Luke 15: Lost and Found

Reposted from Pastor McKinley

(32 verses, 4:02 to read)

What I am about to READ

  • Jesus tells three parables to a crowd of faithful disciples and Pharisees and scribes to explain His desire to have such intimate fellowship with “tax collectors and sinners.”


  • vv. 1-2 serve as the immediate context into which Jesus tells these three parables.
  • vv. 3-7 are the parable of the lost sheep.
  • vv. 8-10 are the parable of the lost coin.
  • vv.  11-32 are the parable of the prodigal son/gracious father/jealous brother.


  • A recurring theme in Luke’s Gospel is Jesus’ table fellowship. Here, Jesus’ opponents–the Pharisees and scribes–loudly grumble about this. Interestingly enough, Jesus has been more than happy to receive and eat with them, too.
  • The twin parables of the lost sheep and coin feature a man and a woman as main characters respectively. This is interesting, because it seems to emphasize Jesus’ desire to save all men, not just the ones who happen to have x and y chromosomes. We also see this in Luke’s insistence on bringing the women who follow and support Jesus’ ministry to the foreground, culminating in the appearance of the women at the empty tomb.
  • The first parable is where most of our depictions of Jesus as the Good Shepherd come from, even though that discourse occurs in John 10. Notice how the shepherd leaves the other sheep to seek out the one lost one. Herein lies the Gospel. Jesus is seeking sinners to bring them to repentance and faith in Him. Not only does the shepherd go on a potentially dangerous search and rescue operation to find the lost sheep, but he even carries it home on his shoulders. This is the cause of great rejoicing.
  • In the parable of the lost coin, the woman likewise searches all over for the one coin. She is just as overjoyed to find it as the shepherd was the sheep. Jesus compares the joy and celebration of these two people with the joy that occurs in heaven over one sinner who is brought to repentance and faith.
  • These two parables demonstrate, then, the lengths to which our Lord goes to find those lost in the night of sin. The language of these parables is reminiscent of what the author of Hebrews writes, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus goes to the cross not out of stoic duty to His Father (although He does obey the Father’s will perfectly) but out of a deep and abiding love for sinners.
  • In this third parable, we have two brothers and a father. The younger brother wishes that his father were dead by asking for his share of the inheritance. Both brothers, however, get their shares. The older brother stays, and the younger brother wastes his inheritance and finds himself staring death in the face. He returns home to find that his father is so eager to meet him that he runs to his son. Before the son can even get out his entire confession of sins, the father is already in the process of restoring him. The joy of the father is a doubling down on the joy in the two parables above. This is the joy that our heavenly Father has over sinners who repent and believe the Gospel. From the foundation of the world, God sought to redeem mankind from sin and death. When this is accomplished, celebration ensues. This festival joy is echoed in the Divine Service, where God gathers and restores us around the feast of His Son, Jesus Christ. There, we enjoy a foretaste of the heavenly feast that awaits us in the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day.
  • The older brother’s jealousy over the return of his younger brother puts him outside of the celebration feast. Here, our Lord Christ invites the Pharisees and scribes to join in the celebration and receive their inheritance in full. The parable is left open at this point. We don’t know whether or not the older son joined in the celebration. This seems to indicate that Jesus is inviting the Pharisees and scribes to turn from their sins and receive their inheritance as physical sons of Abraham.
  • This parable clearly foreshadows the resurrection of Christ, which is the basis for the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day. This theme of resurrection is found all throughout the Scriptures. Abraham received Isaac back from the dead. Job received back all his possessions, looking forward to seeing his dead family members in the resurrection. David looked forward to seeing his child with Bathsheba again. In the same way, the Father receives Christians back from the dead through the death and resurrection of His Son. This is the main point of the parable: to demonstrate the Father’s desire to bring sinners back to Himself. This He will do at any cost, even at the cost of His Son’s life.

Luther’s great hymn, Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice, contains a stanza that illustrates perfectly the Father’s desire to restore us to Himself. Sing this hymn, noting especially stanza 4 and what follows.

1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And, with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God hath done,
How His right arm the victory won;
Right dearly it hath cost Him.

2. Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay,
Death brooded darkly o’er me,
Sin was my torment night and day,
In sin my mother bore me;
Yea, deep and deeper still I fell,
Life had become a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

3. My own good works availed me naught,
No merit they attaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left naught but death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

4. But God beheld my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And, mindful of His mercies great,
He planned my soul’s salvation.
A father’s heart He turned to me,
Sought my redemption fervently:
He gave His dearest Treasure.

5. He spoke to His beloved Son:
‘Tis time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with Thee forever.

6. This Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother,
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my Brother.
No garb of pomp or power He wore,
A servant’s form, like mine, He bore,
To lead the devil captive.

7.To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy Ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thee, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be Mine;
The Foe shall not divide us.

8. The Foe shall shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving.
All this I suffer for thy good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life shall from death the victory win,
My innocence shall bear thy sin;
So art thou blest forever.

9. Now to My Father I depart,
The Holy Spirit sending
And, heavenly wisdom to impart,
My help to thee extending.
He shall in trouble comfort thee,
Teach thee to know and follow Me,
And in all truth shall guide thee.

10. What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never;
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy;
This counsel I bequeath thee.
(TLH 387)

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group:

-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN

Learn more about Trinity:
On the Web:
Twitter: @TrinityVallonia


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