I really love the chapter of Luke 15 in the Bible. I love parables, and two of my favorites are in here: the prodigal son and the lost sheep.
It occured to me tonight that the first few verses set the the tone for the audience that these parables are directed towards:
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. … And he spake this parable unto them, saying …
He was speaking to the spiritually outcast, those who, through their own actions, had strayed, and in each case probably felt lost, without self-worth, and not worthy or redemption.
Just as light and truth help us to see things better and understand more clearly, the same is true in reverse. Sadness and uncertainty can make things a little confusing, and cloud our thinking. We can come up with fixes that seem reasonable but are really not beneficial. We can’t see things as they really are if we have wandered for some reason onto another road. It can be hard for us to find the right way on our own.
I think a lot can be said about the social situation and emotional status of the people he’s addressing based on the circumstances of the stories. In each case, someone is lost, but he starts at the smallest, one of a hundred, then one of ten, then one of two who are lost, and with each story, he gives more detail on how much work God goes through to rescue them.
In the parable of the lost sheep, an owner already has one hundred to his name. Surely the loss of one is nothing major, and he could have even planned for such circumstances. Also, this is a sheep that has been lost, not a lamb. Meaning, it probably did not wander off innocently (the same as in the case of the prodigal son).
Something else that stood out to me tonight about the story of the prodigal son was how the father entreats the son who had not left home.
Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
The elder brother, who was faithful, didn’t know what had happened, and the last he had heard, was that his brother had disinherited all and left to go on his own. There was a division between the two brothers, and he preferred to interact with his own family at first indirectly through other people.
The good father intervenes on behalf of the sinner in restoring good relationships among others. It is a very difficult position to take as an intermediary, and feelings against those who “have returned” are not uncommon, and without mediation, things may never be completely restored.
Becoming lost, being searched for, being welcomed, restoring relationships and rejoicing are also parts of repentance, and the effects of sinners returning to the Lord are felt by others as well. While there is joy for “the ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” there is more for “one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:7)
I just think it’s fascinating that when there are problems, people who have drifted or become lost, that there is more to the process of coming clean than just repenting and becoming whole. There are other factors that play a part in welcoming the person home. They long for that connection not just to God, but to others as well. To be outcast no more, among family and friends as well. It makes me think about the principles of healing that need to take place when someone is lost.