Lost and Found or Lost and Remaining Lost?
The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is considered by many to be among the most beautiful and moving stories ever written. Indeed it is a powerful story, but in this article I want us to take a look at all three parables found in this chapter with an emphasis on getting the whole picture. The chapter opens with Jesus being criticized by the Pharisees and scribes because He dared to eat with tax collectors and sinners. The parables (or perhaps we should say the one parable related in three parts) are Jesus’ explanation of why He, a man of absolute holiness, was willing to receive sinners and eat with them. (If you are not familiar with this chapter please take the time to read it before proceeding).
One sheep is lost, so what does the shepherd do? He goes after that lost one until he has found it, and when he has found it he puts it on his shoulders and carries it home. Then we read of a woman losing a coin. What does she do? She lights the lamp, sweeps the floor, and searches carefully until she has found it. Next we see a man’s son lost in a far country and what does the father do? Nothing! Well, he may have actually done some things, but it does seem that instead of going after him the father simply waited on his son to come to himself (Luke 15:17) and return home.
The point I want us to see is that while all three approaches to the lost emphasize God’s love and concern for sinners, for the father who “stayed home” is the same father who ran to his son, kissed him repeatedly, gave him a ring, robe, shoes, and a party (Luke 15:20-24), Jesus makes it clear that people are not sheep who can simply be thrown over the shoulder and carried home, or coins that can be picked up when found. The first two parables emphasize that when people are in sin every effort should be made to save them, but the third drives home the responsibility of the sinner to save himself.
If you are in sin, whether as one who has never turned to the Lord for forgiveness (Romans 3:23), or one who has fallen back into sin after having been freed from sin (2 Peter 2:20-22), you need to know of God’s concern for you. By sending Jesus into this world to die for you, He has gone after the lost, lit the lamp, swept the floor, and searched carefully for you, His lost child (John 3:16). Not only has Jesus died for your sins, but God decreed that the good news of salvation should be preached in all the world to every creature (Romans 1:16, 17; Mark 16:15, 16). The heart of God is a compassionate one that cares about you.
Yes, He has sought you, but as illustrated by the prodigal He will not force you to come home to Him. You need to realize that God loves you and longs to receive you as His forgiven child, but you must do like the son in Luke 15:17-20 and come to your senses, repent, and turn to God (2 Peter 3:9). Salvation will not be forced upon you, but if you will seek the Father who has sought you, He will welcome you as the father of the parable welcomed the prodigal. Paul spoke of God’s willingness to forgive him, the chief of sinners, as a pattern to show all that Christ Jesus truly came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:13-16).
Sinners, God is seeking your salvation! Won’t you come home to a joyous welcome?