Have you ever been lost? We all have been at one time or another. In fact, there are some here that are still lost—you’ll know what I mean in a few minutes.
A few months ago, Amanda Eller went hiking in Hawaii and got lost in a 2,000 acre forest reserve. She only intended to go for a short walk, but at one point, she got turned around and after hours of hiking, got hopelessly lost. Then she fell 20 feet off a steep cliff, fracturing her leg. Then she lost her shoes in a flash flood. When rescuers finally found her 17 days later, she was miles from her car. You can just imagine the joy she and her family felt when she was found. Someone used the word, “elated.”
Being found and joy go hand-in-hand. Not just for the one who was lost, but also for their family, and for those involved in the rescue (in Amanda’s case, that was about 150 or so, including one who was fired from his job for spending too much time with the rescue). The Pharisees and scribes, we are told, did not like the idea of rescuing people—
Luke 15:1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans [tax collectors] and sinners for to hear him. Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
They “murmured” (diagongyzō) about Jesus’s association with sinners. The only other New Testament use of this word is also attached to the Pharisees and for the very same reason!
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. (Luke 19:7)
You can imagine them saying about Amanda Eller, “She was dumb for hiking without her cell phone…why bother looking for her?” Their mission in life did not include the rescue of sinners—they did not care to even go look for them. But what was Jesus’s mission? It was to be a rescuer. Listen to Jesus articulate His life mission statement:
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
Is that your life mission statement? I hope it is and I hope that you try to model yourself after Jesus in completing that mission.
What Jesus does in Luke 15 is show how much joy God has in the rescue of lost sinners. He does this by telling three parables, the first two of which we’ll look at in this lesson. I see Jesus as being tender with the Pharisees here. He is urging them to leave their self-righteous legalism and to see the joy in leading a sinner home to God.
How do you feel about the unsaved? Are you bitter because the wicked prosper and seem to escape injustice? Are you afraid to go near them lest you be contaminated? Or, do you have a genuine concern for their rescue?
These first two parables are very similar. They both involve a search for something that is lost and then the joy when the lost thing is recovered. We’ll look at the two parables intertwined together.
THE SEARCH FOR THE LOST (15:3, 4, 8)
Luke 15:3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, Luke 15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness [open country], and go after that which is lost, until he find it? [cf. Matthew 18:12-14]
From what I understand about shepherding in Bible days, to have a hundred sheep was to be doing pretty well as a shepherd (flocks of sheep could range from 20 to 200). You could lose one or two without any problem—no big deal.
Not this shepherd, however. He is ready to “leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness” and go find the one lost sheep. This is a good shepherd who cares about every one of his sheep. So he leaves the other sheep behind in the wilderness. Now, here people get a bit concerned about the shepherd’s sanity. Leave most of the sheep in the wilderness?
Well, first, the word “wilderness” might make us think of a deep, dark forest with grizzly bears, but that’s not what the word is referring to. Here it’s just referring to the area away from the population—open country.
But still—leave the other ninety-nine sheep for just one? Remember, this is a parable, and it has a main point that we’re not supposed miss because we are distracted by details. But, if it bothers you, we can assume that the shepherd had helpers that watched the sheep while he was gone (he was doing well financially, remember). Don’t miss Jesus’s point: the shepherd cared deeply for his lost sheep.
By the way: this shows us how secure we are in Christ. If the shepherd had just given up the one sheep for lost, how would that make the other ninety-nine sheep feel (if sheep could feel)? Shawn the sheep might think, “Wow, I hope I never get lost because, if I do, the shepherd won’t be coming to rescue me!” It would make the other sheep feel insecure. But the fact that the shepherd goes after the one lost sheep means that the other sheep will feel secure, because they know the shepherd would come after them also should they get lost. Once you are saved, Christ will not let you go. If you wander off, He will come after you (cf. Hebrews 12:6).
In the next parable, we find a woman looking for a lost coin:
Luke 15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver [drachmē], if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
A side note here is that, once again in Luke, we see Jesus’s concern for women. He could have easily made this another story about a man. In fact, the Jewish rabbis had a similar story about a man who had lost a coin and searched until he had found it. But by making it about a woman, Jesus again emphasized the importance of women.
The coin the woman lost was a drachma, which was probably worth about a hundred dollars today. So we can relate. If we lost a hundred dollar bill in our house, you can bet that most of us would turn over every cushion, look under every chair, and dig in every pocket looking for it.
That’s what this woman does—she lights a candle and grabs a broom and does an all-out search for this single lost coin.
With both the shepherd and woman, we see their desire and diligence to recover that which was lost. Now, these are parables, so the lost sheep and coin represent something else in reality that is lost. What is the “lost” (apollymi) that Jesus is referring to? We find it well put in Isaiah—
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; (Isaiah 53:6a)
It’s not one sheep that is lost. It’s all of us! The first step in the gospel plan of salvation is that we need to recognize that we are lost sheep. Jesus is seeking us, and we cannot save ourselves, but we also need to realize that we are lost.
Henry Thoreau [THA-ROW] was a naturalist who died in 1862. On his deathbed, a godly aunt asked him, “Have you made your peace with God?” His response was, “I didn’t know that we had ever quarreled” (http://americanliteraryblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/guest-post-death-of-henry-david-thoreau.html). Thoreau’s response reveals that he was still a lost sinner, because no man is at peace with God until he receives Christ as his Savior (Romans 5:1).
We also need to notice that the lost thing in each parable was unable to find the way back by themselves. The coin is obvious. It will not jump back into the woman’s purse in a million years. But the sheep was also unable to find it’s way back home—that is why the shepherd went looking for it.
Friend, God is seeking you. You may not know it. You might be hiding from God like a sheep in a sagebrush. You might be distracting yourself from God with toys or drugs or work. You might be avoiding the Bible and church because you don’t want Him to get ahold of you. Why are you willing to trade eternity for a bunch of things that won’t last?
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
THE JOY OF FINDING THE LOST (15:5, 6-7, 9-10)
At the end of each parable there is a celebration. First, we see the celebration of the shepherd who found his one lost sheep.
Luke 15:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
It’s not hard to picture this scene: the shepherd coming over the ridge, with a lamb draped around his neck and a big smile on his face. The lamb feels the security of the shepherd—it can nuzzle the shepherd’s face as he brings it back to the flock.
Likewise, there is rejoicing in the house of the woman:
Luke 15:9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Can you picture the scene? The woman rushes out of her house and shouts to her friends and neighbors, “Come here, come here!” “What is it?” someone asks, “what’s the excitement about?” The woman responds by shouting, “I lost a hundred dollar bill and I just found it!” It might seem a little over the top for us to call friends together to celebrate the finding of a single lost sheep or a single lost coin, but that’s precisely the point. From the outside, these things might not have the sort of value that seems to warrant a celebration party. But to the owners—they meant the world.
That’s how God feels about lost sinners. Look at verse 7 and 10—
Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just [righteous] persons, which need no repentance.
There are a number of interpretations about the last phrase in verse 7, but it’s safe to say that there are no people who do not need to repent. Probably Jesus just means that they have already been saved, and therefore do not need to repent and be saved.
Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Both these verses are saying that God rejoices (and probably the angels and the redeemed who are in Heaven already). What does God rejoice over? He rejoices over that “one sinner” that repents. That one sinner has enough value to Him that He calls Heaven to rejoice with Him.
Chris Carney, a charter boat captain, was making delivery of a sailboat when their mast broke off near the Midway Islands. Then the boat rolled and they lost everything—beacons, phone, engine. For nine days, they were lost at sea. His mom Ann Dow said it was a terrifying experience being so helpless. But when Chris and his two crew members were found, Mrs. Dow said, “You just can’t even imagine the emotion. It was like an explosion of joy.” (https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/lost-at-sea-sailboat-captain-shares-amazing-story-of-survival/287-5912260f-f858-4cfa-a51a-df95ebe26532)
This is the joy that drove Jesus to His death on the cross for our sins—
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
I can imagine Jesus thinking as He hung on the cross, “I can’t wait for the rejoicing in Heaven to start when lost sinners start repenting!”
Application For A Believer
How do you feel about the sinner that dies and goes to Hell? Do you rejoice? Or do you mourn a soul lost to eternity forever? Listen to what God says in Ezekiel 18—
23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezekiel 18:23)
If God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, neither should we. Instead, we should seek the joy of seeing sinners come to God. The first thing that needs to change is your heart toward the sinner. That’s why Jesus told these parables. He was appealing to the hearts of the Pharisees. He wanted them to experience the desire for the salvation of the lost like God did. How might we work for that in our hearts?
- Pray for unbelievers, even ones you can’t stand, that they would trust in Christ.
- Don’t allow yourself to be cynical about anyone who is unsaved—you don’t know if they will or won’t trust in Christ.
- Avoid complaining about them; just be seeking them. Remember that they are morally ignorant until they come to Christ.
- Ask Jesus, the Good Shepherd, for strength to keep caring. Pray that He would make you like He was in Matthew 9:36—
36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
Application For An Unbeliever
Perhaps you are not a Christian yet. Are you able to identify with that lost coin or that lost sheep? Do you have any sense of lostness? This could take many forms. Maybe it’s a sense of guilt that you can’t shake over sins you’ve committed. Perhaps it’s a sense of purposelessness in your life. In the years before I became a Christian, I struggled with the idea of dying. The thought of dying filled me with fear. How could a person just vanish out of existence—forever lost? I found peace of mind when I discovered that Jesus offers eternal life.
Eternal life is available for anyone. But it’s our sin that gets us lost. Like sheep, we wander off to find our own pastures, away from God. That’s what sin is. Sin is a desire to ignore God and His way and to do things our own way. It’s pride. And you know how a person’s pride can get them lost—“No, honey, I don’t need the map—I know where I’m going.” “No…no honey, I wanted us to see this nice scenery!” That’s what sin does. That’s what sin is. Being lost.
How do we get found? First, understand that Jesus is looking for you. He’s already prepared the way for you to be found. He did so by dying on the cross for your sins. He said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Now you need to stop hiding under every sagebrush and in every coulee. Admit that you are a sinner and repent. Turn from sin and turn to the Good Shepherd. Come out from your sagebrush of sin and pride and call out to the Shepherd, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). When I was saved in 1990, one of the first things I said in my prayer was, “Lord, I am tired of running from You.”
Stop hiding. Stop running. Run to Christ instead. Call out to the Lord for Him to save you from your sin. Trust in Jesus Christ. The Bible says…
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)
And when you are found, there will be much rejoicing in Heaven. God will shout with delight over you!
Levi Durfey—LDM-42-Luke 15.1-10-LKA#078-20200112FBCAM-SERMON