The “Lost” Parables

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The “Lost” Parables

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Luke 15


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We are continuing to examine the parables of Jesus.  In the past 2 weeks, we have examined the parable of the Unjust Steward and the Rich Man and Lazarus.  Today we want to notice 3 parables found in Luke 15.  As previously noted, I believe these are associated with the same time frame as the parables of Luke 16.   Jesus is dealing with Pharisees and scribes that are critical of His associations with those they thought of as “sinners” (Luke 15:1-2).  This leads Jesus to tell 3 parables, 2 of which I will just make brief mention, and then we want to focus on the more prominent parable of The Lost Son, aka The Prodigal Son.


  1. The parables of the lost sheep – Luke 15:4-7
    1. Jesus makes reference to a shepherd that has 100 sheep. As he counts he sees that one is missing.  He leaves the 99 to search for the one that was lost.
      When found, he lays that sheep on his shoulders and returns to his flock, rejoicing that he has found that sheep.
      When he returns home, he calls together his friends and neighbors rejoicing that he found his lost sheep.
    2. The lesson in vs. 7 – in heaven, there is more joy over one sinner who repents than 99 just persons who need no repentance.
      1. In this we find that to God EVERYONE is important. Man may judge you as a sinner (which you are, but maybe not to the degree of his prejudicial judgment), but God cares about you as much as those who already belong to Him and are faithfully serving Him.
      2. Repentance is the key – God calls for all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). And when man does, there is rejoicing in heaven over that repentance.
  2. The Parable of the lost coin – Luke 15:8-10
    1. Jesus describes a women having 10 silver coins and loses one in her house. A silver coin (a drachma, equivalent in value to a denarius – so 1 day’s wage) would be substantial.  She knows it value and thus searches carefully (with great detail), possibly frantically, until she finds it.
      I know when I lose things I might search in the same place several times.  Sometimes, it is only when I slow down and meticulously look (often where I have looked before) that I find what I was looking for.
      This woman finds her coin and calls her friends and neighbors to rejoice with here because she found what was lost.
    2. The lesson in vs. 10 – again, in heaven, in the presence of the angels of God, there is rejoicing over one sinner who repents.
      1. NOTICE how in both of these parables, there is a sharing of joy over that which was lost being found. We ought to be rejoicing WITH others when a sinner repents, whether it be one obeying the gospel or when one returns to God.
      2. Again, we have an emphasis on repentance. Luke 13:3 & 5.
  3. The Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son – Luke 15:11-32
    1. Jesus tells the parable of a man who has two sons.
      1. The younger asks his inheritance from his father. His father gives him what he asks for.
      2. Shortly thereafter, the son leaves home and goes to a far country where he wastes his possessions on prodigal (wasteful, unrestrained, reckless) living. While not stated it is likely that during this time he had lots of friends and lots of fun.
      3. He spends it all and then a severe famine arises, and he has nothing. In fact, the text says he began to be in want (destitute).
      4. He is so desperate that he joins himself to a pig farmer and is so hungry, the slop he is feeding the pigs looks good to him. Notice vs. 16, “no one gave him anything.”  He has hit rock bottom, and whatever friends he might have had are all now gone.
      5. Vs. 17 is the turning point noting, “And when he came to himself” (he came to his senses) – this was that moment where you can’t sink any lower and you honestly face who you are. This is the “make or break” for many – you know you are wretched failure and you have to decide – will you stay where you are at, or will make the necessary changes in your life?
      6. Thankfully, this young man learned from his wasteful life. He thought about how much better the servants in his father’s household were – at least they had food, clothing and shelter in abundance (his father was a benevolent man). And here I am starving to death.
      7. TOTALLY humbled and pitiful, he resolves that he will return to his father, confess his sins against him and heaven itself (God), and beg to be taken in as a hired servant – believing he had lost his sonship.
      8. He arises and heads for home!
      9. When he gets close, though still far away, his father sees him and has compassion and runs to him, embraces him and kisses him. IT seems that the father was waiting and hoping for his son to come home (especially when you tie this to the two previous parables).
      10. The prodigal son STILL confesses his unworthiness and asks to be like one of the servants.
      11. BUT, rejoicing, the Father puts the best robe on him, and a ring on his finger. And he prepares a feast from him to celebrate his return.
      12. Why? Vs. 24, “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
      13. BUT, the parable does not end there. Vs. 25 finds his older brother who was in the field.  He comes home and sees the celebration and inquires what is going on.
        He is told his brother had returned safe and sound, and his father was rejoicing.
      14. The older brother becomes angry and REFUSES to enter the house and celebrate. So his father comes out and pleads with him to join them.
      15. He refuses and complains – noting how faithful he had been to his father and how he had never received a young goat to celebrate with his friends. He also rebukes his father for welcoming back his rebellious brother who had lived such a wasteful and likely ungodly life.  He cannot believe he forgave him!  AND THAT SUMMARIZES HIS ATTITUDE!
      16. His father rebukes him, noting – look, you still have your inheritance, but it was the right thing to do to rejoice at his brother’s return, for he was dead and now is alive, he was lost and now is found.
      17. AND thus ends this parable, And the message ought to have been obvious.
    2. Lessons to consider:
      1. Again, like the other 2 – the primary message of this parable is repentance. And it this parable we ought to find hope.  The message is, NO MATTER HOW FAR DOWN you have sunk, you CAN come back and God will forgive you!
        But you MUST fully repent!  Consider 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 – this shows true repentance!
      2. We also find in this parable the character of God. In this parable, the father is God.
        1. He gives to us abundantly. How do we use what He gives us?  Do we use it wisely, or do we spend it on prodigal living?  Understand, as we have noted – there WILL be an accounting.  (The next parable in the context is the Parable of the Unjust Steward that we noted 2 weeks ago – Luke 16:1-13).
        2. He is waiting for us to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 tells that God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
          And he waits like the father in this parable.
        3. He is ready and willing to forgive us no matter how sinful we have been – BUT it is based upon our willingness to truly repent!
          Isaiah 1:18, a call to Israel to repent.  “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
          Ephesians 1:7-8 notes that in Jesus we have redemption… the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.
          NOTICE again the rejoicing when his son returned – the equates to vs. 7 & 10, where there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents.
          Notice how SONSHIP was also restored to him – given the best coat and a ring.
      3. Then there is the other brother
        1. Consider our context, this brother likely represented the Pharisees and scribes who were unwilling to forgive accept those they deemed to be “sinners” OR anyone who dared associate with them, like Jesus was doing.
        2. They are an example of how NOT to act when a brother returns. Are we willing to TRULY forgive a brother or sister who has sinned – either against us or God?
          There are so many passages that tell us how important this is.  Jesus taught in in the model prayer (Matthew 6:14-15), and when asked how often we should forgive others (up to 70×7 – Matthew 18:22, Luke 17:4 – 7 times in a day).
        3. And when a brother returns, we need to rejoice with him and help to restore him. When someone “comes home”, and with true remorse repents and asks forgiveness, it is NOT the time for lectures, “I told you so”, or other demands.  It is a time to restore him.  It is a time to offer to help him/her.  That is exactly what Paul instructed the Corinthian brethren to do when a brother returned.  2 Corinthians 2:6-8 notes that you should forgive and comfort him, and reaffirm your love to him.

And thus, we see another set of parables that Jesus taught.  These address our need for repentance, and how to respond when a brother or sister in Christ repents.

There is plenty in these parables for us to thin about.  Where do you stand?  Are you like the lost sheep or son?  Have you hit rock bottom and are ready to come back?  If so, let us help you.

Or are you like that ungrateful and unforgiving older brother?  If so, you are just as lost and in spiritual poverty as the prodigal son.  Repent and come back to God before it is too late.  Think about it!