The Lost and Found (Luke 15)

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Good morning everyone. My name is Eric, I am one of the pastors here at Abide Church. I will be taking the next few weeks to preach through Luke chapter 15. This is a continuation of the series we have been in on Jesus’ teaching through parables. I am really excited that I got this chapter in Luke to teach on, it contains some of my favorite parables. I am truly humbled to share the word of God with you today, it is a great privilege for me to teach. My desire is to rely on The Lord to impact the hearts of His people, so lets begin with prayer, asking the Lord to speak.
Father, Please be near to your people this morning. Help us experience transformation through your word, open our ears to hear your truth. We are so unworthy of Your intervention in our lives, but you made a way for us to know you. Help us draw near to You, do not let our wandering hearts keep us from experiencing your life giving Word. We love you, we need you, please be our master teacher. Amen.
The Context:
Let’s begin by reading the first few verses in the chapter, this will lay a foundation and provide context for our stories.
Luke 15:1–3 ESV
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:
The scene opens up with Jesus, He has tax collectors and sinners drawing near to him. Whenever you read the scriptures it is important to understand historical context. Tax collectors were on the Pharisees list of sinners. In fact, they would be in the same category as an adulterer. They were seen as traders to their own people, working for the Roman government and not acting with good moral character. They would have been pretty universally distrusted and despised by their own people. So when the Pharisees see Jesus hanging out with this crowd they begin to grumble against Him. Even worse in their eyes, Jesus eats with the tax collectors and sinners! This might not seem significant in our culture, but in this time eating with someone was the same as giving that person a blessing. Sharing a meal required a high level of acceptance.
The Pharisee in their grumbling and accusations say, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” This statement was an attempt to put Jesus to shame, but little did they know that their sentiment described Jesus mission on earth more accurately than they would ever know. In trying to shame Jesus by accusing him of His “seeking of sinners”, they are engaging in irony that will be completely lost on them, because Jesus has chosen in this season of His ministry to judge their hard hearts by teaching in parables.
The Chapter:
Look at what it says in verse 3: “So he told them this ‘Parable’”
Although this chapter presents as three individual stories, it is actually only one parable in three parts. Notice in verse 3, the word parable is singular. This is a trilogy of stories, but only one parable with a central theme throughout. The three stories found in this chapter are: The Lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Each story centers around something that is lost and then found. Each one of these stories will take a different angle on the same concept, and we will get to see the character and nature of God revealed through the stories.
The stories that make up this parable have one main theme:

God’s celebration in seeking and saving the lost

The stories reveals the nature of our God. Our God seeks and saves the lost, and He has great joy when a lost sinner is found and repents. Jesus’ says this directly in Luke 19:10:
Luke 19:10 ESV
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees was to teach on the very aspect of His mission that they were criticizing. The Pharisees tried to condemn Jesus, but instead they actually identified his mission on earth without even realizing it. We as believers can see the true meaning of Jesus’ parable, and that Jesus chooses to teach us that the Son of Man did come to seek and save the lost. With some context in place, lets dive in. We are going to look at the first two stories this week, The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin.
I am going to start by reading them both, open your bibles to Luke Chapter 15 or follow along on the screen.
Luke 15:3–10 ESV
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
In both of these stories, something is lost, then it is found. Like I said earlier, they share the same theme, but they put the emphasis in different places.
In the first story we have a shepherd, and he looses one of his sheep. His immediate response to this is to drop what he is doing, leaving the 99 other sheep, and going to search for the one that is lost. This would have implied traveling on foot through rugged terrain, searching far and wide for the lost sheep. When he finally does come across the sheep, he takes it onto his own shoulders. Carrying it all the way back to his home.
In the second story we have a woman who looses a coin in her house. You might be thinking, “Just flip over the couch cushion, it’s probably there.” But these houses are not like ours. They would have likely been made of large black basalt slabs with small gaps in-between. And it this case it is also poorly lit, the window would have been nothing more than a few slits in the wall high about the ground. So in a desire to find the lost coin, the woman lights a lamp and diligently uses it to sweep the whole house until she finds the coin.
Both of these stories end with a celebration around the lost item being found!
The stories are very short, and easy to understand if you take them at face value. But beneath the surface of the stories are truths about how our God seeks and saves the lost! In the first story we might picture ourselves as the 99 sheep God left behind to go look for the silly sheep that wandered off. Or maybe we are the light the the woman uses to search diligently throughout the house. However, neither of these assumptions are correct. In these stories the character we get to play is the lost object. We are the lost sheep, we are the lost coin. We are the foolish ones who stray away like sheep.
1 Peter 2:25 ESV
25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Without God’s pursuit of us we are nothing more than hopeless, lost, sheep. Ephesians chapter 2 puts it this way:
Ephesians 2:1–3 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
That is what being a lost sheep actually looks like. Dead in our sin, followers of satan, living into the passions of our flesh and desires, children of wrath.
The only way you will understand and feel the impact of these stories is to take a moment to remember that you were once lost. No one in this room was born a follower of Christ! The depth of our sin runs deeper than we could ever realize. We were all once lost, and it wasn’t until we were found that we made the choice to repent and follow Jesus. It is God who seeks us out. Both of these stories emphasize that point in different ways. In the story of the lost sheep the shepherd goes looking for the sheep at great personal effort and sacrifice to himself. Loading that 50-70 pound animal onto his own shoulders and carrying it home. This story about the sheep is just a picture of the cost Jesus paid to be the ultimate Good Shepherd.
Look at John 10
John 10:12–18 ESV
12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus laid down His LIFE for us, the sheep, willingly. Not only did He suffer and die, He took the wrath of God we deserve! It is a sacrifice so far beyond our comprehension that we will be 10,000 eternities in heaven and STILL marveling at the work of Jesus on the cross! Jesus is the ultimate good shepherd, this story is a reflection of the cost he paid to save His lost sheep.
So in the first story we see God’s sacrifice, the cost he paid for our salvation. The second story has the same theme, but it has a different emphasis. In the second story, we are represented as the lost coin. But the real unique angle to this story is in the search for the coin.
Luke 15:8–10 ESV
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
It’s dark in the woman’s house, we have black basalt slabs for a floor, walls, and ceiling, and the searching woman lights up a lamp and diligently sweets the house with her light until the coin is found. This second story is still about the Lord seeking and saving the lost, but what we see illustrated here is the diligence and intentionality in the searching. There is almost no detail in the first story about the search for the lost sheep, but in this second story that is where the emphasis is placed. We can key in on the nature of God’s search for the lost though his diligence to find those he seeks. God is not random, He is intentional and precise in His efforts. He is not reactive in His search, He is sovereign over all the history leading up to your salvation.
Consider Romans 8:28-30
Romans 8:28–30 ESV
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God foreknew you, He predestined you, He called you, He justified you, and He will glorify you. No one slips out of his hand. Long before you were even born God knew you, and was intent on seeking you out and restoring your relationship with Him. When sin first entered the world through Adam’s sin in the garden God had a plan already in motion to save our lost and hopeless souls from destruction! This is the powerful God we serve! We are the sheep. We are the coin. But God is the ultimate shepherd, diligently seeking out the lost.
All three stories in this chapter, including the two we once read have a celebration at the end of them.
Luke 15:6–7 ESV
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:9–10 ESV
9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Every time a sinner repents and believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord there is joy before the angels and in heaven above. This is in part because God loves the sinner who is saved, and he desires to see all people repent. But even more so the celebration takes place because it displays the power and majesty of the powerful God who sought out that sinner and restored them into right relationship with Him. The hero in these stories is not the sheep, or the coin. The hero in these stories is the good shepherd and the woman who diligently searched her house by lamp light. Likewise, we are not the hero in our own story. God is the one who diligently seeks us out and pays for our salvation at a costly price. We make a choice to follow Jesus, but he is the one who seeks us. Pastor Joe Ballanti writes,

The lost sheep is a symbol of a repentant sinner. The only thing the sheep does is become lost. Jesus is redefining repentance as “acceptance of being found.” The sheep is lost. The good shepherd pays a high price to seek and to restore the sheep to the sheepfold. Repentance is knowing you’re lost and accepting being found. Repentance isn’t a work that earns our rescue. Rather it is the sinner recognizing he’s lost and accepting being found by the Savior.

If you are sitting here today, forgiven by Jesus, it is because he sought you out and saved you from your slavery to sin. Not only that, when Jesus died on the cross He commissioned His people as missionaries. The way that God has chosen to execute His mission to seek and save the lost on this earth is through His people. This is one of the most profound truths in all of scripture, and one of the organizing principles here at Abide Church.
Read 2 Corinthians 5 with me:
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
“Entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation.” This is a HIGH and glorious calling. Jesus is the hero of the story we proclaim. He is the only reason we can be reconciled to God, He is the only reason we have good news to share with the world around us. We have no greater blessing in our life than to know Jesus. He has commissioned us to do something spectacular, that is to be the body of believers, with Jesus as the head, to be his vessels for seeking and saving the lost souls in the world. All morning we have been talking about how Jesus seeks and saves the lost, and He has chosen us to be his body, to execute His mission.
Something I really want you to understand is that there are unbelievers in your life right now that God is seeking out. Jesus is powerful to save, and He will accomplish His will, but He has commissioned you to play a critical role. We have the high privilege of being the ones God has chosen to execute His mission through. Jesus’ death on the cross purchased the salvation of His people. God has chosen to seek sinners this way, through our prayers, and our preaching of the gospel to the lost.
My prayer is that we would be a church that lets this calling sink deep into the very core of who we are. That we would remember how God saved us through His death on the cross and His diligence in seeking us out, and that His love for us would compel us to act as his missionaries. We are Christ’s ambassadors, Church. After living as our perfect example He has entrusted this ministry to us.
If you are disengaged from God’s mission to seek and save the lost, the brothers and sisters around you want to welcome you into that mission as ministry partners.
Let’s pray
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