The Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin & the Lost Son (1) - Introduction
Luke / Chapter 15 / V1-32
The four gospels describe Jesus from different perspectives, the book of Luke portrays Jesus as the Son of Man. The genealogy of Jesus, according to Luke, goes all the way back to the first man – Adam. And in so doing validates Jesus as man’s descendant, inheriting man’s nature and characteristics. Luke, however, did not stop with Adam but continued to trace man to his originator – “Adam, son of God,” testifying God Himself as the beginning of all mankind.
Adam being the “son of God,” has not only inherited God’s nature but it also signifies that the father of the human race is God. Yet many of us might have a false impression that humanity is distinctly of its own, where God is considered God-kind and human as humankind. We assume that God is different from us and could never truly relate to us; especially in areas pertaining to our human emotions, we believe that God is stern and impartial and is devoid of any emotions. But knowing that Adam is the “son of God” has clarified many of our misunderstandings. Should anyone deem himself most compassionate, to be compared to God – insignificant, for the love of God is even broader than the oceans! Should anyone regard himself full of affections, in comparison to God – trivial, for the mercy of God is far greater than the universe!
Since the ancestor of Jesus is God, His human nature must have also originated from Him; however, what set Him apart from us is His perfect humanity. Unlike us, He is unblemished and untainted by sin. Should we ever feel disappointed over man’s utter corruptness with no one worthy to look up to, then let us consider Jesus, for He is the role model appointed by God for mankind. In Him there are no imperfections and weaknesses of man. Be it towards man or God, all His words and actions are perfect, setting the example for us to follow.
These three parables though different, they share the same theme. They illustrate the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – the love of the triune God towards sinners. In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd represents God the Son; in the parable of the lost coin, the woman represents God the Spirit; and in the parable of the lost son, the father represents God the Father. The love of the Son for sinners has been made known to all through His sacrificial death on the cross. Whereas the Father dwells in Heaven, how then can we come to understand His love for us? In the Old Testament, the Lord Jehovah manifested Himself as the absolutely righteous God and would in no way leave the guilty unpunished. If not for the parable of the lost son told by Jesus, we would never have imagined that our Heavenly Father is the one standing at the heavenly gate waiting for repentant sinners to come home. Of the third person, the Holy Spirit, an invisible force who can neither be seen nor felt; our understanding of Him is either non-existent or vague at best. But through the Lord’s parable of the lost coin, we learn that the Holy Spirit is like the woman who lit the lamp and arched her back, painstakingly searching in the world of darkness for lost sinners. The three parables, in perfect harmony, painted a beautiful picture of God three in one of His great love for sinners.
These three parables are frequently shared in evangelistic meetings with emphasis often placed on the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.
In the parable of the lost sheep, there was a shepherd who had one hundred sheep and one of the sheep became lost in the wilderness. The shepherd did not leave behind the lost sheep just because he still had ninety-nine of them, instead, he returned to the wilderness to search for it until it was found. The Lord wanted the Pharisees and scribes to know that the tax collectors and sinners whom they abhorred, were the lost sheep mentioned in His parable. Though they were despised by everyone, Jesus would not forsake them and was willing to sacrifice Himself to save them. For “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way,” the Lord would never give up on even the most vile and depraved sinner; He would seek for him without rest until he was found, and would greatly rejoice over the repentance of that sinner.
The parable of the lost coin speaks of the same subject. We, who are created in the image of God, have fallen short of His glory and lost the value that a child of God ought to have. We are likened to the coin which has rolled off into a dark corner and has lost its value. In the parable, the woman had ten coins, she lost one of them with nine remaining. Though the coin that she lost only made up a tenth of all the coins she had, she did not give up looking for the lost coin just because she still had nine; instead, she lit a lamp, swept the floor, and searched carefully throughout the whole house until she had found it. In the eye of the Pharisees and scribes, the tax collectors and sinners were like that lost coin which had little value to its master and was not worth saving. However, the Lord wanted the Pharisees and scribes to know that no matter how lowly and worthless was a sinner, the Holy Spirit would never forsake any of them. The Holy Spirit treasured each and every sinner and would go all out to the darkest corners of the world to search for them until every one was found.
In the parable of the lost son, the younger son represented the tax collectors and sinners. The younger son after demanding his share of inheritance from his father, left for a distant country. He lived an immoral and licentious life, and squandered all his money. When everything was spent, a sever famine hit the land and he was in such a bad situation that he had to consider eating pods that were fed to pigs. After coming to his senses, he finally decided to return home to seek his father’s forgiveness. He knew that the sin he had committed was so great against God and his father that he no longer deserved to be his father’s son, thus he was prepared to be made a hireling in his father’s house. But who would have expected this from his father? For he not only forgave all his sins but also acknowledged him as the rightful son. The elder son who had witnessed all these became enraged and was indignant over how his father had treated his younger brother, the elder son represented the Pharisees and scribes. The tax collectors and sinners were like the younger son, who had wasted their lives in depraved living, rather than to use the life given by God to honour Him. They eventually found themselves in a sorry state, rejected and looked down upon by their own people. They were regarded as the filth of Israel. No one sympathised with them, nor would anyone consider them deserving God’s forgiveness; for even they themselves did not think that God would ever forgive them. However, Jesus made it clear that even though they rebelled against the Heavenly Father and had broken His heart, the Father would never give up on them; with great patience the Father waited for their return, hoping to reunite with them and to accept them as His beloved children again. The Pharisees and scribes spent their lives studying the Law and serving in the temple of God, yet were unfeeling and failed to empathise with the Father’s love for sinners. The younger son who went to a distant country was lost, what about the elder son who remained at home? Wasn’t he “lost” as well?
All Christians should find these three parables familiar, especially the parable of the lost son. Any passage that has been so frequently preached on would have long been exhausted its interpretations, but to our utter amazement, within these three parables still lie deep and profound spiritual truths that are not yet known. What we have understood previously are only fundamental, yet to touch the key meanings of these parables. If we were to conclude that Romans Chapter 9 is the most intellectually challenging passage in the Bible, then perhaps these parables could have recorded the emotions that far surpass any man can imagine or understand.