Lost and Found (Luke 15:1-7)
On the weekend of the third Monday in October, my hometown of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky hosts a large flea market called “Court Days.” Mt. Sterling has a population of about 7,000, and roughly 130,000 people come to Court Days, so that little town becomes packed. You can find every kind of arts and crafts and carnival foods imaginable. It’s a huge trading event for guns, so people are carrying guns everywhere.
When I was a small child, a man came to Court Days and played an accordion while his little monkey danced. My brother Kyle loved that little monkey, and he begged to see it every single year.
Well, when Kyle was 5 or so, we five Imel’s arrived at Court Days, and Kyle was begging to find that monkey. Mom wanted to look at some crafts and said we’d find the monkey later. After Mom finished looking at one booth, she and Dad turned around—there was Justin and Aaron, but Kyle was nowhere to be found but was lost in a crowd of over 100,000 people.
Dad took Aaron, Mom and me to a mobile unit established by the Kentucky State Police, and he went to look for Kyle. While we sat in that RV operated by the State Police, officers tried to calm Mom down and get a detailed description of my brother.
I vividly recall Dad’s carrying Kyle to that RV about 30 minutes later. Kyle had gone to look for the monkey, but he had gotten lost. A lady realized that Kyle was lost and stayed with him in the same spot with him until someone came to find him.
Have you ever lost something you cherished? Maybe you’ve become separated from your child at the supermarket. Have you ever misplaced a family heirloom? Maybe you’ve lost a bundle of cash. Have you ever lost the remote and had to get out of your easy chair to change the TV channel? Maybe you’ve lost a pet you cherished.
In this morning’s text, Jesus talked about things—people—which are lost. The Lord told a parable about a lost sheep to demonstrate the Father’s compassion toward the lost. Not only does the Father have compassion for the lost, however, when a sinner repents, God rejoices. Jesus taught in this passage: “Finding brings rejoicing.”
Scripture (Luke 15:1-7)
Since tax collectors gathered funds for Rome, most Jews saw tax collectors as being in cahoots with the enemy. “Sinners” refers to people who live in open, public sin.
The scribes and Pharisees grumbled against Jesus. The Greek term for “grumbled” is in the imperfect tense and refers to repeated action in the past.
The scribes and Pharisees were constantly complaining because Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them. Both verbs here—“receives” and “eats with”—are in the present tense in Greek. The present tense refers to repetitive action. The scribes and Pharisees, thus, saw Jesus as habitually welcoming and eating together with sinners.
100 was an average-size flock in the days of Jesus.
Shepherds often traveled together. This shepherd, therefore, could leave his flock in the care of his friends to go find the one that was lost.
The one lost sheep, however, was extremely valuable to the shepherd. Notice Jesus said that the shepherd would look for the one sheep until he found it—failure was not an option.
The easiest way to carry a lamb was to put it on your shoulders and cross its legs across your chest. The shepherd rejoices that he has found this one lost sheep.
The shepherd called his friends together to rejoice with him.
Jesus made the application of his parable clear. The scribes and Pharisees should have been rejoicing that tax collectors and sinners were coming to him. Jesus said the shepherd’s friends rejoiced with him. The scribes and Pharisees did not rejoice, and the implication is clear: They were not friends of God.
“Finding brings rejoicing.” The truth Jesus taught here brings two applications into laser-like focus: 1) God wants Finding; and 2) God wants Rejoicing.
God wants Finding.
In the parable, the shepherd left his 99 sheep to go find the one which was lost. The shepherd didn’t sit around waiting for his sheep to come back; instead, he made the effort to go to his lost sheep. God actively seeks the lost soul.
God wants people to come to him. God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Think about what it means that God doesn’t want anyone to perish.
- Those tax collectors and sinners the scribes were so upset about? God wanted to save them.
- That drug dealer who leads young people to destruction? God wants to save him.
- All the Russians—from Putin on down—guilty of war crimes against Ukraine? God wants to save them.
- That person who never misses a chance to hurt you? God wants to save him.
Maybe this morning you struggle with your past. . . . Maybe there is a sin you just can’t get past. . . . The guilt and shame eat you up. . . . Maybe you just can’t believe that you can go to heaven with what you’ve done. Know for a fact that God wants to save you.
Since God wants all people to be saved, you can never think of someone as too lost or too hopeless or too unworthy of the gospel. Some of the most unlikely people have come to God.
- “Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Chr 33:9). However, God sent the Assyrians against Manasseh; the Assyrians captured Judah’s king and took him to Babylon. “And when [Manasseh] was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chr 33:12).
- Think about Saul of Tarsus. He “was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (1 Tim 1:13). Yet when he was confronted with the Risen Christ, he obeyed the truth and became the Apostle to the Gentiles.
- Think about the Philippian jailer. He put Paul and Silas “into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24). When an earthquake occurred, the jailer drew out his sword to kill himself until Paul called out to him. He then repented and was baptized.
God Wants Rejoicing.
Luke 15 has one major theme which overrides everything else—God’s people should rejoice when sinners come home. The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling against sinners coming home. Jesus told two parables—the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin—to show the scribes and Pharisees that they should be rejoicing.
Then the Lord told what is often called the Parable of the Prodigal Son. You will hear sermons and lessons about God’s love and forgiveness from that parable; those truths are certainly present in the parable. But Jesus didn’t tell the parable to talk about the prodigal or God’s forgiveness. The main character in the parable is really the elder brother, who obviously represents the scribes and Pharisees. That elder brother refused to rejoice that his brother had come home. His father told him, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15:32).
Jesus made it abundantly clear that God expects his people to rejoice when a sinner comes home. Why should you rejoice when a sinner comes home?
- If you’re God’s child, you’re going to want what God wants. . . . God wants men to be saved; you will want people to be saved.
- You’ll remember that glorious feeling of initial forgiveness, and you’ll want that for others.
- You’ll rejoice that the population of hell is shrinking.
- You’ll rejoice to have another brother or sister with whom to share life.
How can you rejoice when someone comes home?
You must be welcoming.
The scribes and Pharisees weren’t welcoming; they didn’t want tax collectors and sinners anywhere near them. But the Lord Jesus rejoiced and welcomed.
When Saul became a Christian, the disciples at Jerusalem did not really believe he had become a Christian and wouldn’t let him join them. “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:27). Barnabas—at risk to his own life had Saul been lying—took the new disciple under his wings.
There is a major way you can be welcoming: You greet every guest who comes through these doors. They may still be lost, but God is seeking them. You can be like Jesus in Luke 15 and receive sinners in expectation they’ll receive Jesus so you can rejoice.
You must look beyond a new Christian’s past.
The scribes and Pharisees couldn’t look past the sins of the crowds around Jesus. Jesus, you understand, didn’t take their sins lightly; he would die for their sins, and Jesus said there is joy in heaven over one person who repents—Jesus was calling to repentance.
Sin is serious, yet when one repents he bears his sins no more. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Since one who has been washed, sanctified, and justified through Christ is a new person, his sins are past and behind him. God has forgiven the sin and removed it from the sinner. Therefore, the child of God looks past forgiven sin.
What about your own sin this morning? Is your sin forgiven, or do you need to come this morning and claim forgiveness through Jesus?