Focus on Jesus Series
The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son
Notes on Luke 15:1-32
by Ed Vasicek
Since I preached about the parable of the Prodigal Son (lost son) in 1999, only three years ago, I thought I would skip this portion. In place of a sermon, I have included some helpful notes about these three parables.
The Pharisees were criticizing Jesus for hanging around people who had lived sinful lifestyles. Apparently, many of these people had repented and were now living for the Lord. These three parables are Jesus’ defense. Through these stories, He illustrates that the Pharisees should be rejoicing over sinners who repent; God Himself and the angels of heaven do so. They should not be like the older brother of the parable, resentful that the Father forgave the delinquent son. All three parables have the same emphasis.
The first parable, that of the lost sheep, is clear. The shepherd leaves the flock of 99 sheep in order to find the one straying away. When found, the shepherd rejoices with family and friends; so the angels of heaven rejoice when a sinner repents. Rather than simply watching the 99, the shepherd has compassion toward the one straying sheep.
The parable of the lost coin teaches the same lesson: a woman loses a coin, searches, and cleans frantically until she finds it. Then she rejoices. Anne Punton illumines us: “Bethlehem women wore a conical cap. When they married, their husband gave them a number of silver coins which they fixed to their hat. The coins were their security, only to be used in drastic circumstances or if the husband died. When he wanted a telling illustration, did Jesus recall how his mother once lost one of her coins and turned the house upside down until she found it?” (The World Jesus Knew, page 61)
Although there are many lessons in the parable of the Prodigal Son (like the compassion of the Father, the concept of forgiveness being based upon repentance, or how sometimes we must hit bottom before we are serious about God), the focus is upon the unforgiving brother, the one who remained at home. Brad Young comments: “The elder brother fails to comprehend his father’s love.... There is no hint of family love in his words. He does not even accept the prodigal as his brother but calls him the son of his father.... The elder son was lost, too. The only difference is that his separation from his father’s love is more open-ended.... No one likes a story without a clear ending....” Because of dislike for open-ended stories, it is natural for us to focus upon the prodigal son rather than the elder son, Young argues (Jesus the Jewish Theologian, p. 150).
So today, some church folks may look down upon those converted from a wild lifestyle. The sad reality is that those truly converted are heaven-bound, while many who do good works but do not have a personal relationship with Christ will be lost.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA