archives: Pharisees

The Parable of the Lost: Part 3 (Son)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way,”* (Isaiah 53:6a, ESV). In Isaiah’s day, some 2700 years ago, this was an indictment. Today, it is a goal. We have heard for decades that we are to be true to ourselves, follow our hearts, buck the system, stick it to the man, or other similar phrases that tell us to go our own way. It really isn’t new; while it may not have been celebrated as it is today, it was still a temptation. It’s exactly what one of the sons did in the parable of the lost son.

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “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.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘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.’” (Luke 15:11-32, ESV)

This is probably the most well-known parable that Jesus told, rivaled only by the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, the youngest son basically tells his dad that since his dad is taking his dear sweet time dying, that he’d just as soon take his portion of the inheritance and start his own life. He wanted to go his own way and leave behind the life his father had for him. Of course, he goes and squanders his inheritance (which is what prodigal means – squandering) and gets himself into trouble. He has no shelter, no food, nothing. Sometimes the most loving act a father can do is to allow his child to come to an end in themselves. It is to let them go until they see the error of their way. Solomon wrote about this: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death,” (Prov. 14:12, ESV). That’s the way this young man took. It seemed so right, but nearly ended with his demise. Realizing he was alone and death was just around the corner, he also realized that he was a fool. He need only go back to his father and live as a slave. It would be humiliating, but life-saving.

We know the story; in fact, we just read the story. He goes back, his father sees from afar, runs to him, hugs him, gives him a ring, a robe, shoes, and a party. Slave!? Never! He is still a son! Most likely the clothes that the son wore were in tatters. No more! Only the best for the newly found son! Like the other two parables of the lost sheep and lost coin, a party was thrown. It was time to celebrate. It was time to eat.

The second son, hearing the festivities went and asked a servant what was happening and was told that his brother had come back. Like the Pharisees and scribes, he was incensed that his father would be eating with such a sinner (Luke 15:1). And he called him on it. The father sought to explain, just as Jesus had been doing in this and the previous two parables, but the brother refused to listen and join the festivities; he went his own way rather than his father’s way. The only thing worse than being lost is being lost and not knowing you’re lost. Because when you don’t know you’re lost, you don’t think you need to be found.

The heart of the brother, the heart of the Pharisees and scribes, was even more lost than the sheep, the coin, or the brother who went astray. None of the religious leaders could understand they were lost and in need of being found or that they too could dine with Jesus in celebration. They too could dine with sinners and rejoice with God in the finding of those lost. As Tim Chester pointed out in his book, A Meal with Jesus, “Our parties are to be a reflection—albeit a pale reflection—of God’s great banquet.”** If we have been found, then let us be party-givers as we join with Jesus to seek and find others who are lost. Let us reflect God’s love and his joy over seeking and saving those who are lost.

*If you want to hear my favorite sermon on Isaiah 53:6, click here and listen to Pastor Albert N. Martin’s message.

**Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011), 79.

The Parable of the Lost: Part 2 (Coin)

When I was ten years of age, I had a very realistic dream. My brother, who works nights and shared the room with me, walked in to me looking all around my bed, under the covers, under the box springs, everywhere I could. He watched for a few moments and then asked me, “What are you doing?” I responded, “I’m looking for the mayor’s wife!” He figured it was a book I was reading for my 5th grade class and walked out. In reality, I dreamed that the mayor’s wife had been kidnapped and I was called in to find her. I apparently was still half-asleep and half-dreaming when he walked in. I was ready and willing to do anything and look anywhere (within the confines of my room, that is) to find the mayor’s wife. In case, you were wondering, I never found her–it was a dream!

Yesterday, I wrote a quick article on the parable of the lost sheep. You can read it here, if you’d like. Today’s parable deals with a woman who lost a coin. This was no dream. It was a costly reality.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10, ESV)

Jesus was still dealing with the scowls and whispers of the Pharisees and scribes in Luke 15:1, as he told this parable. Whereas, in the first parable of the lost sheep, there was 1 of 100 missing, in this parable there is 1 of 10 coins missing. But also notice, all the coins are the same. She had ten silver coins. She lost one of them. That one was of equal worth as the other coins. Why not be happy with the nine left over? Because while it may be a great deal of money and worth more collectively, the sum total is not more than its individual parts. Each individual coin is worth something. Each has equal value.

I find it interesting that Peter, in his second letter, wrote about not doubting Christ’s return by explaining why he delayed it. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV; italics mine). Not one should perish. Every single one of the elect must reach repentance. It is not enough to have a billion souls through 2,000 years, not if there is one more soul to have. Each is valuable. He will not stop seeking and saving those who are lost as long as there is one who will reach repentance.

Again, like the shepherd who rejoiced greatly when he found his sheep, so the woman rejoiced greatly when she found her coin. She had swept her whole house looking for it. She took a lamp and looked in every nook and cranny for the coin that had rolled away. After much hard-work, she called her friends to come and rejoice with her. There was no time to lose. What was once lost, was now found; everyone should feel the pleasure of seeing that. All should desire to celebrate it.

Jesus pointed out that the same happens in the presence of the angels of God when a lost soul is found. It’s almost a restatement of verse 7, but a little different; it’s a little more specific. It is not just that there is rejoicing in heaven, but that there is rejoicing in the presence of angels. God himself is rejoicing over the lost being found. If God can rejoice–the very one who is sinned again–how is that the Pharisees and scribes could not, or rather would not. And as Herschel Hobbs wrote, “If one sinner is so precious to God why should not Jesus receive them and eat with them?”* I would point out here, that it was not these coins were not yet found, but were still lost. The eating and receiving of such sinners was the searching part; not the finding. Many would be found; many would stay lost.

There are precious, valuable coins out there. Every one of them stamped with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Most of them are lost, hiding in the crevices of society, in the couch cushions of addictions, under the pantries of pleasure. Finding those valuable coins will not be easy. It will be exhausting and dirty work, but the joy of finding them will help us to forget all grime, sweat, and tears.

Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of Luke, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966), 233.