The Expository Files


The Lost Parables of Jesus

 Luke 15

THE lost parables of Jesus have been found. Everyone can rejoice at this great discovery! Take a moment to look in your Bible at Luke chapter 15 and you too can benefit from what others have discovered – a group of three lost parables. However, the parables are not lost in the sense that they have been missing. They have always been there, have always been recognized as the words of Jesus, and have always been accepted as part of the inspired New Testament. Yet, they are the lost parables of Jesus because they discuss certain lost treasures and the great joy resulting from their discovery.

The Lost Sheep
The first lost item in this grouping of three is a sheep. In his parable Jesus describes a shepherd who in the course of shepherding his flock discovers that one is missing. The kind and caring shepherd naturally goes out and searches for the lost animal, even though he must temporarily leave the other sheep – a flock of ninety-nine – in order to do so. Jesus continues the story, describing the discovery of the lost sheep as well as the rejoicing of the happy shepherd who had found the missing member. The Shepherd goes so far as to call his friends and neighbors, telling them the good news and saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.” What was the point of this story? If you will, look back at the first two verses of Luke chapter 15 and you will notice that just before Jesus spoke the parable a group of Scribes and Pharisees (the religious leaders of the Jews) came on the scene and were complaining because Jesus was receiving sinners and eating with them. In their arrogance they thought Jesus ought to be spending his time with them. Observing their arrogance, Jesus offers a parable to explain that as the great shepherd of men, he must spend his time searching for those who are lost even if it meant spending less time with those who were already saved (or in the case of the Scribes and Pharisees, who thought they were more than adequately righteous). He teaches them that when a lost sinner is found and brought back to God it is an occasion for rejoicing. The Scribes and Pharisees ought to be glad, therefore, that Jesus was spending time with the sinners.

My point in all of this however, is to offer an observation about the lost sheep. No doubt the poor little fellow realized, having been separated from his shepherd and the rest of the flock, that he was lost. We can just see the poor sheep, possibly a lamb, alone in the darkness bleating mournfully, fearful of unknown dangers, and longing for the safety of the fold. Unfortunately, however, he did not know what to do about his sad and dangerous situation.

Now for the application, How many people are there on the earth at this very moment who realize they are lost (in a spiritual sense) but do not know what to do about it? Many who have observed the utter vanity and hopelessness of life based on the theory of man being nothing more than an intelligent ape have looked around them and concluded that there must be something more. Why does man possess aspirations to great spiritual enlightenment and eternal fellowship with his creator if it is impossible to attain such? Is Jesus possibly describing you in this parable? Are you a person who realizes that you are lost, but like the lost sheep, do not know what to do about it?

The Lost Coin
The “lost” parables, however do not end here. Jesus goes on to describe in the context of Luke 15:8-10, a woman who lost a coin. She started out with ten coins, but lost one. She then drops what she is doing and instigates an extensive search around the house for the lost coin. When she finds it, there is great rejoicing as when the lost sheep was found in the previous parable.

Note this difference, however, between the nature of the lost sheep and that of the lost coin. Even though the sheep did not know what to do about its lost condition, at least it knew that it was lost. The lost coin, however, did not have a clue! The inanimate object had no awareness of how to remedy its lost condition or even that it was lost.

There are people like this as well. People who are lost and do not even realize it. Many have swallowed the lie of evolution, for example, believing that man is nothing more than a sophisticated animal with no creator and no eternal soul. They are content to live out their lives in total ignorance of the Savior or even their need of one. Is Jesus possibly describing you in this parable?

The Lost Son
Finally, we come to the third and final “lost” parable; that of the lost son, more commonly known as the prodigal son. Here Jesus relates one of the most beautiful, insightful and heartwarming stories, not only in the Bible, but in all of literature. I’ll not even attempt to paraphrase the story for such a summary would not do it justice. If you are not familiar with the story you can read it in Luke 15:11-32. I will simply make an observation in keeping with the theme of our article. Herein described is a lost young man who was living a life of self-indulgence and sin. But somewhere hidden, still surviving underneath the veneer of youth, foolishness and profligate living, was the realization of his sin. But not only that, this lost young man also knew what to do about his lost condition.

After squandering all that he had, the prodigal son finally “came to himself” and in the process began to think of home. He remembered a father whom he knew to be loving, fair-minded, and forgiving. He then decided to pick himself up out of his self-imposed squalor and trudge back home, doubtless rehearsing along the way the words of remorse and repentance he would say to his father. In his attitude is personified the “broken and contrite” heart described by David in Psalm 51:17. We are assured that such a heart will not be rejected by God. Are you lost because you have chosen to run away from God, yet underneath a stubborn will you realize that God will receive you back if you simply return to Him? Is Jesus therefore describing you in this parable?

We have, in our study of the “lost” parables actually been discussing lost souls. The soul that knows it is lost, but does not know how to get home; the soul that is lost but does not even realize its lost condition; and finally, the soul that is lost but knows that there is a loving, Father who welcomes back his prodigal children. Surely, we all see ourselves, or have seen ourselves, in one of these descriptions. Jesus would have us to correctly identify our lost condition and act accordingly. If you are lost and do not know how to go home, the Lord is calling to you through His word. Take the time to read and listen as He speaks to you. If you have no realization that you are even lost, read the New Testament. In it, your sin will be pointed out to you. If you are lost and know how to come home, then all that is lacking is your decision and will power to do what you know is right. Come back to the Lord in repentance and you will be welcomed with open arms.

By Ed Barnes
From Expository Files 16.3; March 2009